Mums on the run: When you have tried everything else you have nothing else to lose

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore.

On April 4th BBC’s Woman’s Hour discussed the issue of mothers who repeatedly lose their children into the care system and the decision made by some to ‘flee’ the jurisdiction, sometimes with the financial and emotional support of an organised network of people.

This prompted some further discussion online. I have already written in some considerable detail about the issues that arise from this; see the posts set out in Further Reading below.

The conversation on line was very useful for clarifying some thoughts and questions about where we go from here.

A typical reaction to hearing the story of ‘Zara’ on the Woman’s Hour podcast was of shock and sadness. Why should any mother have to go through this? Just what is the scale of the problem and what can we do about it?

A number of parents asserted to me that ‘lots’ or ‘the majority’ of parents who left the UK ‘settled well’. I pressed them to help me understand what actual numbers informed this statement – and what happened to the minority who did not settle? The parents were not able to answer and seemed to find my questions an attack on their integrity and intelligence, which I did not understand. I was asking for the raw data that informed their confident assertions. After a few hours of such to and fro it became clear that no one knows the numbers. And that has been the primary issue that causes me concern about all of this.

One person provided screen shots of a group operating in Egypt which explained to parents

…. remember summer is blisteringly hot here. Not like a summer holiday. We want only mums who will fight to the end whatever the conditions to protect their child… medication to cope with withdrawal from drugs we can get… (winking face emoji)

Even that brief description suggests the risks to parents and children, many already vulnerable, are huge. Rather chillingly, one parent commented:

Genuine neglect, abuse and incapability cases never survive long… unless you can survive for 6 months with no income, don’t bother…

Those who offer money to send people out of the jurisdiction appear to undertake no risk assessment, keep no records and don’t record the progress abroad of the fleeing parents. We urgently need to understand the scale of the problem.  The ‘fight’ rhetoric is worrying and will obviously be appealing to desperate parents. As one commented via Twitter

And they wonder why we run when you have tried everything else – you have noting to lose

What is the scale of this problem?

One parent (who had left the jurisdiction and was now parenting her two youngest children, despite losing the older ones to the care system) suggested that about 50 parents ‘on average’ left the jurisdiction.  One parent wondered if a higher number of parents who already had dual nationality would leave the jurisdiction – but that, interestingly has not been my experience.

One person commented that the following three questions need to be asked

a) Why do parents flee

b) why do other countries not consider the same parents to be a danger to children?

c) what the hell is going on?

I think these are all essential questions to be answered. The problem is, that we need proper data in order to try and answer them.  I would like to know:

a) how many parents leave the jurisdiction each year to avoid care proceedings?

b) What countries do they go to

c) how many ‘do well’ and settle

d) those who don’t do well – what happens to them and their children?

 

Way forward

One parent suggested that I make a FOI to various LA to see how many port alerts they issued for parents. That could be useful information but it won’t answer my questions above. What does seem to be key here is getting more information about how other jurisdictions operate. Clare Fenton Glynn has done some useful work on this but I am not aware of much else that could help to answer the questions.

One parent suggested that the key difference was that no other jurisdiction recognises ‘risk of future harm’ in the way we do – I accept that this is a concept that causes many unease and which we investigated at #CPConf2018.

As one person commented:

… if process wasn’t adversarial from the outset there would be no need for mums to hit [social media] and look about fleeing… ban SWs from scaring mothers by saying ‘have any more, we’ll take that too”…

I would be grateful for any other suggestions about how we can collectively move forward to have sensible discussions about this. We need some hard data and we need to keep asking some hard questions. We need to know a lot more about how other countries operate. Although I do not have firm data, It cannot be right in 2019 that parents feel they have no choice but to uproot themselves from their own country and put themselves and their children at serious risk of harm.

Further reading

Mums on the run April 7th 2019 post by ‘Annie’ member of The Transparency Project and a mum who nearly ran.

Helping parents leave the jurisdiction – what happens when you don’t know the whole story, or you don’t care? August 2015 Child Protection Resource

Keep on Running September 2016 Child Protection Resource

Keep on Running Part II April 2018 Child Protection Resource.

 

13 thoughts on “Mums on the run: When you have tried everything else you have nothing else to lose

  1. Angelo Granda

    A Parent’s View.

    It is unrealistic to ask for ‘hard data’ and reliable recorded figures on this subject of fleeing mums . How can we ever imagine that official ,firm data is ever kept of events which take place UNOFFICIALLY.
    Plus any information about interventions recorded by the authorities is unlikely to be reliable.
    The Local Authorities talk up successes and cover-up for failures and it is likely that refugee organisations will do so too.
    It’s impossible for the Court’s to keep tabs on outcomes for L.A.C. children in official circles so we can’t expect to see any accurate details of underground activities.
    The LA’S and CS dish us out lots of official propaganda , why would their opponents be any different?
    Face reality. I doubt if we can even make a fair estimate. My guesstimate would be that the success rate for ‘mums on the run’ is high when they are lucky enough to go into a genuine ‘safe placement’ run by genuine support volunteers. However, it will be low for those Mums and children who land in a home run by profiteers and cruel opportunists/exploiters. The latter would twist their figures even if any were kept.
    The same applies to official care homes here.When the authorities have legitimate aims, the success rate is high. If not,failure is almost inevitable.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      That is precisely the problem. We have no data. We have no idea of the scale of the problem. We need at least a rough idea.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        In my opinion,readers, we should follow this tenet.
        ‘QUANTITATIVE JUDGMENTS AND ARGUMENTS BASED ON STATISTICS ARE INVALID’

        Professionals ( and parents) should approach the problem on the basis that it is a disaster when the human rights of even ONE child are abused. Lawyers ,in particular should approach issues with the attitude that each case is separate and should treat each individual case with the strict attention to process and detail it deserves.
        Forget about forming judgments by number and rote. It is not your task to study social work statistics and methodology. Leave it to the propagandists and financiers to total everything up in retrospect .
        We should approach each child’s case separately. If we feel a child’s rights or a Mum’s are being abused and exploitation is ongoing in any way whether at one of the unofficial boltholes abroad or in one of our LA residential care homes, we should not dither or cover it up or waste time seeking out statistics, we should report it immediately to the Police and press them into immediate action.
        If we stand by and allow ONE child to be abused, we bear responsibility for it. Also it may be said we bear a level of responsibility for countless ( maybe millions) of other injustices.

        Here is the tenet again. It is a long-standing one which has proven to be correct and wise over a long,long time.
        ‘QUANTITATIVE JUDGMENTS ARE INVALID’.

        We should be prepared to walk a thousand miles to intervene and put a halt to the sufferings of just ONE child.

        Reply
        1. Mark C

          There are two ways of dealing with a problem – one is to take direct action once the problem is discovered (ie to take a child into care or remove them from an unsafe situation or placement) – which is what already happens and which is treated as an indiviual case with focus on what is best for that individual child

          the other way is develop policies and practices to ensure that the same problem doesn’t happen in the first place. That requires data, statistics and methodology etc

          by conflating the two approaches and denigrating the latter, you are missing the point.

          Reply
  2. Angelo Granda

    During a war, it is impossible for us to win it personally; we can only save those individuals with whom we come into contact personally.
    Then we would risk our own lives to protect them from death or disaster. Do you think those brave individuals who arrange for the rescue of human beings from death camps in Syria and other countries waste time studying statistics? Of course not! Neither do the doctors and nurses treating injuries on -the -spot.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      you are comparing two utterly different situations. Someone in peril of their life in a war zone can be seen to be so. An assessment can be made quickly on very powerful evidence that is immediately available. Ian Josephs however gave money to a paedophile to leave the country. As she wasn’t wearing a T shirt saying ‘Hello I am a massive paedophile’, it was incumbent on those giving her money to leave the jurisdiction to take a modicum of care about who and what she really was.

      Reply
  3. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, you are going off at a tangent. I did not mention Ian Josephs or his failures.
    I was trying to impress a widely-held tenet upon readers in response to your continuing requests for more data. Ian would also do well to follow my advice and give more thought to each and every individual who contacts him. Then he might detect it if one of them happens to be a paedophile. I wasn’t referring to war situations in relation to him or refugees from the child-protection here.
    Further to what I did write about the tenet, i believe it goes to the very essence of inhumanity or part of the essence. Cases should be examined ad hoc, for LA’s to come forward with individual assessments based on general statistics and algorithms such as ‘ this is a poor,needy family’ and that children are more at risk of significant harm if they are from poor,needy families or reside in a particular post-code thus this particular family must be liquidated is INHUMANE .

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      No I was not. I was responding to your entirely unhelpful analogy. You cannot compare the two. Ian Josephs is a very good example of why it is absolutely necessary to have some kind of investigative and assessment process before giving people money to leave the country. I can’t make this point again or any clearer than I have done over so many years now, so I suggest we drop it. I don’t think you want to or are able to grapple with it – because it means that you have to accept some parents are really very abusive and very dangerous indeed and you seem very reluctant to accept that.

      Reply
  4. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, I appreciate all views and appreciate these discussions. I have repeatedly stated that I recognise that some parents are cruel and abusive to children and that I support the Children Act so why do you keep saying I am reluctant to accept it? I agree it should be nipped in the bud much earlier and that were the LA’s to work according to the law and it’s guidelines strictly , it would help matters.

    From now on I am going to cease using the term ‘cloud-cuckoo land evidence’ as it is a criticism which is not proving constructive. Professionals apparently don’t appreciate it.

    What term can I use? Do you agree that the evidence presented by cp professionals can often be distorted and lack true impartiality due to irrational fears. They have many times acted too late and innocent babes have lost their lives partly due to their mistakes.Thus they tend sometimes to overreact and plough in like bulls into a china shop and act too hastily. When it is later pointed out by respondents they have acted unlawfully, the professional evidence is distorted and exaggerated to justify the over-hastiness, evade accountability and escape official censure.
    Can we use the term ‘ evidence distorted by the need for self-justification’ or ‘fear infected ‘ evidence? Or even ‘the evidence of cover-up’?
    I am sure we all recognise how very dangerous such evidence is in a Court of Law.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Yes, your other way of putting it is much more likely to lead to constructive debate. I can’t discuss things with people who talk of ‘kangaroo courts’ or ‘cloud cuckoo land’. Those are pejorative and dismissive terms.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Kangaroo courts are better described as courts which practice summary justice as the inevitable consequence of shortage of time,shortage of judges , and an inability to penetrate the matrix of false narrative and hearsay and sort it from freely available facts and ‘real’ evidence.
        Lawyers recognise that the judicial system is broken or at least they recognise the theory and they understand the obvious effects closed courts have on justice . Sadly they fail to give enough attention to the practical realities of such a state of affairs. Miscarriages of justice! They won’t mend the system or don’t know how to.
        It is easier and quicker to grant comity and mandate to LA’s and their data-bases ; if respondents disagree, then it is easier and quicker to say they are defensive,don’t understand issues and remain at the pre-contemplative stage etc. or that they have a personality disorder.

        Fear – infected evidence or the evidence of cover-up presented to court to justify hasty inventions will primarily be introduced into cases not by SW’s but by the LA legals.
        Respondent lawyers discuss evidence with them and put real evidence to them before the Court hearings thus giving them the opportunity to alter,conceal and pervert justice. As respondents disprove one set of allegations, they moderate and rephrase them also pile on more wild ones.
        I suppose they are acutely aware of the family court’s lack of time to question it all.

        The authorities interests and anxieties come before those of children every time when it boils down to it. They don’t have the staff or the time to investigate properly according to correct procedure so the system fails.

        Reply
      2. Angelo Granda

        Kangaroo courts are better described as courts which practice summary justice as the inevitable consequence of shortage of time,shortage of judges , and an inability to penetrate the matrix of false narrative and hearsay and sort it from freely available facts and ‘real’ evidence.
        Lawyers recognise that the judicial system is broken or at least they recognise the theory and they understand the obvious effects closed courts have on justice . Sadly they fail to give enough attention to the practical realities of such a state of affairs. Miscarriages of justice! They won’t mend the system or don’t know how to.
        It is easier and quicker to grant comity and mandate to LA’s and their data-bases ; if respondents disagree, then it is easier and quicker to say they are defensive,don’t understand issues and remain at the pre-contemplative stage etc. or that they have a personality disorder.

        Fear – infected evidence or the evidence of cover-up presented to court to justify hasty inventions will primarily be introduced into cases not by SW’s but by the LA legals.
        Respondent lawyers discuss evidence with them and put real evidence to them before the Court hearings thus giving them the opportunity to alter,conceal and pervert justice. As respondents disprove one set of allegations, they moderate and rephrase them also pile on more wild ones.
        I suppose they are acutely aware of the family court’s lack of time to question it all.

        The authorities interests and anxieties come before those of children every time when it boils down to it. They don’t have the staff or the time to investigate properly according to correct procedure so the system fails.

        Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Perhaps we should call it F.I.E. ( fabricated and induced evidence).

      I do think it applies and relates very well to ‘Munchausens Syndrome by Proxy’. Clearly child-protection professionals are prone to it .

      See this post for a description of the condition. Efficient and speedy, impartial investigations must be carried out early on to put a stop to it. That means as soon as the first piece of false evidence or reporting by a professional is spotted the whole of his or her evidence is suspect and unsafe. It should be double and treble-checked not put to the bottom of the Court’s agenda.

      https://childprotectionresource.online/fabricated-and-induced-illness/

      Reply

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