What can we do to help parents understand and participate in care proceedings?

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore.

Imagine you have landed on an alien planet. The locals speak a completely different language. Their customs and culture are completely different to anything you know. There is no one available to translate for you. No one to explain. What happens?

Since starting this site in 2014 I have become more and more aware that many parents simply do not understand what is going on in care proceedings. Sadly, this group often comprises my own clients; after I have patted myself on the back about my great skills at establishing rapport and explaining things in simple terms, it becomes clear a few weeks or months later that they didn’t really understand at all. And by then it is often too late.

This was brought home to me with particular force recently. I was asked by a parent to look at the final judgment in her case and advise her if there was any way at all she could resist the making of an adoption order. With a terrible poignancy she sent me photographs of each page of the final judgment, laid out on her floor. The pages were in random order; some were missing. She clearly had no understanding at all of what had gone on.  She emailed me:

I wish I did right, from the beginning. But I guess it’s to late for me. My sw called me in today, to say they found a family for E, breaks my heart. To even hear her say that. I just dont know what I can do. I probably, will just have to accept it, and concentrate on my two kids who’s also placed in long-term care. Thank you so so much I appreciate your time. I’m sorry if somethings i wrote didnt make sense. English is not my first language and I do struggle with this.

In the narrative of many parents, often their lawyer is entirely absent. The social worker is afforded a God like power to make all decisions.

Quite rightly as a society we endorse non-means non-merits tested legal aid for parents in care proceedings – but without some kind of bridge between parents and their lawyers, is this a benefit that we are squandering? I do not think this lack of understanding comes about because parents are stupid – but mainly because they are afraid and confused. Language barriers of course, do not help but these problems of lack of understanding are not restricted to those who do not have English as a first language.

We know advocates for parents can help – David Tobis has shown how it works in the USA. There are also pockets of good work around the country  – see what New Beginnings are doing and individuals such as Surviving Safeguarding – but the lack of nationwide standards means that there are many dangerous people and organisations who purport to ‘help and advise’ very vulnerable parents.

I asked another parent for her views about the benefits of advocacy in child protection cases and her post is below.  It is clearly not only the relationships with lawyers that parents need help with.

Advocacy in Child Protection Interventions – guest post from a parent

Imagine you have landed on an alien planet. The locals speak a completely different language. Their customs and culture are completely different to anything you know. There is no one available to translate for you. No one to explain. What happens? You find yourself stumbling along, learning only by experience, by trial and error. Even if you do happen upon someone who does speak your language, they are incredibly busy and have little time to truly sit down with you. Time goes on and you do your best to muddle along but make mistakes in the form of misinterpreting or being unable to make your communication clear. You attempt to use their customs and communication styles but because you don’t have the cypher to the code they speak in your attempts are often misinterpreted, or even ignored because they simply don’t have the time to move at your pace. Wouldn’t it be incredibly useful if there was someone to act as a bridge and help you to understand better?

I am the mother of two children. One whom I have not seen and spoken to in nearly two years, the other who lives with me for a substantial amount of each week. There was a time when all three of us lived together, unfortunately that came to an end when I experienced a crisis. I had experienced domestic abuse, the result of which left my ex-partner with a conviction. I had experienced his wrath in the subsequent months leading from his arrest and conviction in the form of family court proceedings I weathered the storm, fought nearly 12 months through court, moved areas and tried my best to continue as a single mother of a child with a disability and a toddler. I had no family support. It would be wrong of me to say that I sailed through the whole process because things like this take its toll and with the best will in the world, co-parenting with someone who holds a grudge and who has made it very clear that they believe you are an incompetent parent is no easy task.

I asked for support, for a carer’s assessment so I could have a modicum of time to myself, to regroup and recharge, unfortunately that assessment was not forthcoming and a few short months later I reached crisis point. At that point social services became heavily involved and I was shoved onto what felt very much like a conveyer belt moving at great speed the controls for which were written in a foreign language.

My children’s case has been closed to my local authority now for a little over 6 months. I however am left with many questions, the result of which has led to an ongoing complaint. I am 18 months into that complaint with no resolution in sight. In an attempt to understand and find answers I have taken to Twitter and much online reading and have come to an understanding that there are many parents out there who simply do not understand the process they have gone through, have lingering doubts they were treated fairly and want answers. I count myself as one of those parents.

There seems to be a common theme amongst those of us who talk online, and also from many professionals (social workers, adopters, foster carers, barristers) who also spend their free time sharing their views, practices and experiences within the child protections system: parents are frequently not adequately supported.

This is where good advocacy could help. A good advocate tasked solely with the job of understanding you and your ‘planet’ whilst having plenty of knowledge of the ‘planet’ you find yourself on and finding a way to help you, and the ‘locals’ navigate your way through. Time would not be wasted. Misunderstandings may not happen, and if they did they could be cleared up. All the while keeping the goal at the centre of the process: safe and happy children. This is the position parents potentially find themselves in when they enter the planet of child protection. Parents and social workers often want the same things: for the children at the centre to be safe, to thrive, to be happy. A common goal. It was certainly my goal. Unfortunately somehow, and I take responsibility in this for I am not the best communicator when afraid and feeling very much alone, it was a goal that seemed to become lost amongst much alien talk of me being ‘disengaged’, ‘mentally unwell’, ‘abusive’, ‘neglectful’, ‘unaware’, ‘robotic’, ‘alcohol dependant ’etc etc etc.

From a purely personal point of view, I struggle to assimilate and understand lots of information at once unless I can refer back to it. I asked repeatedly if I could communicate via email (except in meetings of course). These requests were largely ignored. I took to initially politely emailing LA employees with questions or clarifications of my understanding. I sent information I had gathered over the years to refute some of the claims that were being made of me. I was also aware though that social workers have huge caseloads – I was frightened of annoying them, or of coming across as ‘unhinged’ – this is a left-over of years of dv.

It was only after a I had met someone now close to me who just happened to work within the system that I realised I should have continued to keep pressing my point home, I should have continued to ask questions – by that time the damage had already been done. I did manage to assert myself enough to now have a meaningful relationship with my youngest child, but my eldest is not lost not only to me but also to their sibling. Things could have been so different. A good advocate would have spoken up, would have helped me understand, would have helped point out the poor process that was taking place (and it was poor – that is becoming more evident). Very little of what I experienced could truly be seen as ‘child centred’ – and much of that, I now firmly believe, was because there was not someone who could help me to see into the culture of the alien planet I was on and could help the ‘locals’ see me rather than the preconceived ideas they had of me based on my inability (within the child protection arena, since, whether intended or not, the treatment I received was unfortunately quite similar to the tactics of my abusers, and probably unbeknownst to the social workers involved, only served to silence me) to advocate for myself and my children.

16 thoughts on “What can we do to help parents understand and participate in care proceedings?

  1. Angelo Granda

    A Parent’s View.

    Thanks for the post and ,of course, the sentiments in it aren’t new. Sadly, if we consider the trends, it seems to me that the wall against which parents and advocates throw themselves in their efforts to communicate with L.A’s and establish friendly, working relations gets higher and higher.
    The arrogance and sheer bloody-mindedness of the authorities gets worse and worse. Open authoritarianism has taken over; any previous pretences of openness and candour or of consultation,mediation etc. have been abandoned by the management.They have taken to behind closed doors decision-making as a matter of normal course.

    Matters are now so bad, spanish practices and dysfunction have taken over. It seems staffing,funding and the shortage of time now rules . C.S. management is now so bad, it doesn’t even bother responding to IRO’s who make enquiries never mind independent advocates or solicitors in the worst areas. Illegitimacy now appears to have taken over.

    Why should there be any change if the Court system will not enforce correct practice?
    It may sound negative but this is what we have come to. Basically ,the LA’s haven’t the time or inclination to be anything other than authoritarian .It is easier for them so to be! The law is simply one factor they have to overcome and the easiest way for this to be done is to refuse to work with parents and take cases to the Family Court. The Court is their short-cut to getting what they want and to meet their policy imperatives.

    Might I suggest that a journalist or a barrister go undercover and present as a parent advocate. They will soon see what the Public are up against.Stone-walling and gaslighting.

    QUOTE: In the narrative of many parents, often their lawyer is entirely absent. The social worker is afforded a God like power to make all decisions :UNQUOTE.

    In my experience, even solicitors are ignored when they ask for information or make other requests. Letters and e-mails are simply ignored whoever sends them. Sarah,as you don’t communicate directly with them yourself, you will have no way of knowing this.

    I hope this helps but it’s bad news,I’m afraid.

  2. Anita

    One day E will want to know why he was removed from his loving mother and older siblings. One day they will want to know why he didn’t grow up with them, why they were all removed from their mother, whose only crime was a lack of understanding of the system after the misfortune of being a victim of DV.
    Both these mothers may have had a chance, as they now understand, if they had spoken the correct language and understood the culture they were suddenly immersed in. And they are not alone: this happens to far too many of us, yet meaningful advocacy is still too rare for most of us to avail ourselves of.
    I know both these mothers: all they want is to go home, with their children. Which is also all I have ever wanted and what any of us, mothers deprived of our children, want.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I understand what you are saying and to a large degree sympathise with you BUT the issue of being a victim/failing to protect children in DV is a really difficult and hard one. I agree it can never be any woman’s ‘fault’ that they are subjected to violence by a partner BUT social workers then face a terrible dilemma if the woman does not accept her partner is dangerous and fails to end the relationship. this puts the children at immediate risk of really serious harm. They don’t have to get caught up in actual physical violence to be damaged by it. The consequences are life long.

      But of course, any woman in that situation needs to understand just how serious it is and how to get the help and support that will be offered to her. It was very clear from the emails of E’s mother that she just did not understand. They made for very sad reading.

  3. Tracey McMahon

    This is a great article, thank you, Sarah and parent.

    I want to explore what we mean when we discuss a need for “advocacy” and what that looks like. I’ve been involved with advocacy since 2015. I work with mother’s in care proceedings and who have experienced separation from their children.

    Advocacy by the very nature of representation of parents, is a fine line. My concern is that it is viewed through a therapeutic lens and it somehow addresses the trauma of separation. It doesn’t and nor can it.

    Advocacy or representation in a non-legal lay framework is very skilled. It requires that parents are legally represented as it’s not a service that is any way a replica of McKenzie Friends.

    Advocacy should shape the lens through which a parent views the care proceedings they find themselves in. It builds the relationship between the statutory service and the parent/s in a supportive manner and reframes the language they’re hearing so they’re able to have an improved understanding of the process. An advocacy service also needs to understand care proceedings as a legal process and have sufficient knowledge and training in the safeguarding of vulnerable adults. It does require a national set of standards. But we mustn’t be led down a merry path that it’s going to resolve issues such as separation and child protection concerns.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks for the comment Tracey – I completely agree about the fine line. When advocacy slips into partisan support it can be worse than useless. But when its a bridge between professional expectations and lack of parental understanding then it can be vital.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Do you find that the CS often assumes a God like power to make all decisions or do you consider parents misunderstand
        Do you find SW’s act independently or do they have to follow management instructions?
        Is there a national list of parent advocates which SW’s can give to parents to help them contact one ?

        1. Tracey McMahon

          Hi Angelo,

          I’ll try to answer your questions. I don’t think that SW feel they’re a god like power, however, I do feel that they actually don’t understand the power they have over the parents. While the child protection system is there and it’s flawed, it’s the only one we have and we can only change it one at a time. In two cases that have taken me four years to discharge, advocacy has to follow the due process and it can’t be misunderstood. SW are line managed and all have a manager they have to go up to. Where I feel that some of the decisions made are not a family centric approach, I have to be careful how I work with the parent to satisfy both the LA and the parent. It’s not even reframing the narrative. It’s framing the truth.

          Mostly, in my experience, a parent understanding the situation they find themselves in is the hardest to work with. I work with them and I have to be clinically supervised. I also have excellent professional relationships with local services so I’m able to work with parents so that they’re in a much more viable position to have their voices heard.

          This is what we are working on. My referrals come through solicitors and some local authorities. We are funded separately. But we are gathering our findings and will soon have a report together on how from our point of view this need is viable. I’m not aware that every local authority has a list. But I want to see a national set of standards that can be used at local levels.

          Furthermore, I do help to shape the lens for the parents in that they reduce their fear of authority, social workers and that they are human too. I can’t give them the tools they need to handle it, but I can assist them in renegotiating how they view the situation as a whole. That does work. In a very balanced way that they understand. It’s not that I’m on their side, it’s that I help them to view that all in the room on that day are on the side of the children concerned.

  4. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for your replies, Tracey.
    To help with your explorations……………………………..

    I feel Parent Advocates ( PA’s) should be clear about what parents will expect of them and what actual service is required.Parents will expect their advocates to support them fully and to intervene actively in their favour when necessary. I would say they expect them to be partisan towards them and have no conflicts of interest . Parents already have enough professionals lined up against them and ,in some cases, they complain their own lawyers don’t act solely for them. If PA’s want complete trust from parents they should be clear they are expected to be entirely independent from child-protection professionals and Local Authorities and should not ‘take advice’ or ‘instruction’ from them or from Family Court lawyers. Neither should they accept anything the other professionals say or spread about without question; they aren’t the result of impartial investigation but claims are made with the intent of ‘proving’ their own case. PA’s should face reality which is that the system ( the only one we have) is not fit for purpose and driven by (ulterior) political policy imperatives issued by L.A’s and their legal advisers.

    The most important thing to do is to gather information as soon as possible, create a proper chronology and push for a full examination of facts by a decision -making body at the earliest possible stage. The meeting or child-protection conference must be conducted correctly and PA’s should be fully aware of correct procedure. For example, conferences and so on should be quorate and minuted comprehensively and properly.Perhaps recorded. Parents and the others should be given adequate notice in accordance with guidelines and it should be ensured that parents have ample opportunity to circulate agreements and disagreements among all professionals in a timely manner before it takes place. PA’s should undertake checks,e.g. whether GP’s and school representatives have been invited in good time . Tracey, I think it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for PA’s to be very well versed in all the legal guidelines and procedures laid out in the Children Act. The reason why is because L.A’s often flout them. Parent Advocates should be prepared to write to the Court in their professional capacity and/or attend Court themselves where necessary in order to testify when cases are conducted incorrectly. Sometimes, for example, L.A’s dispense with conferences and make no effort to meet, inform,offer support and work with parents.
    There is certainly a role for PA’s in mediation and information gathering between doctors,hospitals and schools and parents. Those people are forbidden from talking or providing information to parents once child protection proceedings have started so their advocates ( as professionals) should seek out opinions and documents on their behalf. L.A’s only present negatives and shelve all positives. PA’s will present both positives and negatives.
    P.A’s should play a full part in fostering a greater obligation for consistent cooperation between parents and L.A’s . Mostly, the ‘Working Together ‘principles and guidelines which form the spirit of the Children Act are treated with disdain not by parents but by the powerful authorities or so parents will complain. P.A’s should be prepared to give clear testament to the Family Courts when this happens because the ability and willingness or not of Mum’s to work with the Authorities is so often the decisive issue at Court. The L.A’s accuse the parents of non-cooperation,being unable to understand issues etc. when the truth is the other way round.

    In my opinion, P.A’s should be trained to FOCUS on the aims of the Children Act. The aim is to keep families together NOT to blow them apart. I do think they should follow a ‘merry path’ (alongside parents) which will resolve issues such as separation and child protection concerns.
    To do so , they must be well aware of the causes and solution to problems of concern in each particular case. Foe example, the case described in the post above concerns domestic violence. SW’s are forbidden BY LAW to separate parents from children or interfere in Family life . Only a Court can do so. Even when Police take emergency action they should return children home within 72 hours or take suspects to court for an order.The solution to DV,, is not to act in haste disproportionately but to advise and conciliate , the aim being to keep parents together in the paramount interests of children. This is where SW’s fail and PA’s should advise accordingly. Parents should never be advised to sign inhuman ,unlawful letters of expectation or S20’s under threat of removal. PA’s should be trained to fill the gap left by SW’s and help bring about conciliation. Such methods will include arranging for family conferences which have also been found useful by the FRA advocacy service. Keeping families together is to be the focus. Even when domestic violence is very severe,the criminal courts will not interfere with family life to the extent Family Courts do. Conciliation is the solution as I have said above.
    How to encourage wayward parents to accept and understand concerns then to change and reform? The answer to that lies in taking proportionate action as taken by criminal courts when there is real evidence and parents are convicted. The key to reform is in forgiveness and grace. Once the threat of family separation is removed from the itinerary and they realise sanctions are to be proportionate , parents are able to acknowledge faults and engage with professional advice and support. They must be treated just as we want to be treated when we do wrong. Forgiveness and giving parents the chance is an essential humanity we should all bear in mind. Literally PA’s will find such an approach will WORK WONDERS especially if they discuss matters in confidence with the family and persuade Mother to forgive father ( or vice-versa).

    These are just a few things PA’s should be trained in ,Tracey, in my humble view. I look forward to comments from anyone.Please note I have said what i believe PARENTS want not what SW’s and lawyers want I notice Sarah frowns upon any chance that PA’s will be partisan towards their clients.

    Reply ↓

  5. Angelo Granda

    Might I add that I expect that should a P.A. give evidence to any decision- making body or Court which is not in the L.A’s litigation interests they will find themselves accused of partisanship and colluding with parents,not understanding concerns etc.
    They already have their arguments ready !

    1. Tracey McMahon

      Hi Angelo,

      Thank you for your thoughts and although that’s quite a list there, I’ll assure you that I do mostly what you’re suggesting however, there has to be a national framework that is in place.

      I’m usually involved once an application for an order is made. I am totally independent from LA, solicitors and barristers.

      From the outset following an initial assessment, I then spend time alone with parents in order to listen to their version of the position they find themselves in. We have our risk and needs assessment and that surrounds the parent/s.

      Ideally, where a plan is for removal at birth, we are only at the start of that process as LAs are still shall we say, “nervy” about allowing independent services in. I’d like to be involved in that area on a deeper level. We are working with some people on this process currently.

      It would be very easy to say that we have got children back with families. We have. But as independents, we have the facility to think and work with parents and I certainly do reframe narratives to LAs. Absolutely. On behalf of parents. Nobody else. Can you make a note of this in your list, please? 🙂

      For example, if a situation is framed as a risk by LA, I’ll take that risk, tip it on its head and work through that risk level and usually, find a way to reframe that risk so that the LA position is revisited. I’ll be blunt. “here’s the risk, we have addressed each element of that risk and here’s our planning to address your risk, now what are you going to do?” We listen to the parents because their voices are lost in quarry full of professionals who speak about them nor with them. We are their voices.

      That said, where we see something that is a risk that cannot be managed or will fail, it would be misleading to any parent to lean towards a narrative that will set them up to fail. That can take time and consideration. After looking at it all upside down, inside out and backwards. If this service is to be taken seriously as a professional service for parents we can’t expect the services we want to be listened by, to simply let go of their respective areas and welcome that because it’s parents that what we say goes. It’s simply not going to happen.

      I’m not going to lead any parent down any merry path. That’s wrong and it fails safeguarding rules that are in place for a reason. This is where “collusion” is an important discussion. I’m sad that we have to work against accusations of collusion before the service has had a chance to be lifted from the ground. The only way to overcome this is to show our independence and strengths in a very sophisticated flexing kind of muscle way.

      We can’t make SS go away. We can’t sort out financial/housing/substance/DV and make them not be a risk and concern, we can assist parents to address these concerns through local knowledge with a good understanding of what they can do to reduce such risks and help them to ensure (not for LA) their children”s lives are at the forefront of their lives, for as long as that parent is responsible for their child.

      It’s a lot of work. Just once case can take two years. Then if we “win” we also don’t leave parents. We remain with them with a view to working towards discharge. Because if a child is returned to parents, there’s a fresh set of challenges to address. We support parents in all of that and what comes with that. We are at every meeting, including FGC, LAC review, court hearings, with the parent/s. We submit reports to courts, take the witness stand and we stand up for parents. Where it is safe to do. Nothing from our side goes to anybody until it’s been read, signed, shared with the parent. Including the court.

      Hope that explains a little deeper.

  6. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for discussing,Tracey.

    I wonder if any one looks at the wider picture in the same way I do. As a P.A.,you are independent from the L.A. and the lawyers and you act for the parents. Your job is to advocate i.e. advise, explain and intervene with the authorities on their behalf. Every thinking person involved including Sarah sees a real need for such services.Independent Parent Advocacy services are now evolving,increasing in number ,organising and seeking to create a national practice framework etc.

    In actual fact, the work you are doing is social work,isn’t it? This is actually what our existing SW’s ( the C.S.) should be doing! Most of them complain they are prevented from carrying out their family advocacy (support and advisory) function due to LA political interference which is largely ruled by financial interests. I have pointed this out on other threads and suggested that the C.S. should be separated from the LA’s and provided with their own budget. Now, because SW’s are not independent ,there are calls for independent parent advocacy services .Unfortunately, as with the C.S. you will also not be able to dictate support plans because you don’t control the spending . Why can the CS not be taken out of LA control and set up afresh? The SW’s might be renamed PA’s and apply themselves to their true vocations. Surely it would be more in the spirit of the Children Act.

    Some of what you say makes me wary ,although i agree with most of your sentiments and aims. I think you should be clear that when you attend meetings with parents, it is not true that everyone in the room is on the side of the children. No, it is a myth ,in my opinion , otherwise they would all be battling as you do to keep families together . LA’s seek to take children into care for political reasons disguised as ‘child-rescue’. You may have noticed already they aren’t open and candid by a long score.They do not act in the paramount interests of children when they separate families ( especially at birth) neither do they lessen risks.The risks to children are much higher in care. Tracey, never trust their aims are legitimate! This is why they are ‘nervy’ at allowing independent services. They don’t want anything which may oppose the political imperatives and over the years they have actively discouraged advocacy and worked against it despite the Working Together frameworks . Management instruct SW’s and exclude them or move them on if they express any opposition.The frameworks actually have guidelines included which says advocates must be allowed, indeed they must inform parents at the outset of their right to one.They rarely do in practice.

    Tracey, where we see something that is a risk that ‘cannot be managed or will fail’ P.A’s should go for the ‘narrative’ that it is impossible to eliminate all risk. All risks are manageable in that they can be lessened and monitored. Furthermore if the risk comes to a head and a child comes to harm then the system has failed not the parents or children. The plans should be improved upon and working practices changed! Of course families should not be set up to fail. It is the task of the Authorities to support them not to liquidate them.As you say this can take time and consideration but most of all,when making care-plans professionals should be trained in how to lessen risks and how to reform families.

    The path to reform has to be positive . It can be a merry path in my view. Those Authorities wielding the influence must be aware of the causes of family dysfunction;, d.v. ; drug-taking; mental health,chaotic behaviour and the rest. Most important is how to set about reform plans and an understanding that sanctions have to be proportionate to be successful.Not oppressive,degrading or emotionally harmful .In other words ,a plan should be humane. It’s not rocket science either but I think many SW’s lack training.

    Most problem families need moral guidance. D.v.,for example is caused by arguments, swearing, nagging,shaming, insulting behaviour,swearing and bad language ,drunkenness,shouting and drug-taking. These are what we will call chaotic life styles.In serious cases,it should be tackled by the criminal system where PROPORTIONATE penalties and punishments can be meted out to offenders as a prelude to reform.
    In less serious and mundane cases referred by the Police to the L.A., sanctions cannot be more severe. They must be looked at proportionately.
    It is not a sin for professionals to have fears for children, it is only natural and human. The sin is to allow ones fears to determine ones responses and to respond inhumanely. When responses are humane, families will reform and welcome help. Advice,moral guidance, example ,generosity and support will succeed. Teach them how to be happy. Not to drink in the house.No drugs. No yelling and screaming. No arguing- fathers should not even sit gossiping with their partners because that leads to fall-outs. Let them be taught how to live peacefully and conciliate when they do disagree and offend. Jaw-jaw always better than war war even if mediation is necessary. Forgiveness about which i talked above and magnanimity. Put in material improvements if necessary ,show the poor how to apply for grants or funds from the needy families project. Teach them day-today routine and consistency is necessary to happy families beating escapism,materialism and other vices by a mile. Teach the girls how home-making and domestic work is much more beneficial to their children and more profitable than going out to slave away for the benefit of employers.
    Positive life-styles bring their own rewards and families will thrive.

    I agree you can’t sort out financial/housing/d.v. and other risks but L.A.’s have a duty to do so. Sw’s are dedicated to sorting the problems out but aren’t allowed to do so by their masters. If the Social Services Director and managers won’t do the job and provide the protection and services they are in the business of providing ,they should get out all together and the SW’s granted independence as the professionals they are.
    Ha-ha, if i were ever a social worker,i would have been moved on or sacked by now and on the scrapheap.

    1. Mark C

      suggested that the C.S. should be separated from the LA’s and provided with their own budget.

      Local authorities have a statutory duty to protect children in their area, so it is not possible for childrens services (under the current legal framework) to be independent from LAs.

      In actual fact, the work you are doing is social work,isn’t it?

      Adoptive parents have a supporting social worker who is available to answer questions, help access support and explain the process and assist in dealing with other social workers/courts/legal departments etc. I think it would be sensible for parents who are subject to child protection proceedings to be offered a supporting social worker form a differne tteam to child services (vulnerable adults maybe) , though of course the parents may not accept assistance, or may not consider their social worker to be really on their side or may not need accept that they need help in the first place.

      Most problem families need moral guidance.

      I’m afraid these following paras come across as hopelessly naive and unrealistic – as if sitting someone down and saying “drugs are wrong” will cause them to say “oh yes, you are right!” and instantly throw off years of addiction (ditto with alcohol and violent behaviour/lack of anger management etc)

      parents are frequently offered treatment for addiction and either refude ot admit they have a prpoblem or refuse to complete the programme, or else do their best and then relapse under moments of stress or weakness.

      My cousin’s kids were in and out of foster care for years while their mother tried to deal with her drug problems. She never has done. Her kids were turfed out foster care with little support at 18 and both have since ended up back with their mother and subsequently hospitalised for drug overdoses themnselves. My own wee boy’s birth father, on being told that his drug use compromised his ability to be a good dad, said “spice is my life” and refused to even consider any treatment.

      And that’s just the cases I have particular knowledge of. LAs have a duty to offer support to families in crisis, but they certainly can’t make them accept it and not all are happy and grateful to receive it.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Thanks for your helpful contribution and fair critique,Mark C.
        I am suggesting more radical change in line with the ‘vision for change’. Currently,you are right to say that L.A’s have a duty to protect children in their area. The point is that in many areas (not all) they are failing . Sadly, they won’t put children first ;they put their own political policies and financial preferences first hence my solution is that they be sacked .Put the duty into the hands of an independent social work organisation with its own budget .
        Your suggestion that parents be given a supporting SW from a different team ,perhaps an adult team, is an interesting one and i suggested it myself some time ago.
        I don’t think i am ‘hopelessly naive’ about moral guidance and instruction.I am realistic and i acknowledge your difficulties as far as your cousin’s family. Some cases are more serious than others ,i understand that which is why i always lay great emphasis on proportionate sanctions and humanity. I repeat:-

        ‘These are what we will call chaotic life styles.In serious cases,it should be tackled by the criminal system where PROPORTIONATE penalties and punishments can be meted out to offenders as a prelude to reform’.

        On the subject of criminal penalties , in my experience fines are one of the most effective. Curfews,tagging etc. can also be effective as a means of control and monitoring and we should not forget probation services.
        Do you support the suggestion that Family Courts should be given the power to impose such orders ? Currently, in the serious cases you describe, the only choice they appear to have available to them is removal. As i say, if current practices are failing, radical new ones must be introduced.

  7. Tracey McMahon

    Hi Angelo,.

    I do think you’re misunderstanding the role of an advocate in such proceedings.

    I appreciate all you have written and you’re not wrong in many ways.

    I’m unsure of your position here.

    I’ve stated that we are independent and that we are the voices of the parent.

    It comes down to basic economics. If parents aren’t supported, how does the then the voice of the child become the threshold?

    Anyone of us, can attack the system. We can all throw our hands up in the air and say it’s somebody else”s problem. We can blame austerity. (Plays a huge part in child protection) we can attack social workers who are accused of being child snatchers.

    I’m one of the few advocates out there that is open to discussing how to make it better. For children. And for parents that are lost in a world of reports about them and not with them.

    We need a child protection service and it’s shit.

    I’d really like to know what YOU think the answer is.

    Preferably in bullet points. I’m not great at massive amounts of text which explains why it has taken me four years to write up my research findings. From mothers that had left prison.

    I’m also unclear as to who you’re angry with and at. If it’s children’s services, I hear you. It’s gone from being a welfare approach to a risk measured tool. Making mothers feel as though they have to be “good* mothers. Because it’s the mothers that experience that most debilitating loss that No statutory body, can account for.

    I have huge concerns regarding the level of child protection in this country It’s not working.

    1. Angelo Granda

      Tracey,I think you are doing a great and necessary job .
      Please understand that I am not,i repeat not angry! My position is that of an ordinary parent.I have seen good practice and I have seen bad. I am appalled as you are at the extent of failure but i maintain it is ‘systemic’ and I do not put it down to social workers or advocates or blame anyone else as individuals. Social workers don’t ‘snatch’ children indeed most of them prefer support and monitoring plans , working together with parents etc.
      I don’t like to use terms such as child-snatching because they don’t help constructive discussion. Yet i do believe children are too often procured into care unlawfully with too much haste due to disproportionate fears and that often due process and legal safeguards are ignored. I have pointed out that changes are called for. Most of all independent advice and mediation is needed which is what you seek to provide.
      Unlike you i am not a professional but if you will put some bullet points to me,i’ll try and give my opinion.
      Constructive discussion can only help mend systems. One thing i have learnt is that blaming SW’s is not the answer to anything after all, as they say themselves,they don’t make the orders, the Judges do it.


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