A child’s perspective – Tammy’s story

Thanks to the TaKen UK website for letting us share this. Obviously, we don’t know all the details of what happened to Tammy’s family  – the fact that care proceedings lasted from 1989 – 1992 suggests that the case was about more than just one accident in the kitchen.

But whatever happened in this case, her perspective on her pain and hurt about what she believes happened  to her and her family emphasises the emotional cost of decisions in the family courts; something we should not lose sight of.

Tammy’s story – told in 2006

“In the best interest of the child” that’s what the professional’s state, but even the professionals and the family courts can be wrong as they were in my case.

Let me explain about my birth family, and myself. I am a young adopted adult; I was taken from my mum nearly 17 years ago on a false allegation, I was seven months old and sitting in my bouncing chair, my mum had gone into the kitchen to make me a night feed. I was happily playing with an activity toy, which I dropped on the floor; I leant forward to reach the toy but the chair followed me arid tipped forward falling on top of me. I sustained a bruise on my cheek. And that’s where my life was changed forever.

My case was heard within the family court in the years 1989 which lasted all the way to 1992. I was placed with a set of foster carers whom I stayed with for 13 months.

Then one-day social services accused the foster carers of suffering from depression and removed me from their care! I was then placed with three lots of emergency foster carers before being placed with my pre adopters, who then became my parents.

While this was happening to me my mum gave birth to my brother Cameron. One minute after his birth social services (a male) walked into the labour suite and tried to hand a place and safety order in writing to my mum who was laid on the bed with no clothes on and she had not even delivered the placenta. Medical staff asked the social worker to leave on three occasions eventually the social worker left the labour suite, leaving my mum very distressed and losing all her dignity.

My mum and Cameron went home to my grandparents where they resided until the 28th of December 1990. My mum then went to the family court as social services were trying for an interim care order to remove my brother from her care. My mum fought and won full parental rights of Cameron and no further action was taken.

All my mum wanted was to fight for me, she attended many family courts, which were held in secret and she was not allowed to talk about our case or me to anyone.

Time passed and Cameron reached the age of 21 months old, when the social services actually reached a date for my freeing order, which was in the year of 1992; there were no concerns to Cameron’s welfare. She was an excellent mother to him.

The judge who heard my case made his decision on the basis that social services had delayed my case for over two and a half years. On reading his decision to my mum (he stated) “Miss Coulter if I return your daughter home to you, you will be a stranger to her” and on that decision I was freed for adoption and my whole future was completely changed.

Finding out that you are adopted is one of the worst feelings in the world because you feel that all your identity you have known of yourself is a lie; for example your whole childhood and personality.

I found out through photos that my brother was still with my mum and is one and a half years younger than me. This was very upsetting and left me wondering why my mum wanted my brother and not me.

Left with these unanswered questions and feeling very confused; like I did not belong anywhere I wanted to find the truth, and the answers to my questions, the only person who could answer them was my mum.

My decision to find my birth family was not supported in the way in which I would have liked from my adoptive parents. I went about looking for my mum by first of all ringing support after adoption that told me I must wait until I am 18 years of age and would not offer me any help or advice. Which left me more confused and very upset?

In January this year on a Thursday night I received a phone call from my best friend. She told me to go over to her house, as it was very important. I had no idea of what I was to be told. Her laptop was placed on her bed and she told me to read the posting. I was ecstatic as I read the information, which confirmed that my mum was looking for me as much as I was looking for her.

My friend who knew as much as I did about my adoption found the posting when secretly putting my name on GENES REUNITED. I found myself emailing her my mobile number as I knew the same information which was written in her posting; which included information that nobody would have known about me.

I waited three and a half hours for the phone call which would change my whole life, and answer all the unanswered questions which had been tormenting me since the age of about 11 when I moved to Comprehensive School where I met many other adopted and fostered children.

Waiting for the phone call was the most exciting and precious time of my life, the hours seemed like weeks. In the next breath I was actually talking to my mum on the phone, we spoke for an hour about everything that we could. We put the phone down and later that evening I rang my mum back and told her I know it was short notice but could we please meet the following morning and she agreed to.

Our meeting was very emotional for the both of us, neither of us spoke we just put our arms around each other and cried together, we held each other very tight and I cant explain how happy I was feeling.

After many secret meetings I decided to tell my adoptive parents about my news, I did not tell them for about two months because I knew what their reaction would be. When I told my mum, as my dad was at work she cried and turned her back on me making me feel very isolated as if I had done something wrong. They never did understand why it was important that I find my birth family nor did they support me at the emotional time. I was keeping in contact via the Internet with my birth family as my mobile phone was confiscated; however they also stopped me from using the Internet to stop any contact, which I was having with my birth family. During this time I was studying for my AS levels which I failed due to all the stress and confusion.

The way my adoptive parents were towards my other life caused a huge conflict in the house making life unbearable at home and at school. I was eventually turned away from my home due to arguments other than my birth parents; this is when I phoned my birth mum, as I had nowhere else to turn. It was too late when I was asked to return to the house I did not want to be treated like a child nor did I want to my feelings to be ignored any longer, so I decided to move in with my birth family.

This brings me to why I am here today, I was a child who was wrongfully removed from the care of my mother and most of all I have had the rights taken away from me to have enjoyed the right to a family life with my natural family.

I would like to say I have had a good upbringing by my adoptive parents and I love them very much, however the complication of my adoption also ruined my relationship with my adoptive parents, as I only wanted to find the truth about my life.

I am publicly speaking today on behalf of children and parents who have also been through the secrecy of family courts and the injustices that have taken place and do still take place and the devastation of what one decision that determines the future of a child can cause to a whole family.

Since I have moved in with my birth family I see the relationship between my mother, brother and sister and cannot help feeling like I have missed out no matter how much I fit in now. We have all bonded very well, I now feel as if I fit in somewhere and feel I can be myself as I have found out who I really am and that my mum never did anything wrong. Over the years Yvonne has been fighting to prove her innocence and that an injustice has taken place. I am very angry and also upset that my mum was treated like a criminal and punished for life on something that she never did, and she had the right to a family life taken away.

Let me explain to you how I am feeling:

• Confused
• Hurt
• Stripped of my identity
• I missed out on a relationship with my brothers and sisters, mum and dad and other close relations
• Exhausted through lies

• I know I am not the only person to have gone through the hell of secrecy in family courts and hope to have expressed the way in which they will feel and are feeling at my age.

Changes that I would like to see happen.

1) For medical evidence used in the courts to not be based on probabilities when determining a child’s future, it must be fact.

2) To stop social services making medical diagnoses when not qualified to do so.

3) For social services when conducting assessments to be thorough and not based on self-opinions but facts.

4) For an independent body who is impartial to social services to be brought in when social services are assessing a family and to check they are following all guide lines of social work.

5) More support for families with whatever reason; a low IQ, a mother whom has depression, a parent that has suffered domestic violence and also a parent whom has a disability. More outside agencies should be involved to help put support packages in place to help families stay together and have the right to a family life.

6) Slow integration of a child back with its natural family should be paramount and decisions to take away the child should be the last resort. For example my mum was told she would be a stranger to me if I were returned home to her however my foster parents and my adoptive parents were also strangers.

7) The most important factor of us all being here today is about the secrecy surrounding the family courts and why they should be opened, you have all listened to my story and many of you would have read similar stories to mine in the media. I am of age where I can talk about the detrimental effects that the secrecy of the family courts has caused to me.

Many of the children who have been taken in the past and are still being taken do not have a voice.

The opening of the family courts would make it a fairer, non judgmental and a more impartial system which would help children that are left in the hands of abuser’s and would also work by stopping children from being wrongfully removed and injustices from taking place.

So please when considering the opening of the family courts take into account that we are all human and we have feelings and the way in which the courts have been working up to this day has been inhumane in many cases and human rights have been exploited.

The detrimental emotional effects and the separation, has on children torn apart from their birth families, lasts a life time.

22 thoughts on “A child’s perspective – Tammy’s story

  1. Brie - Mother of two boys

    I am needing advise on what rights a child has. I know each case is different but there must be some structure to what rights children under care orders have. My son is struggling to come to deal with the dramatic reduction of contact he has with me. Family members have comforted him whilst he is uncontrollably crying because he feels so helpless. We told him when he is 12 (he is 10 years old) that he could write to his social workers or a judge & ask for more time with his mum if this is something he really wants. We’ve told him mummy is going to do everything she can to see him more & wishes to see him more to & would love to have him back home, so long as the social workers agree.
    Now we have been told we are not allowed to tell the child that he can ask for this when he is 12, nor tell him his mother is doing all she can working on herself & along side the social workers nor can we tell the child she wants to see him more too & would like him home.
    The social worker has advised is this is because it will confuse the child & give false hope.
    Can anyone help with this?

  2. phillimoresarah Post author

    Can he speak with his Independent Reviewing Officer? the child should be listened to – there is no magic about being 12 years, that is simply the age by which MOST children will be assumed to be ‘Gillick competent’ i.e. able to make decisions for themselves about some important issues. Some children will be able to make decisions for themselves at a much earlier age. It is wrong, I think, to have a blanket restriction as so much depends on the individual child and children definitely need to be respected as individuals – they are all so different.

    Or ask the social work team to set out clearly what they are proposing and why in writing, so you can take it to a solicitor.

    Sorry to hear you are going through this.

  3. Brie - Mother of two boys

    I have downloaded the UN Convention of The Rights of a Child
    But cannot find what applies to my child in this case

  4. Brie - Mother of two boys

    Thanks for your reply.
    Yes he has told the Independent Reviewing Officer. In the questionnaire he completed it asked so you see enough of your family & friends? He answered NO it also asked is there any persons you would like to see more & he answer ONLY MUM & EVERYDAY. Now I appreciate for a social worker they can’t meet all his wishes but this is him expressing want he would like. I have a meeting with the Independent Reviewing Officer tomorrow, I spoke to her before & she did advise me in the future I could apply in court for the Contact Order to be changed (more contact) so this is something I’m working towards sensibly by gathering evidence of ongoing positive contact with the children. But in the meantime I worry about my eldest sons well being if he is feeling ignored, helpless, unhappy & upset. Hence why the family are trying to reassure him that mummy wants to see him more too & he can ask for more time with his mummy (with the LA in agreement)
    I will ask the social worker to put what they expect from us & why then see where I can go from there.
    Thanks for your advise

  5. phillimoresarah Post author

    I think it is article 12 of the UN Convention? I will see if I can find it.

    Good luck with the meeting. If it isn’t possible to agree a way forward then I hope someone is going to sit down with him and explain why.

  6. Brie - Mother of two boys

    Ok brill I will have a look at it now.
    Yes I hope if we can’t agree on something & we cant reassure him then a professional will sit & talk to the children because the only feed back I get from the social worker is that they have spoken to the children & they are happy with it. Which leaves me confused when I hear about the children crying.

  7. Eeyore Incognito

    No advice I’m afraid but a tonne of empathy as I can relate to floundering with uncertainty around how to proceed with similar concerns. I really hope you can find some support through this and that Sarah’s advice is helpful for you and your son.

    It does sound positive that the Independent Reviewing Officer seems to be supporting a review of the contact order in the future, and really hope all goes well tomorrow.

  8. Brie - Mother of two boys

    Thank you so much that is very kind. Yes Sarah’s advice is good, i have requested for the social worker to put what they are proposing & why in writing. There will be a meeting Friday for the grandparents & social worker to talk about it (first meeting since final hearing in dec) but disappointing to leave such meetings till now, I will let you know how this meeting & my meeting with Independent Reviewing Officer.
    These children in care need to be heard not made to feel helpless & ignored

  9. Philip Measures

    He needs to know what, if anything, the Independent Reviewing Officer is doing.

    He would also have had a solicitor in the Care Proceedings so he has every right to ask to speak with that solicitor again.

    It is important that he does know that his mummy still loves him and is doing all that she can – in order to flourish emotionally he must he assisted to understand his situation, including, why he needs to remain in Care.

  10. Brie - Mother of two boys

    I try to update him with what professionals are doing for him/us & what i am doing to help myself (theropy/parenting classes) but social services made me sign an agreement not to talk about care proceedings or talk about his placement, if I didn’t sign it they said contact would stop. Social Workers claim they have spoken to him for him to understand his situation & they made ONE phone call to me & told me the children are happy & settled. But my sons carer at his placement (paternal grandmother) has told us (the maternal family) he asks to go home daily & cries because he misses me. Social workers have not informed me of his distress nor have they informed any other professionals.
    From what I know my son told me he was told by his social worker he will see his mummy fortnightly, they are reducing contact to six times a year, so this has been a shock for him & I think he feels let down, lied to, confused. A lot for a child to take in, but my eldest son is very intelligent for his age & has expressed his wishes to write to professionals to ask to see his mummy more, this has caused concern for the social worker because they said we should tell him he will have to wait till he is 18. I’m not sure where or how we can move forward but I will try to do it the right way & hope for the best outcome.
    Thankyou for your advice, I find it valuable & helpful

  11. Brie - Mother of two boys

    I went to see the Independant Reveiwing officer today & it was not a great experience. No social worker attend AGAIN which i found really unhelpful. I explained my concerns about the distress the children are feeling about not seeing their mother & other family members, also explained how my eldest feels confused & not listened to, I was basically told to take my concerns to the social worker. I referred to articles from the UN convention rights of a child, & tried to explain that I felt my sons rights wasn’t being considered, she was pretty much offended by this. She rolled her eyes & said she felt I did not understand the reason for this meeting & I need to speak to the children’s social worker instead. She also warned if I didn’t stop she would leave the room. So I was left feeling like I’d done something “naughty” & I chose not to complain further. I do not believe this is “Independant” Reveiwing nor do I advise anyone to ask for help or share concerns at these meetings.

  12. phillimoresarah Post author

    That doesn’t sound satisfactory at all. You have made it clear what the purpose of the meeting is – your son is telling you he wants to see more of you but the SW Team are saying they won’t discuss it with him?

    It’s not clear what if anything is being said to your son about this.

    It sounds like you need to take it further. Who is the IRO’s manager? I would write a polite but firm letter to say this just isn’t acceptable and you need to know what is being done about the issue of contact, or at least talking to your son so he can understand.

    Sorry to hear about this.

  13. Brie - Mother of two boys

    I’m not sure who her manager is, her name is Philomena Green. She explained the purpose of this child looked after review was for her to speak to the children, speak to me & share information not for her to make changes to the contact arranged for my children to see me. She explained the decision to reduced contact to six times a year was agreed by the judge at the final hearing & at this time (probably until the children are 16-18) this can’t be changed, even though the children express their wishes to have more contact.
    All I am aware of is the children’s social worker told the children they will see their mum fortnightly as I said before the children are distressed because now they have come to the realisation that contact will be much less, I explained this to the IRO & she assured me she she did not tell the children this information but she is not sure what the social worker may have told them.
    As a result I have offended her & was left feeling quite embarrassed, feeling like I didn’t understand why I was at the meeting as she suggested.
    But my feelings aren’t priority, I think the children will feel sad about their situation.

  14. Matt Harding

    Didn’t the courts make a decision not too long ago about placing more emphasis on the voice the child/ren involved? Maybe you could find the case number to bring to the attention of the SW. Although being that it was decided I believe earlier this year, it probably won’t be applicable to any already decided case such as yours. If their is a family lawyer who could help explain the relevance of applying new precedents to older decisions that might be helpful. Though it does lead one to wonder how it would be possible to apply new law to old law without causing a big mess.

  15. Sarah Phillimore

    I don’t think this is a ‘legal’ problem – it’s about making sure children are listened to and taken seriously. If a court has endorsed a certain plan of contact, of course that has to be respected unless and until any order in place is varied or discharged.

    But I am very uneasy with any plan that says ‘that’s it until they are 16’. I don’t see how that can be a plan with the children’s welfare firmly in mind because it is not treating the children as individuals with particular needs.

    What is appropriate contact for six months after a court hearing may not be appropriate after that.

    If you feel like you are getting no where with meetings I am afraid the only option I can see is to take this up with a specialist family law solicitor who hopefully can advise you fully.

  16. Sarah Phillimore

    Sorry, not explaining myself well – I mean this isn’t a ‘legal problem’ in that you would have to argue some new or controversial precedent. This is bog standard stuff – children need to be listened to, their welfare is paramount and a ‘fixed’ approach until some arbitrary age sounds to me like it isn’t putting their welfare at forefront of decisions.

  17. Brie - Mother of two boys

    Yes I understand what you are explaining about it not being a “legal problem” I also understand that I can’t change the proposed number of contacts, the plan is within the six months following court (we are into the 2nd month) it has changed from three contacts per week, changing to one per fortnight (in the first month) then one per month (this month) then by April one per two months. The children have become destressed at the change from fortnightly to monthly, although I anticipated they would find this difficult, I’m really worried how they will cope later in the year when contact will be one per every two months. & this is the concern I am trying to share, along with my concerns that my eldest son emotionally distressed about his whole situation (when can he come home/see mummy more/ask for what he would like) i agree i dont think telling him 16-18 is providing him any comfort. Will it be worth going back to court a year after the final hearing to vary the contact order if contact has been positive without concerns?? Yes I will get some advise, I do think it’s too early days to change anything atm but I am worried about my children’s well being at present.

  18. phillimoresarah Post author

    If you can’t reach a satisfactory agreement with the SW Team, or you feel no one is listening to you son then you can apply to court to discharge the care order – the court may not agree to do that but it is a way of getting these issues back before the court.

    I hope you can sort something out without having to go to court, but it is an option if you need it. Obviously the best thing for you to do would be to get some specialist advice. As a general rule, there is usually no point applying to discharge orders for at least the first six months.

    I hope things work out well for you and your children.

  19. Brie - Mother of two boys

    My parents (maternal grandparents) have been told today that their contact will be restricted to one weekend a month, since court they have proved concerns SW had & have had unsupervised contact weekly & this would be informly arranged between the carers (paternal grandparents). But SW has emailed them today to tell them conversations with Benjamin about what age he could ask for more time with his mum & family has concerned SW & therefore they feel that my parents have breeched a partnership agreement. (there has not been one made since before final hearing when their contact was supervised) So they are reducing the time the children spend with their maternal grandparents. they feel that bdnjamins distress has been caused by my parents (maternal grandpardnts) As I said before my eldest son Benji was upset & telling the SW & IRO he was not seeing his family enough. So I don’t see how this will help him nor do I feel these decisions are in his best interest. I feel it is in the SW best interests to separate these boys from their maternal family & their mother. Even thought the judges order said clearly that frequent contact with all their family is important.
    I think if you complain they will punish you further by reducing contact less.
    I have spoke to my solicitor, she said she will email their solicitor.

  20. Brie - Mother of two boys

    Sorry I meant at court the judge decided against the SW concerns about maternal family & said their contact should be unsupervised after final hearing

  21. Brie - Mother of two boys

    • Confused
    • Hurt
    • Stripped of my identity
    • I missed out on a relationship with my brothers and sisters, mum and dad and other close relations
    • Exhausted through lies
    Looking at the story above I think it’s sad that children in any placement under the local authority feel like this. & there is not much any parent or family can do untill the child is old enough be not be under a care order

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