After 5 years as a ‘crusader’ I am admitting defeat – and this is why.

In 2014, with the support and encouragement of mumsnet users I set up the website Child Protection Resource online. We had considerable concerns about the lack of reliable information which was easily available for parents facing care proceedings and real fears about the way in which people in positions of authority and power seemed happy to promote false narratives to make people afraid.

I had such high hopes. Surely all people need is to see the facts set out before them, clearly and simply and all will be well! In pursuit of this dream I organised 3 multi-disciplinary conferences in 2015, 2016 and 2018.  It seemed to go well. The first conference was a genuinely energising and positive experience when for the first time parents, social workers, experts and lawyers gathered in one room to speak honestly about their experiences in a system of children protection that we all agreed was not working and was brutalising those within it.

But as the years went by, my naivety has been revealed for what it was and my enthusiasm has dimmed. It is clear to me now that professionals do not operate in isolated silos, failing to engage with others, because they are forced to – it is because they WANT to.  Stepping out of your comfort zone and facing some hard and uncomfortable choices about your profession and the choices you make within it is very difficult. I can see why many are simply unable to do it.

And that’s ok. I am not here to berate people for not being willing to risk their homes and their jobs on some crusade. I appreciate it is very difficult for many to speak out. Family cases are particularly difficult to engage with in public due to the many necessary rules that exist to protect identification of children.

So I get that. But I wasn’t asking people to be warriors. I was asking people to be authentic. To be honest. To connect. And it is sadly clear to me now that this is never going to happen. There are not merely the concerns about possibly being in contempt of court – which I quite understand – but there is something much darker going on. A lack of honest recognition of problems and difficulties because this might challenge a prevailing orthodoxy or a funding stream or a personal ‘brand’ – or simply be embarrassing.

And I will not be complicit with this. Because I think its really harmful. Not only to the possibility of driving forward any real change to a brutalising system, but because there are real people – real children – who get ignored if people are more concerned about embarrassment and saving public face than they are about engaging with what is going wrong.

As I have already indicated, I have withdraw support from any journalist who wishes to campaign to open up the family courts, as the last five years have shown me that journalists are either unwilling or unable to accept the harm they do to this area in particular, by click bait appeals to the lowest common denominator.  I will no long be willing to sit in conferences and talks by social workers that preach the importance of relationships when key members of that profession seem unable or unwilling to recognise that the fundamental building block of any relationship is honesty and trust. I will not sit by in silence when even the Ministry of Justice does not appear to understand its own system of laws and I will continue to object very loudly to those who push fake and partisan narratives at the expense of the rule of law.

I will keep my site going and updated. For the parents who may benefit from it. No parent is responsible for this system and its failings. No parent should be asked to care about this. They need a system that can operate fairly and efficiently, to either remove those children who need protection their parents cannot give in the least cruel way possible, or to step away from those families who have unfairly been the subject of state scrutiny. Better yet, not ever have to engage in punitive measures against families which may have been able to make it with some guidance and support.

I have been deeply disappointed by the last five years. But I don’t regret for one moment embarking on this experiment. It has opened my eyes and my mind and both before were, to a large extent, closed. It has enabled me to meet many people of great wisdom and courage that I would otherwise never have met. To all of them, I offer my thanks.

24 thoughts on “After 5 years as a ‘crusader’ I am admitting defeat – and this is why.

  1. PositiveChangeForOurChildren

    I was saddened by this article as a parent I have found your website incredibly valuable and it gave me hope that there IS somthing that can be done to change the system. Last year I lost my children on a interim order due to a very toxic break up, your website helped me to recognise the changes I had to make within myself to bring my children home. My case is now 16 months in due to the changes I have made and is listed for FCMH in january next year. I now have my newborn son home with me due to those changes after spending 12 weeks in residential asessment centre which have me a positive parenting asessment saying “I had more that proved my parenting skills”. This has brought about the need for new ISW report. I believe for positive change everybody has to work together challenge what is wrong and prove it. My first parenting asessment was daming the social worker minimised anything that could be seen as positive she ignored the fact that no professionals had ever had any concerns about my children. My solicitor told me it was a fair asessment until I presented her with the evidence of why it was so terrifyingly wrong, she now tells me that my progress has been amazing and it’s up to the social worker to prove herself. I see my children twice a week and I hear the same thing from every parent in the contact centre that there social worker has lied and made them out to be monsters, some of them break down in tears. All I can do is advice them to change or to prove why there asessment is wrong getting angry and blaming the social worker will not help. What is so terrifying and heart breaking for parents is they know the social workers hold the power they write reports which every other professional agrees with believing it to be the professional truth that it should be. And in the centre of this you have children who are desperate to be heard my children were called “dilushional” because they said they were happy at home and that they missed there family. 16 months on they continue to ask to come home at every contact they beg the social worker to let them come home but they are ignored there now on there 4th foster carer placement as every foster carer has struggled with them being emotional somthing that has now also been placed on my shoulders as “trauma”. The childrens new foster carer told me in front of my children that they ignore her because they have been “Chronicly abused” while in my care, somthing which I must stress has never been alleged by the children or social workers. I had to take the social worker to court to get dental treatment for my children and also a asthma review which was 4 months over due, my child inhaler had ran out that could have had dealy consiqueses.
    My point in all this is that the blame lies with everybody in this system, the parents for being angry and refusing to engage. The social worker for doing the opposite of what there trained to do e.g support parents and children as a family.
    The IROS for accepting sw asessment as facts and disregarding the parents and childrens voices. The guardians for not challenging the LA and disregarding childrens feelings. The children are repeatedly interviewed when I firmly believe it should be done by a independant child phycologist at the very beginning. It is voices like yours that need to be heard if we all give up then there will never be a positive outcome for children and there will continue to be a tornado of blame surrounding the family law system.
    Your website inspired and intrigued me and because of that I have now started doing my law degree, i found i had a passion for childrens rights and the family law, so thank you for your inspiration.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thank you very much for your kind words, which really are appreciated. Its so easy to hear just the harsh words and the criticism and think that is the only response – but it is really heartening to know that there are people out there who have found the website useful. That was what it was set up to do.

      I am glad to hear you have your son at home and have benefitted from the residential assessment – so many parents sadly do not as I think there is a real risk that many ‘assessments’ are more about gathering evidence to fit a case against a parent. I hope the January court hearing goes well, please come back and update!

      I wish you lots of luck with your law degree and I am so glad that something good has come out of this.

  2. Bridie

    Your story is a truly remarkable one abait you still haven’t had your children returned yet and can only pray this doesn’t go horrible wrong at your next court hearing as it has done for so many others who have also put in over 100% for the return of their children. What I do find disturbing is all the hard work parents put in could of been done with support from ss with their children still being kept within the family unit whether that be with the parent/parents or extended family. The hardest trauma in life is the loss of a child and the hardest trauma for a child is separation from a parent yet all professionals involved declare “it’s in the best interest of the child” a find that quote deplorable. When children are returned parents journeys have just begun because they have to deal with a child that has been so traumatised by the system a huge interruption in their life that no parent or councilling can fix its a life time trauma because the attachment was broken. Broken in a child that didn’t have a fully formed brain to understand or cope. Yes the system needs changing but 1st and foremost the separation and trauma needs to be stopped if we are to have a generation of high functioning children who themselves will become parents. The simple answer is support the parent support the child even if it means the child stays with extended family.

    1. michele simmons

      ‘The hardest trauma in life is the loss of a child and the hardest trauma for a child is separation from a parent yet all professionals involved declare “it’s in the best interest of the child” a find that quote deplorable. When children are returned parents journeys have just begun because they have to deal with a child that has been so traumatised by the system a huge interruption in their life that no parent or councilling can fix its a life time trauma because the attachment was broken. Broken in a child that didn’t have a fully formed brain to understand or cope. Yes the system needs changing but 1st and foremost the separation and trauma needs to be stopped if we are to have a generation of high functioning children who themselves will become parents. The simple answer is support the parent support the child even if it means the child stays with extended family.’

      Thank you Bridie,
      Said children are also coming home grieving the loss of loved ones as well as the ones who are still alive and I’m witnessing said trauma right now.

      It comes in the form of self harm, running away, suicidal or previous suicidal thoughts, hurt, anger, numbness, and said young adult now returned home, wishes deeply they had got the chance with choices to be able to see their natural family members who have passed away again. They also believe, like me in promoting face to face contact rather than it being stopped.

      The missed years cause too much damage and are very difficult to process for the child especially as well as the parents (natural?)

      But another biggie, is them not getting truthful honest answers post adoption (alleged) re the authenticity of their adoption/status even when both the AP(s) side and the natural parent(s) versions of the story matches up.

      So children can have had a positive experience in their placement, but stopping the contact re face to face is causing so much lasting damage to the child, it hurts to see it. Letterbox is not enough.

      Any potential adopters who plan to adopt and have no further contact with natural parents, please stop and prioritise the child’s needs, wishes and feelings and please don’t let any child grow up with their identity being based on lies.

      If the child/ren affected ever find out, it will cause them serious harm.

      Thank you (Mum to 3 children, also mum or natural mum to said child) xx

  3. Tim O

    I am not only a victim of this evil a deadly sadism of the social services and the social workers, but being a qualified solicitor with about 26 years of post qualification experience ; I have asked myself this worrying question ” If they can lie and cover up all their lies against me in the family court; what then could they do to a common man or woman on the street with no legal background.

    I have a bag full of stories; but I need a platform to narrate it. Thank God I fought and by His grace and stopped them;; but I need to do more with people like you to change this our horrible system.
    The Children’s Act is not necessarily bad, but it is the social services who sadly are not lawyers that are applying it wrongly as an instrument of oppression. Please don’t quit from a good course.
    We can fix it together for the common man.
    Thank you for your wonderful work so far and please do get in touch.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry to hear of your experiences Tim and can reassure you that this site isn’t going away and nor I am. What I am no longer doing however is giving my support – either explicitly or impliedly by my silence – to people and organisations who are colluding in very dangerous practice.

      I am happy to offer you this site as a platform if you would like to tell your story by way of a guest blog. I think people ARE reading and are thinking about all of this, so it may help. please email me at [email protected] if you would like to write something.

    2. Angelo Granda

      Tim O,
      I think you will find that LA lawyers are the ones who put evidence under oath at the outset to set Court proceedings in motion.
      The SW;s generally do as the solicitors and management instruct them to do. They are not independent ‘professionals’ as they should be .
      Check out applications ,core assessments ,chronologies and threshold documents which are all lodged with the Court Office under oath and accepted as true . The LA’s must be brought to heel and,in my opinion, Sarah, the only ones who can do it are barristers like you.
      Concentrate within your own sphere of influence and make your voice count in Court.Then the system will have to reform itself.

      It was interesting to see the Supreme Court assert itself in midweek about the suspension of Parliament. The Family Court should follow.

  4. Sam

    Hi Sarah
    I am sorry to hear this and have been very grateful for your help and encouragement over the years. You have very much been part of my journey. I understand your reasons and hope you can use your leisure time more fruitfully. I have myself stopped commenting so much as my life has moved on in a positive way. Very best wishes for the future.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks for your kind words and your continued support Sam. Very pleased to hear your life has moved on positively.

  5. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, I don’t think i would say you are defeated at all.
    Your good work has worked marvels for many and the discussions you have promoted have moved things forward.
    I don’t think you disagree with all my comments and generally you are fair.
    As far as being fed-up of it is concerned, none of us can blame you.
    After 5 years lots of commentators have disappeared some may be old and infirm by now,i suppose, but going back to the year 2014 long before i found the CPR , there are some very interesting posts and comments.
    How you have put up with some of them,i don’t know. You have had to read and moderate every one of them single-handedly, not to mention deleting spam etc.
    Glad to hear you aren’t going away and looking forward to seeing what happens in the future and hearing about new directions you might take.
    Sarah, it is almost impossible ,in my opinion, to tackle the problems we have with the CP industry as it stands. Unfortunately ,it is dogged by industrial scale spanish practices so firmly set over such a long period of time that it just cannot be done. Malpractices have taken over from correct ones over the years and even the C.ACT 1989 made little difference.
    The only way an individual like you can make a difference is in your approach to EACH CASE in court .
    As far as the grand scheme of things is concerned, i think we should look at the Fleet Street printing workers and the dockers . Also parts of the motor industry. They were industries ruled by spanish practices too. The workers were brought up that way ,it was their culture and impossible for them to change. The industries had to be completely scrapped and rebuilt. Otherwise they would never have moved on.
    It has to be out with the old and in with a completely new broom. Sweep them out from the top downwards.
    As for parents, those floundering,deprived or depraved will welcome help and support when they need it . However,targeting innocents and destroying families has to stop.
    I know you think i am naive but i still believe the Courts themselves hold the key to it all.Just by upholding the law and due process. They should simply refuse to issue orders until the L.A’s act correctly right across the board. They would soon change management then!
    Also appeals should be allowed automatically. The L.A’S rely heavily on them being so hard to get for the poor which is why they target them. Just the threat of appeals would be enough to make them change.

  6. K Banned

    Has it only been 5, Five years of my and my families 22yr nightmare???? AND YOU WANT TO THROW THE TOWEL IN????? Unacceptable, completely UNACCEPTABLE, your job is not finished yet?
    I am hiding at the moment having been contacted by my adopted grandson to meet, I have his medical records, birth records, photographs, outside charities letters that tried to help, his birth certificate, not to mention QC Focke’s full court file of documents referring to him in a different name throughout Family Court Proceedings, stopping any justice or truth to be entered into the proceedings not to mention I want no fight with his adopted parents on ownership of this now young man

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      My time and energy are mine to spend as I wish. If you don’t like that, I am afraid I don’t care.

  7. Angelo Granda

    When cases are in Court, lawyers should examine in great detail points of law. It appears to respondents that only rudimentary attention is paid to certain basic principles by assessors (including Guardians) throughout. I believe that is when lawyers and the Judge should come into their own and ask searching questions crucial to children. Decisions will then be less irrational.

    For example, the Law says that removal should not be ordered except when correct procedures and safeguards have been applied scrupulously. It says that all evidence and information contra-indicative of removal from parents should be presented by the Authorities to Court also that all less invasive courses of action should be examined carefully and solid reasons given for their rejection.
    As i said above, only rudimentary attention is paid to these strict points of law.
    Maybe this is because of the lack of time and the need for summary justice.
    For example, often not one word (not one) will be said by the L.A. contra-indicative of removal, alternatives will not be laid-out clearly in any detail and certainly no genuine reasons for rejecting them are given. I believe this could easily be questioned by lawyers. In theory at least home support plans are often possible and ,even when genuine , neglect and the risk of future harm is not extreme, the less destructive plans should be applied in preference to removal.
    Currently,L.A’s address this by attacking the personalities and mental capacity of respondents ( often unfairly) claiming they are unlikely to acknowledge and work with professionals in time-scales relevant to children involved.They often push this from the outset of cases EVEN WHEN parents have co-operated fully with the mandate of professional assessors,engaged suitably with lawyers and advocates,accepted the jurisdiction of the Court and EVEN WHEN they have signed S20’s and agreed to voluntary foster-care.
    In my opinion, that L.A.lawyers push their line from the outset
    before in-depth assessments have even begun ( look at the initial statements and assessments presented to Magistrates) is indicative of their dishonesty. Actually an in-depth core assessment should be built up and presented but if we examine them,they are very brief and rudimentary.
    This is the type of thing our lawyers should argue and the easiest way ,in my view, would be to ask detailed questions in Court.
    The parents should be asked straight out ” If an order is made by this Court will you acknowledge the concerns and co-operate with it and the professionals?
    Currently this is what happens. Concerns are put to Court and many of them may be unwarranted. When a parent disagrees with these ones and objects, it is SPECULATED they are unco-operative and that is the reason adopted for rejection of the less drastic care-plans.
    THE TRUE REASONS FOR REJECTION are often because it is easier and more economical and p.c. for the children to go into care. Thus the Applicant ,management and lawyers should be put in the box and questioned as to any policy imperatives etc. They should be ordered to disclose imperatives and directions given to the assessors and grilled about finances available. They should be questioned IN AN OPEN COURT particularly as to why they prefer to spend vast amounts with the private care industry rather than on less expensive home support plans.
    We have been arguing about this particular anomaly for years. To be transparent, the Directors of Social Services ( the applicants) should be fetched to Court themselves if necessary to get to the bottom of it all. Perhaps in the end, the questions should be asked in the Supreme Court which is able to set new precedent.

    Hardly fair at the moment,is it?
    All comments welcome.

  8. Opressed

    You are no longer giving your support to people and organisations who are colluding in very dangerous practices?

    And yet you are? You continue to work in this barbaric system which does nothing less than abuses children!!

  9. Brian

    You didn’t fail, what you said was noticed. The fight will never end, there will always be failings and corruption and abuse, that is human nature. To stay silent is a failure in itself.

    Never be ashamed to speak truth to power!

  10. Barbara Wiles

    For a few years now Sarah, I have been trying to gauge whether you are actually genuine or not? Whether you honestly wanted to help families or not?
    Couldn’t quite work it out, on here or Mumsnet.

    The fact that you have hidden my other post on the 13th October and unable to answer the question I posed, tells me a lot.

    Don’t know why I have hung on so long really? I suppose I kept hoping and hoping that you out of all the others, were genuine and could help.

    I’m glad you couldn’t answer the question. In a strange way it’s released me. You won’t be hearing from me again.

    I did enjoy our debates on Mumsnet though.

    From Aunt Ethel/ Yorkshire lass.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      If I have hidden or removed a post it was because it was abusive, defamatory or revealed details about a child. I don’t hide posts for any other reason. Engage with me or not as you wish. Luckily for me the approval of others is not my fuel.

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  12. Helsbet

    Sorry to hear how you are feeling.
    I’ve only had one small brush with Children’s Services and have been shocked by how Social Workers act.
    Seeing my son before we were even aware a referral had been made (apparently it was the responsibility of the school to check we had consented), accessing medical records without our consent (again apparently GP should have checked) an assessment that was so incorrect and misleading being quoted out of context , no notes made of meetings ( apparently that is standard practice), and the best part – no one other then the assessing social worker can apparently ever explain the assessment. Luckily my children were only CIN, but I am still fighting to clear my name against the allegations in the assessment.

    For example – the assessment states mums mental health is such she’s taken to leaving the house when the child is violent leaving her daughter behind. Totally untrue- I had left to protect myself once when I was alone in the house with my son ( when threatened with a knife) and once to take my daughter away from the violence after the police had been called. But as Social Workers don’t have to evidence what they write they can just make stuff up while issue threats to take the children into care.

    This shows to me how unfair the system is and how much power social workers have. Once something is written in a file it’s impossible to remove.

    Please keep in fighting in anyway you can – as I’ve now been ‘investigated’ by Children’s Services my voice doesn’t count in the media as I must have something to hide

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      A lot of people have complained about inaccurate records being made and kept and I can see its a big problem. I will still have a strong interest in this field and do what I can to raise awareness but I think my days of active campaigning are over. thanks for your interest and comment but i am sorry you had to come to the site this way.

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