Keep on Running

“Every family that I am aware of that have fled have kept their kid yet in the UK they wouldn’t have that – to me speaks volumes.”

This is a post from Stella, a mother who has faced many care proceedings. She is now living in France with her baby son. She explains why she is a ‘mum who runs’ and makes some suggestions for what we could do to make the situation better/safe for other mothers and children in the UK. She makes a powerful case for more targeted support for parents – given the massive impact on families when a child is removed for adoption, surely it’s worth thinking about?


They are all running abroad ????……. But WHY???

That really is the million dollar question isn’t it? All are aware the UK child protection system is failing, we the parents know it, you the professionals know, hell even the big fella president Munby admits it.

But why what’s changed in the UK from 10/20 years ago ? Why when parents flee abroad do we sing the local authority praises keep our kids and vow to never return ?

Curious that the UK say we will never be “capable” “safe” “the risks outweigh the benefits “it’s not in the child’s best interests” “not in their time scales” “haven’t got the support required” sound familiar ?

Yet abroad France, for the example I plan to use here, in particular we are given the all clear and stay with our children. Personally the differences I’ve found that stick out in my mind predominantly are the level of support offered freely from everyone here, the level of care, the community compassion and oddly that I am yet to see a single child misbehave.

It’s not a resources and funding issue – its about a way of life

This isn’t a resources and funding issue, France is very much in my view a poorer country than the UK and very much behind in a lot of ways compared to the UK. People still get water out the well, the areas are rural and many buildings in desperate need of upgrades and proper plumbing yet they are very much ahead of the UK in many areas, yet oddly are how the UK child protection services used to be years ago and flourishing from it

It’s mainly a quality over quantity difference from what I’ve seen. Everyone goes the extra mile works together, chips in, there’s no snobbery or segregation most of the shops are second hand shops and most items are bought from boot sales you can pick up some of the most fantastic well made solid wood quality furniture for under the equivalent of £20 (I’m sad yes but I’m a sod for a bargain !) women are helped with their shopping doors are opened everyone is polite and evening meals involve a get together of friends and neighbours eating together, everyone brings a little bit of something  – how I remember it being back when I was a kid.

What support is offered to new mothers by the health system?

Health care is another vast difference that immediately jumps out at you when you come here. Maternity care is very, very intense –  lots of appointments blood tests, scans, internals, midwifes, nurses, consultants, doctors, anaesthesiologists etc ……. All well and good until you need to translate into French you’re a wimp scared of needles, blood and need the kids numbing Emla cream put on, someone to hold your hand another to hide them doing the bloods and ten minutes to stop the crying panic attack and throwing up. Yep I am THAT wimp and it’s not fun for monthly blood tests.

Following labour, after care is amazingly different to the UK – you stay in on average 4 days which unlike the horror that is a NHS hospital stay it’s like staying at the Hilton no kicking out the door after 6 hours with a healthy dose of mrsa and the flu for good measure here nope ….

You’re given your “room” which consists of a wardrobe, a table, a bed, a chair, a nursing chair, a meal table tray, a set of drawers, a bed side table and an ensuite with your basic vanity mirror sink toilet and shower facilities and also a baby goldfish bowl bed if you want your tiny human in the room with you and don’t want to take advantage of the attached room which is your personal tiny human nursery consisting of cot, baby bathing sink, and changing unit weighing scales, all medical equipment type stuff for newborns etc.

Bedding is changed daily, the rooms are cleaned daily, hairdryers, towels, nappies, underwear sanitary products, toiletries, vitamins, meals, tea, coffee, juice fruit etc is provided several times a day. DO NOT try and use your own products or help strip the bed or tidy up for them  – you are there to rest and recover they are VERY strict on that.

You have a call button for your care and a telephone for babies care, they each use their own separate entrance doors to your room so you know whether to hand the tiny human over and breath a sigh of relief it’s not your turn or prepare to be prodded and poked temperature blood pressure and every other thing taken this happens several times a day and don’t for a second think hiding will make you safe. Even the food lady and cleaners are in on this prodding and poking torture treatment there’s something oddly disturbing having to share your toileting n personal hygiene habits with every single person that enters your room. They are VERY big on noting everything for baby and you but primarily if baby is gaining weight well they descend on you with a vengeance.

During your 4 day stay whether you are a first time mum or in my case on your 6th tiny human, you are shown how to do everything – change a nappy, give vitamins, clean eyes, nose, ears, cord, dress them, bath them, feed them.  They make you watch them the first time round then they note if you can do it next time round.  To be discharged you must complete the task to their standard  – no skipping ahead and doing it yourself in day one thinking you get out quicker. You are banned from doing anything day one other than resting.  Day two you get to do exciting stuff like watch them wash your baby, day three you get allowed to try stuff and baby gets their hearing test and by this 3rd day baby must be registered here for their birth certificate. On the 4th day bloods are done and they see if they will let you home.

You are given your health visitor appointment, introduced to them in the hospital before you can leave and you look back quite disappointed you’ll actually have to cease this being waited on hand and foot never did I think miss anti hospital here would want to stay longer ????

If they don’t think you’re managing you get referred to assistant social who will offer additional support. They also help with housing money childcare etc and visit you regardless before u leave to see if you want any help you are not punished for refusing this additional support and they leave with a smile and a card to show their door is always open.


What’s the attitude of the French local authorities? Back to basics social work

Which is really what you want to know what are the local authority is like here ….. Fantastic is the answer.

There’s a real air of get it right first time or fix it so it works here from the hospital birth onwards everything is geared towards making the family unit work which is the key difference “if it’s broke fix it don’t replace it” is a running theme from household items to their child protection system and it works.

Another key thing here is future emotional harm isn’t recognised your children only get taken if there has been actual harm such as sexual or physical. With neglect they tend to support rather than remove, such as help with housing food household items cleaners mother and baby units etc unless it’s alcohol or drugs in which case numerous drink and drug blood and urine tests are done to ensure your clean and capable but again rehabilitation is the aim all round here.

It’s primarily back to basics social work where social workers actually work with the community without fear of criticism or reprisal. None of the finger pointing and blame culture the uk now has against social workers who try to give families a chance resulting in social workers unwilling to take a risk and families not seeing the point in working with them as the decision is already made therefore the court system being fit to burst and the whole system being in tatters from start to finish.

Is the UK spending its money in the wrong places?

This isn’t a case of France having more funding and resources it’s more of money being well spent in the right places like their road tax only gets spent on repairing roads and ta Dar …. They’ve got the best roads I’ve ever seen !

Just think how much the UK spends on foster carers residential units, cp meetings, court costs contact workers, venue costs, shrink and psych assessments, therapy, counselling, parenting courses, mother and baby units etc etc for a single family …..

Then think of stopping all of that putting the money in a pot so that some of that money can go towards:

  • a basic child care course covering safe and practical care including bathing feeding dressing cleaning caring parenting playing and teaching a child that course could have maybe THIRTY parents on it in a big enough venue: Or
  • Cooking classes for another group of parents: Or
  • A playgroup day care day for a group of 30 kids so that their parents can have time to clean their house: Or
  • Cleaners for a parent that struggles to motivate to tidy: Or
  • To pay a wage to someone to ring the parents every morning to wake them up for school runs if they struggle with mornings or pop round and help them prepare the kids for school if they struggle managing them in a rush.

The possibilities are endless and after all that’s simply what some families need that bit of support, it clearly works because it’s worked and is still working here and used to work for the UK when it used to be like that there to.  Every family that I am aware of that have fled have kept their kid yet in the UK they wouldn’t have that  –  to me speaks volumes

Yes it won’t work for every family but for the professionals here, think back how many cases you’ve thought if the family got this and that it could work but I darent mention that because if it goes wrong it’s on my head so didn’t dare say it. Or how many times you’ve seen the same families come through your door time and time again nothing changing because the support simply isn’t there to help them…

Where one might argue you are providing a better future for the child by removing are you really though –  and what about the family as a whole, what about mums, dads, siblings, uncles cousins, aunts, grandparents etc. Having a kid removed rips the entire family apart there’s no heads nor tails about it it does. Then from that you lose the family bond and support network not to mention the mental scars and trauma left on all involved.

When surely if the current system clearly isn’t working admitted by all from top to bottom then it’s worth a try doing it the way that worked and is working ….. Surely ? ?

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