National Adoption Week – An adopter’s view

We are grateful for this post from an adoptive parent, who calls for an end to the distorting rhetoric about adoption; without honest and open discussion of what is gained and lost through adoption, we risk losing focus on what should be the fundamental core of all our endeavours here –  the children and what they need.

During National Adoption Week, as a society, will we be able to finally have the conversation we urgently need? Or will rhetoric and political agendas continue to stifle that debate?

I have come to understand that adoption is more about loss than gain

Today is the start of National Adoption Week (NAW) when Adoption Agencies (on behalf of the Government) want and need to inform the public about how their country needs them. Not to go to war but to parent children and young people through adoption when nothing else will do

I am an adopter. I have a few problems with National Adoption Week. I probably shouldn’t because I can recall seeing some daytime tv 16yrs ago and thinking – `yep, that is what we need to do.’ Hubby and I would make good parents and if children need a forever family, that can and should be us.

Over the years that followed that day, I have come to understand that modern adoption is more about loss than gain. I hope you will understand why I think that by the end of this week.

I am a member of a peer support group for the parents of traumatised adopted children and young people. Trauma is a term we think best describes the losses our children have lived with. It describes their loss of birth family, identity, childhoods where they had rights to be kept safe, physically and psychologically.

A few weeks ago a few of us attended the first Family Law Class open to all . It was a good class. We were well aware that ‘our’ children’s birth families could be sat next to us and that was ok. It was ok because we know about their loss, their difficulties with communicating and dealing with professionals at an immensely difficult time in their lives. We know because a minority of experienced adopters go through the same experience with social services as many struggling birth parents. I will talk about that later this week.

Today I want to talk about what I feel is often unsaid during NAW, about birth parents, adopters and ‘our’ children.

The elephant in the room – what will happen if my child’s birth parents didn’t harm them after all?

Those professionals and interested adopters will know that the answer to the question is – probably nothing. The circumstances under which any Judge will reverse a decision involving an Adoption Order (certainly after some time has elapsed) are very rare.

But experienced adopters are well aware of the miscarriages of justice that have happened in the UK. I speak for many adopters who feel that these miscarriages of justice are a travesty. A child and maybe their siblings will have lost their birth parents, each other and everything they hold dear. They may be moved from pillar to post within the care system, being sent to live with strangers and one day, will have to learn that none of that should have happened. Such a loss can never really be put into words can it?

Adopters feel for birth parents where miscarriages of justice have happened. We have genuine empathy for them and hope that agencies (& if necessary the courts) do everything in their power to ensure that those children, birth parents and adoptive families are enabled to build a mutually rewarding relationship in the future. It can be done, I am sure of it. Society needs it to be so.

But what of those children and young people that were rightly removed from their birth parents?

People approved for adoption will have been told and will have read reports written by social services about the children’s life with birth parents. We will have been told that the children need a new `forever` family because birth parents are not able to safeguard them. The birth parents are deemed by all in authority to not be `good enough parents’.  This is my first problem with NAW.

NAW will have you, the person wanting to be a parent, believing that that is absolutely the case. It may well be, but I have been concerned for a number of years that it isn’t that simple.
Prospective adopters need to believe that for `our` children to have been placed for adoption, their birth families must not have been ‘good enough’ to do the job. Parents need to keep the children safe, not to abuse or neglect them, to put the children’s needs above their own. Parenting isn’t just about loving them. Social services are meant to prove that to be the case. Family law courts are supposed to ensure that that is the case before they agree to a placement order and thereafter an adoption order. Adopters need to believe that social services have also ruled out that other forms of permanence would not be in their child’s best interest too.

We will be led to believe that some birth parents should either never have direct contact (I prefer to say `have a relationship with`), or should absolutely have a relationship. We need to know that all the decisions made in relation to `our` children are made with the best of intentions.

We adopters need to know these things because contrary to some rhetoric, adopters do not want to steal children, we are not a market of middle class do gooders or people that need to have a child as a fashion accessory. We are not the reason that children need to be removed from the otherwise loving caring homes any more than the government have `targets` for removing children to support some black market.

We are just people who know we can give love, nurture and care to traumatised children and young people. We can and do put our children’s needs above our own.

My message throughout NAW is that children and young people must always be at the core of everything that is done in their name.

`OUR’ kids must always be the priority.

50 thoughts on “National Adoption Week – An adopter’s view

  1. angelo granda

    The practice currently appears to be for placement orders to be granted at the same time as the care-orders are issued.
    The thinking is that the sooner adoption as a solution is implemented the better for the child.

    The reason given to adoptive couples why children cannot live with natural parents is that ‘they are unable to care for them’.

    Presumably, if natural parents have harmed a child and thus there is a risk they might do so again in the future, that isn’t enough to declare they are permanently unable to care for the child? They can be shown the error of their ways and given support in changing their ways.
    Often that chance is denied to children on the basis experts are of the opinion that the parent/s are unable to acknowledge concerns and change.
    In the parent’s view it is not possible for an expert to give such an opinion BEFORE the decision has been made by a court regarding threshold;findings of fact; type of care-order;the type of support offered, if any. Parents will have to see a court’s judgment before they can see how and why they are expected to change. As with criminals,they have to be given the chance to change! Criminals do not have to change until found guilty
    I propose that it is in a child’s best interests that placement orders be dealt with in a seperate hearing and that there be a ‘ cooling off’ period of at least six months before it is scheduled to give parents ample opportunity to acknowledge the reality and change.
    It is not in a child’s best interests to be placed for adoption unnecessarily just because it is thought beneficial that they are found a new family as early as possible.That policy backfires too often. Especially when no adoptors can be found.
    If , during the six month period,the parents are willing to change then the family should be subjected to some sort of probation order and a ‘stepped rehabilitation plan’ .

    1. Jennifer

      I would like to comment as an adoptive parent. First off, the language used of “birth parent and adoptive parent” is important. We are “real” parents we are “natural” parents. Families like ours have a mix of birth and adoptive children. They have equal standing here. But their needs are really different. To be honest it’s a world we knew little about when the children came. The use of culturally common terms to describe adoptive parents and birth families needs to be challenged and addressed because it makes the adoptive families (by proxy their children) feel second rate. Let’s stop it.
      The majority of adoptive families we know have kids from a long line of neglectful families who haven’t the capacity to care adequately for their children often over generations when social care have been involved. Their capacity for change assessments reveal that their complex picture of their own abuse and neglect plus inherited difficulties have a very limited capacity for change. I can see in my own children who came from such families that they’d struggle with meeting basic needs of anyone, themselves included because of the damage done in their early years. Really I feel my children’s birth parents needed parenting safely. There’s often a smattering of short term care orders, shuttling the child in and out of foster care and aborted attempts at birth family return. You can see if the of chaos, trauma, abuse and neglect life is the one you were born to, it would be very difficult to recognise how harmful it all is let alone make requisit change. The evidence from Dr Margot Sunderland and other experts in early trauma suggest if the birth families haven’t got it together in 3 months the damage to the child in terms of development is too important to ignore and their needs MUST take priority and be moved. The evidence for pre birth trauma effecting the unborn child is overwhelming today. So from the child’s needs perspective, probably the younger the better makes sense however painful for the adults involved.
      The normal practice is the child is moved into care, then adopters are sought. It’s a long process. It’s not arbitrary, quickly thought about and instantly done on the whole. Otherwise we’d see thousands of happily settled together adoptees – we don’t. The adoption services are overwhelmed with cases of kids with complex early trauma.
      I do think the issues with social care are clear from recent awful cases where their incompetence and inexperience seems to be beyond challenge at the time until a court overturned it. What awful damage done to the child, plus the families on all sides. We have plenty of experience with incompetent and less than truthful social care as their actions deeply impact us today.
      I agree with the original poster. Adoptive families and birth families need to find ways to have a conversation at the very least on these issues.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        The issue of ‘what to call parents’ has been discussed here

        Its a tricky one. We have to be able to distinguish between ‘birth’ and ‘adoptive’ parents otherwise various court judgments are not going to be easy to follow. But I appreciate some find these terms unhelpful. I am not sure there is a solution; all terms suggested have their own loading and their own problems.

        But maybe if we could all have more confidence in open and honest debate, the terminology might come to matter less.

    2. Duncan Elliot

      To me, the problem is that, if we are looking at the child, we don’t have time. Every day is critical, particularly in the first year of life. The child is storing up their experiences and they are creating the foundation of the child’s life. If the parenting they’re getting isn’t adequate then the child’s foundation will be inadequate and they will grow up building on a rocky and fractured foundation. The more time that the child remains in a family where the parenting is inadequate, the more rocky and fractured the foundation will be.

      I’d love to give the parents another chance. I’d love to see them getting more support and to have it explained to them what they should do. It happened with my adopted children. But unfortunately the damage that was done to them in that period is obvious for all to see. For them, it would have been so much better had there been no second chances for the parents. Maybe then my son would have some hope of getting even one GCSE; of being able to hold onto a friend; wouldn’t be in trouble with the police as he tries to allieviate his overwhelming emotions with illegal substances. Unfortunately the second chances afforded to his parents have ruined his chances and we can never give those chances back to him.

      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author
          I don’t think anyone – or anyone sane – is talking about just giving parents chance after chance to make the same mistakes. What the case law is very clear about is that parents should be given support to help them parent better.

          At the moment I think we have the worst of all possible worlds. We don’t help parents enough but nor do we move quickly enough to get children out of situations of neglect and into safe, nurturing homes so they can at least have a shot at being happy, healthy adults.

          I don’t think those two aims are mutually exclusive. We need to be better at identifying parents who can benefit from support and making sure they get the right kind. And we need to be better about getting children out of abusive situations more quickly and then making sure they don’t spent months in foster care if they could be adopted.

  2. angelo granda

    Everyone should understand fully ( including those who support the ‘child rescue narrative’ that when children are condemned either to a permanence plan which entails residential care,foster-care etc. or to adoption by a ‘new mummy and daddy’, they are assigned to a second class lifetime of mental anguish , degradation and ( where LA’s remain involved in their care) considerable negligence and sub-standard care.
    This is not an uncalled for attack on the Authorities by an aggrieved parent but a fact.
    It cannot be said such plans are not ‘cruelty to children’.
    We already agree that often the cruelty which the system imposes upon them is the fault of the inadequacy of natural parents. They are just incapable of providing care to their children.So,in effect ,the cruelty the children are condemned to is down to them!

    Unfortunately,that is not always the case and adoptive parents should be aware of it.The circumstances are brought about by dysfunctional CS departments which make biased reports and give false information to decision makers.

    Many people also recognise there are flaws in the family court justice system.It is the task of the Court to discern which party is responsible for the circumstances.

    Regretfully, I think our first priority should be to address the flaws in the court system.
    In this National Adoption Week, I welcome the input to these forums of adoptive parents who can play a part in educating ideallists into the plight of adoptees.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Everyone should understand fully ( including those who support the ‘child rescue narrative’ that when children are condemned either to a permanence plan which entails residential care,foster-care etc. or to adoption by a ‘new mummy and daddy’, they are assigned to a second class lifetime of mental anguish , degradation and ( where LA’s remain involved in their care) considerable negligence and sub-standard care.

      That is not a ‘fact’. That is your assertion. And it is profoundly wrong.

      Many children ARE rescued from a life of abuse, misery and trauma in the care of their birth families. Their birth families are usually not evil, wicked monsters, but sad, chaotic victims of their own abusive childhoods, knowing no other way to parent. Adoption for many of these children may represent their only chance of at least a shot at a happy secure adult life.

      Where the system is going wrong is by not offering help at the right time to the parents who would benefit. And by not acting quickly to remove children from parents who can’t or won’t benefit.

  3. ian josephs

    The solution is of course to stop persecuting law abiding citizens.No baby or young child should be taken from parents unless they have committed or been charged with a significant crime against their own children or other children.
    Most parents contacting me say”we have done nothing wrong ,and the police have no interest in us, so why have they taken our children?” Punishment without crime is as wicked as it is illogical and should be outlawed.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I suppose that is what Marie Black said to you as well? That she had done nothing wrong? And you simply accepted what she said without any further investigation?

      1. ian josephs

        Marie Black said to me that she was prevented from giving evidence in her own defence and her Couunsel did not question her 5 children who accused her by video.She also mentioned that police evidence was that 268 documents had been altered by a social worker (who was never called to testify) in order to eliminate any leading questions put to the children and anything that could incriminate the carers. Aguilty verdict was as a consequence inevitable.
        It is not a question of believing or not believing what she or any other mother said.The trial was grossly unfair and a retrial should be requested if her solicitors do their job.
        This has nothing whatever to do with the principle that anyone (like Marie) who has rightlyor wrongly been convicted of a crime against children should have their children removed.

        1. C

          I agree completely that Marie Black did not receive a fair trial and so it is impossible to gauge her guilt or innocence. She is presently certainly the victim of injustice. She is also a red herring this debate.

          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            So you were there? You sat in on every day of the hearing? Or you reach this conclusion in some other way?

            Why is it a ‘red herring’ for me to say – it is simply wrong to give money to parents to leave the jurisdiction when you neither know nor care what they have done or are capable of doing? Or do you approve of what Ian Josephs does? Do you think his attitude and his message have been largely helpful to parents? Or encouraged them to sink back into fear and distrust to the ultimate detriment of their cases?

            On the Facebook group of which you are an administrator there are many parents who post, proclaiming what brilliant parents they are and how the ‘scum’ SW are lying and making things up to get a bonus. Some of these parents then send me court documents and ask me to advise on their chances of appeal as a public access barrister. It is immediately clear from even a superficial reading of these documents that they have no insight whatsoever into just how dangerous their parenting is.

            It is right to treat people’s stories with polite scepticism from whatever the source, be they parents or professionals. I hope I listen carefully to what people say but in order to take what they say as ‘truth’ I usually need something else other than their assertions.

  4. angelo granda

    Thank you very much for your reply ,Sarah,which readers will find illuminating and interesting as usual,as I do. You are the life blood of these forums.Because you willingly take up your valuable time to read and comment on issues with complete honesty, discussion is kept alive.Of course,open,honest discussion is necessary for progress but ,unfortunately,very few professionals show much interest in reading and responding to critique and questions.

    I applaud you for your patience with parents and families who find themselves victims of the system and, particularly,with me.I regret it if you or the other readers find my assertions tiresome but I genuinely ask you to think a little more deeply about what I say.

    I do not feel my assertion was profoundly wrong.It is a FACT that children have pain and suffering inflicted upon them when they are taken permanently (and forcibly) from their natural family.Often,they are taken because the child-protection professionals involved are guilty of DERELICTION OF DUTY. They desert and abandon the responsibility to observe the procedural guidelines and safeguards which are imperative to correct decision making. This leads to abuses of the system and family rights.

    The Law and the High Court Appeal Judges appear to uphold the view that the duty of the CS is to devise care-plans which will protect children by offering support services designed to maintain children’s position with their family where it is thought they have suffered or are at risk of future significant harm.

    Both of them repeatedly emphasise that removal from parents should be avoided at all costs,should never be ordered without following procedures scrupulously and only then very rarely in the most dire cases of child abuse.Not in cases where it is thought there is a risk of significant harm. That has to be avoided as much as possible by the provision of support services and monitoring.

    Alas, I assert that the CS is a fatally flawed organisation and it might be better for all concerned were it disbanded and replaced.

    Sarah and Sam,please may I have your respective answers to these questions.

    Where in the Children’s Act ( under the auspices of which the CS operate) is it stated that Local Authorities have a duty to address or bring an end to the so-called CYCLE OF DEPRIVATION?

    Where does the Children’s Act state that if families are thought to be victim to the CYCLE OF DEPRIVATION ,children involved should be taken away permanently from their real mothers and fathers as a way of ending it?

    I suspect that the CS misunderstands its duties completely.I also think that it is even less the duty of lawyers to end the C of D. Their duty is to uphold the rule of Law and administer all the procedural safeguards necessary to prevent abuses.They should make that their main aim! To stop wrong forced removals.

    Sarah, I understand you were once a voluntary contact worker when you were younger and wonder whether you were employed by the LA at that time.Are family lawyers encouraged to gain experience by working on attachment with the CS as part of their training?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thank you for your kind words and I am glad you find the site useful.

      I hope I don’t give anyone the impression I find them ‘tiresome’. I welcome all views as long as the poster is at least trying to be constructive.

      It is a FACT that children have pain and suffering inflicted upon them when they are taken permanently (and forcibly) from their natural family.Often,they are taken because the child-protection professionals involved are guilty of DERELICTION OF DUTY. They desert and abandon the responsibility to observe the procedural guidelines and safeguards which are imperative to correct decision making. This leads to abuses of the system and family rights.
      But it is also a FACT that many children are being taken from situations of horrible abuse. Therefore we have to weigh the understandable upset they MAY feel from being removed from the only family they have ever known (but not that certainly not all children express sadness; some actively ask to be removed. Shannon Matthews is a sad example of this. I imagine Daniel Pelka would also have been glad to have been removed, but sadly he was beaten to death before that happened.
      Not do I accept that ‘often’ children are removed because of dereliction of duty. that simply is not my experience over 15 years. In the vast majority of cases, there have been long standing and serious concerns about the parents’ ability to keep their children safe.

      Where in the Children’s Act ( under the auspices of which the CS operate) is it stated that Local Authorities have a duty to address or bring an end to the so-called CYCLE OF DEPRIVATION? I think section 17 is the closest we will get to that; the LA have a duty to provide services for children in need.

      Where does the Children’s Act state that if families are thought to be victim to the CYCLE OF DEPRIVATION ,children involved should be taken away permanently from their real mothers and fathers as a way of ending it? It does not say that anywhere in the Children Act; that is not the law. However, I accept it may be happening as support services are cut. If there isn’t reliable support for vulnerable families then the easiest response to lessen risk to their children is to remove them.

      Sarah, I understand you were once a voluntary contact worker when you were younger and wonder whether you were employed by the LA at that time.Are family lawyers encouraged to gain experience by working on attachment with the CS as part of their training? I have never been an employee of a LA. I am sometimes instructed by a LA to represent them at court but I do so as a self employed barrister. Family lawyers are not encouraged to gain experience by working with CS but I think it is a very good idea and I have often mentioned it as something I would like to do – but never got round to trying to organise it. But one of the problems in the system is that we don’t understand or appreciate how others operate.

  5. Sam

    Regarding the last part , I noticed from the Child Psychologist’s CV that he had previously worked in the children’s social care. Is this not a conflict of interests? The LA barrister recommended him, if I remember rightly as someone who could do the job and I did not have legal representation at the time and was naive.

    1. angelo granda

      Sam,That is one reason why I insist that Family Courts should be barred from hearing serious cases.
      It does not matter when professionals have a conflict of interests.It is allowed!

      In a ‘proper court’,I assume one could protest and one’s counsel would be able to establish some doubt in the minds of jury members.

      BTW, you have probably read about the case of Sharon Shoesmith.Being a very experienced SW manager herself and fully aware ,no doubt, of how her own department abuses the correct procedures, she spotted immediately in her case that the LA dismissed her without following them.Correct procedure would have been for her have been given her account of circumstances before decisions were taken.
      The LA had acted before giving her the chance.She applied for a Judicial review and the lawyers she chose were some who often work for the Council.She was probably on excellent terms with them by virtue of her previous position as head of the CS.
      They fought her case very strongly; she won it and was awarded considerable financial compensation.
      Afterwards a parent wrote to the lawyers and asked them to do the same for him and his wife. Guess what, they refused saying that as they regularly advised Local Authorities,they will not take on cases against them because there would be a conflict of interests!

  6. Sam

    If the Sharon Shoesmith case was civil, surely the same rules have to be followed. I suppose the real problem is that most parents can’t afford to take social services to court for civil claims and once you have a label very few people take you seriously anyway. Assumptions cause all sorts of damage, but whilst society accepts them they can treat certain groups like dirt and get away with it for instance the no blacks signs that used to displayed in houses to rent.

  7. angelo granda

    Sam.In my opinion,you are describing human rights abuses. Society ,as a whole, cannot be blamed for those because laws are in place to protect citizens against them.
    Both the Children’s Act and the Human Rights Act prescribe rules and procedures which are carefully designed to rule out as much inhumanity and injustice as we , as a society,possibly can.
    The problem, as we see it, is not ,in my opinion,primarily due to SW’s who are unable to do their jobs properly although they are,of course the underlying perpetrators of the abuse. The problem is that the Family Court does not appear to enforce the rules of engagement which parties are expected to follow (by law). It is too lax and allows too much leeway which lays the system open to the possibility of abuse. The LA’s are not slow to take advantage.
    The problem,with respect to our patron who is a lawyer, lies with those who are fully aware of all the accusations being made against the LA by parents victim to injustice, fully aware that sometimes the rules are flouted ,fully aware that choices are often made by officials for financial reasons rather than justice but who TURN A BLIND EYE.
    The Court has the power to prevent what we all know is inhumane but when it fails to use its powers, the contraventions occur.

    Just read this quote from Sarah which appears to rule out all arguments we might bring on the grounds that decisions are to be taken only on what THEY see are right for children.

    QUOTE: Blood ties are important but they are just one piece of the fascinating jigsaw that makes us who we are. Elevating any one piece of that jigsaw to ultimate significance, as part of a philosophy, rather than looking at the facts on the ground – is dangerous. We should always focus on the individual child and what he or she needs, not on our own agenda:UNQUOTE.

    This is the ‘child rescue narrative’ with which we are all familiar.It appears to say that we should not elevate or overestimate the significance of the strict legal safeguards against abuse.

    Also,whilst continually saying she looks at the evidence ( often long-term concerns from medics,school),Sarah appears to ignore our complaints that the evidence has not been put together in accordance with the guidelines.

    I think that a normal court should hear serious cases where the LA are wanting to remove children permanently.Such decisions must be scrutinised more carefully and the rules have to be enforced strictly.

    Why do I think the Family Court operates in the way it does?

    I believe that the Court protocol was designed to hear less serious,civil cases where controls do not need to be so tight .This is because the issue of protective care orders only is being decided upon.If forced adoption and permanent removal plans were off the agenda completely,the Family Courts are okay.A line has to be drawn to limit its power.

    This is not to say that in cases like yours (which was not a forced adoption case) that it is acceptable for the rules to be broken.Controls are still necessary.

  8. Sam

    I agree Angelo , with much of what you say. I certainly agree that there are human rights breaches. You may be interested in that social Services may be merged with the NHS . I have personally never experienced abusive treatment from the NHS, I am sure someone is going to post that they have ,but as a whole I believe this would be a really positive step as the NHS tends to treat people without prejudice unlike many Children’s Services. If this happened Children’s Services would , to borrow a phrase,be permanently liquidated.
    It would of course end the game played that the parent needs 2-3 years of therapy but Children’s Services won’t fund it and the NHS won’t provide it. You would also get input from professionals who are actually qualified in addiction/mental health etc rather than social workers who are not but make judgements never the less. I also feel that they would see parents as “sick” people who need help rather than bad people who are beyond help.
    Incidentally does anyone know when the role of social worker came into being and why?

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sam, I am afraid there are very, very many people who would disagree with your statement that the NHS tends to treat people without prejudice.

      I am afraid that every organisation that relies on human beings to make judgments/assessments, which is underfunded and understaffed, is going to be prey to exactly the same stressors as Children’s Services. Moral judgments as to parents’ worth are very common amongst medical staff – possibly even more so as they generally have to deal with the immediate aftermath of physical and sexual abuse of children.

  9. angelo granda

    If I thought a parent was guilty of the physical and/or sexual abuse of their spouse and/or their children, I am afraid I would also make my own immediate moral judgments. I might be tempted to dish out severe punishment myself perhaps even cut off their hands , render other private parts useless or hang them from a tree!
    I am sure the same applies to all of us.
    As you say,Sarah,we are not so far apart.
    At no time have I,Sam,Ian Josephs,yourself or any one of the forum’s correspondents advocated that the guilty be excused punishment.It is true we are all subject to the same stressors when faced with abusive scenarios.
    For us all to work together,rather than quibble between ourselves endlessly, we have to reach a CONSENSUS.

    In my opinion, the consensus HAS TO BE that the ‘rules of engagement’ I.e. the legal guidelines ,frameworks,fair and impartial investigations,realistic appraisals and so on and so forth APPLY TO ALL CASES WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
    The procedural safeguards have been put in place by the Law Lords and Human Rights experts etc. and they must be observed strictly to avoid the possibility of abuse.Both the guilty and the innocent have human rights even if we are tempted to remove them in children’s interests.
    Why can’t we agree on this point?

    All opinions welcome as always.

  10. angelo granda

    I would add that this is A KEY POINT about consensus and the opinion of SW’s should be sought too. If any read this, please do not keep silent.

  11. Sam

    I said it was a personal view , that I had never received any discrimination accessing the NHS , but at the very least I have been subject to sexism by the local authority.

  12. angelo granda

    Sam,if you have been subjected to
    sexism,then you will probably accept that many men are too given the fact that most cp professionals seem to be women.

    As I see it, the sw’s employed by the CS are too often badly trained, low- calibre individuals not up to the job they are asked to do.I regret that my opinion rankles with professionals but I have to insist on it. They appear to have little understanding of what constitutes professional standards or ethics,etiquette etc.I find this again and again.
    These low standards are long-standing ones.I am sure we can all remember when getting ‘A-level’ results that those with the lowest grades had to forget about degree courses in law,accountancy,science and technology , medicine and such vocations. Social Work degrees were usually resorted to by the less able as the only way into University.The entry standards were lower.It is common knowledge.
    We should not avoid the truth just to appear co-operative.
    I think what you are trying to say in fewer words than me is that NHS professionals have more integrity and are more highly trained than the CS staff thus more able to do their job properly.Neither are they controlled by the Local Authoritiies and limited by the Council’s finances.
    Sarah has spoken of triaging cases.In the NHS,there are highly trained triage nurses who meet up with problem cases on a regular basis.They can make qualified judgments on medical issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,Post Natal Depression,Pre-Menstrual Stress etc.If they see bruises on children ,they can assess the seriousness and explanations .If they suspect drug-addiction and/or alcoholism,they can order blood tests.They pass cases on to a doctor who will look at cases in an even more scientific manner.Both nurses and doctors are trained to detach themselves from first impressions and make skilled decisions.Whatsmore,they are accountable for wrong,slipshod ones!

    They have available to them all manner of professional support services,medical social workers,psychologists,psychiatrists and, in my experience,they never fail to summon immediate Police intervention to arrest and charge violent offenders when necessary.

    Surely,they are more able to LEAD A CHILD PROTECTION PROCESS than the CS with its scant resources, newly qualified graduate so-called KEY social workers (sometimes temporary agency staff) with neither the time nor ability to do anything other than rake through computer files for clues as to what is going on or how to proceed.

    How can they be relied upon to triage cases or even come to a competent decision as to whether S47 enquiries are called for? Even when they do decide,they seem unable to do it properly.We must never forget either that they have their hands tied by the Local Authorities and cannot afford to offer support services anyway,It seems.

    At the moment schools,hospitals and Police act under standing directions to refer cases to the CS who are expected to lead the process. Unfortunately,that is when the problems begin………….,Many CS departments are not fit for purpose although we can not generalise.Some are,some aren’t.

    Can I make an appeal to the adopters who started this thread by giving their view? You can see the response of parents and you can see how the thread has developed into a general discussion of a flawed system,as usual.This may not be what you wanted.

    If you want to put your views forward,we are listening ( if you have the time).

  13. Sam

    Thank you Angelo . I couldn’t have put it better myself. My nearest University actually offers a part time Social Care degree that you can apply for with no pre existing qualifications. I am not making this up, it is widely advertised locally. Yet social workers are supposed to not only have the ability to understand complex human relationships , they are also supposed to be able to prepare court documents.
    With the strange way life has a habit of turning I actually have come in contact with quite a number of student and qualified social workers over the last couple of years. Nothing to do with my children. The students all apart from one, vaguely wanted to help people. Most of them came from dysfunctional backgrounds and had psychological problems themselves.such as eating disorders or anxiety . The one great student was a single mum herself, once again from a disadvantaged background, but because she was a mum before she started her course would not apply for children’s services as she said any parent could end up being investigated.
    I really do think that child protection should be regarded as a health problem , not a social care one, unless the criminal standard is reached and health professionals should take the lead as Angelo suggested. I am trying to think of any reason why social workers actually need to be involved at all, rather than say a family nurse, similar to a health visitor but also being involved with older children and I can’t think of one.

  14. angelo granda

    If they did not have to expend their time and financial resources on leading the cp process i.e arranging strategy meetings,consulting with Police,investigating circumstances,preparing litigation etc.etc. one assumes they would be more able to carry out the support functions it may be asked to perform.There would be a place for them.

    For example, relieved of what they see as their duty to ‘prove significant harm’, they will be able to carry out truly independent social work assessments when one is called for by a doctor or a court.They would also be more able to supply other family support services such as family centres,those workers who call to the homes of problem families daily to train and supervise young mothers in child-care.Also families could be monitored more efficiently.At the moment, when protective orders are in place,they are very hard pressed and cannot always make even the statutory monthly home visits.
    These are the tasks which LA’s should concentrate their energies on and they would not need such highly qualified staff to do so.

  15. angelo granda

    They would also have more time and resources to spend on support to foster carers when a court has ordered the temporary removal of children.
    Where adoption is deemed necessary, they will be better disposed to support parents like Jennifer.

  16. Kate Wells

    Here we go again Sam – with your insults against an entire profession

    As I see it, the sw’s employed by the CS are too often badly trained, low- calibre individuals not up to the job they are asked to do.I regret that my opinion rankles with professionals but I have to insist on it. They appear to have little understanding of what constitutes professional standards or ethics,etiquette etc.I find this again and again.

    Is this your view of every social worker the length and breadth of the country? Half of them? A quarter? What percentage? And please can you state your evidence for this assertion. In what way do you “see this again and again.”
    You talk about the entry standards for the social work degree being lower than those for law, science , medicine and technology and go back to when you got “A” level results. I don’t know how old you are but the social work degree has only been in existence for 3 years, so I doubt you can recall people with low “A” level results going into social work.

    You talk in glowing terms of the NHS yet the BMA states that the NHS is in serious decline due to this govt’s demands for savings. They have warned that they can no longer maintain patient safety. The Junior Doctors are in dispute with Jeremy Hunt over increased working hours and it my view it seems that many NHS staff are seriously demoralised. No they’re not overseen by the LA but they are inspected by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) and can be put into special measures.

    These triage nurses you speak of? Who are they? There is a triage system in A & E (by doctors) and in Minor Injuries Units by nurses. In the latter case they can decide whether an X ray is needed (only of arms, wrists, legs, ankles) and there are usually x ray facilities in the hospital. They CANNOT make “qualified judgements” (is this a diagnosis?) on PTSD, PND and pre menstrual stress. I honestly don’t know where you get your ideas from – PTSD is a complex mental illness and can only be diagnosed by a consultant psychiatrist. A GP is usually able to diagnose and treat PND. The idea that a nurse can diagnose these conditions is simply ludicrous. You go on to paint a glowing picture of referrals to relevant medical professionals. Again you’re wrong – many people wait 3 weeks for a GP appointment. Mental health services are practically non existent in many areas of the country. And yes they make mistakes because it’s human to err – a 4 year old died recently when a Paediatrician mixed him up with another patient and thought there was a DNA (do not resuscitate) in the file. My son and dil’s friends recently suffered the death of their 7 year old. The child was complaining of headaches repeatedly and the GP referred him to the hospital where he was discharged with paracetomol. This happened on 3 occasions and the parents asked in the child was stressed! Why would a happy 7 year old from a loving home be stressed. On one admission the child’s father insisted that the child’s brain was scanned, and the Registrar on duty refused. The father made him sign to the effect that he was refusing. The following day he was scanned and was found to have a brain tumour – he was immediately transferred to a Children’s Hospital but died on arrival. And yes they are accountable but so are social workers when they get things wrong.

    CSs don’t operate a triage system as it wouldn’t be appropriate.

    What is your beef with CSs Angelo – do you align yourself with Hemming, Booker and Josephs?

    I am so sorry to the adopters who started the thread – I will reply.

  17. Kate Wells

    Sam – when you talk of “Social Care degrees” I think these are different from the 3 years Social Work Degree Course. To get on the degree course you definitely need 3 “A” levels (approx. 286 UCAS points) My niece started a SW degree course in September and had “A” levels in psychology (B) sociology (B) and English (A) and I have checked on line with various universities around the country. I don’t know why the student you spoke of couldn’t go into CSs because anyone’s child could be investigated. In my experience most social workers have children of their own and are better placed to be able to understand child care issues because of this.

    I know you had a bad time Sam but you are usually measured in your approach, but I think to say that child protection should be a health problem rather than a social problem is very strange to say the least. We’re back to this wonderful nurse again! Is she going to go into families where there are concerns for the child, carry out assessments on the parents and make decisions as to whether there is need to go to court to ask for an Order to remove the child. I don’t think so! I can tell you that the majority of HVs (and they’re nurse trained) would rather walk over hot coal than visit a family that could be aggressive and threatening. This happens more than you realise I think and is extremely stressful. HVs “get out” was always “we need to keep our relationship with the family” – yes and we didn’t! And even if this body of nurses could be used as social workers, who would carry out the nursing functions for which they had been trained?

    1. angelo granda

      Thanks for your comments ,Kate.
      As i have said ,i am sorry my criticisms rankle with professionals but i have no particular ‘beef’ with the CS in its entirity.Some sw’s are the salt of the earth and we all admire and thank them for their dedication.
      I am not aligned with anyone else be they critics of the system or apologists although i do listen to commentators from all directions and také them at face-value.
      It is,of course,right that someone has come on to defend the CS.It’s about time .
      I repeat,I do not want to denigrate every individual CS worker.
      I still think the CS is dysfunctional and many sw’s lack integrity ,professionalism and ethics because they haven’t been taught them.Write to them and they ignore the letter.Lots of other failings too.
      Talking of generalising,you have not done a bad job yourself on the NHS profession.Most folk i know are full of praise for them.
      However,i také note of your contribution and respect your views as always.

      All views and opinions will always be welcomed by me.

  18. Kate Wells

    Jennifer – sorry this response to your piece is long overdue. I was very moved by your recognition of the needs of the birth parents, and how they are unable to make the changes necessary to safely parent their children, because of their own traumatic pasts and how that has affected their adult life. I have long held this view, but fail to see how this cycle of deprivation can be broken. Maybe for a minority of parents they can be helped to offer good enough parenting, but I fear that for most, this will not be the case.

    I think you make the case very well for removing a child sooner rather than later when birthparents are unable to offer safe parenting. I feel it is something of a “cop out” for psychologists to state that the birthparents need therapy in order for them to keep their child. Firstly the LA have no funds for this, but more importantly, I have serious reservations as to whether most birthparents could benefit from therapy. I say this because in order to access therapy it is vital that there is an understanding of abstract concepts and every birthparent I have come across tend to be concrete thinkers and are unable to conceptualise abstract matters, and would not therefore be able to take an active part in a therapeutic alliance with a therapist.

    I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t think anyone else does either. While ever there are parents who have been so traumatised by their own abusive childhoods that they in turn traumatise their own children, nothing will change.

    I worry for adopters because of how the child’s experiences with the birthparents will manifest themselves when placed for adoption. These children will be insecurely attached or worse still have an attachment disorder, and won’t be able to regulate their emotions on any level, so behaviours can include tantrums, defiance, hitting, kicking – older children will sometimes steal and tell lies, self harm, the list is endless really. Sometimes the problems from the past can lie dormant until adolescence when they often emerge with a vengeance.

    I’m sorry to hear that you have come across social workers who are incompetence and less than truthful (which is shocking) I know that they are all totally overwhelmed with work but there is no excuse for not being truthful. I don’t know if you have adoption support.

  19. Kate Wells

    Angelo – my comments on the NHS were not meant to be critical of NHS staff. On the contrary I believe that most are dedicated professionals, but they are totally overwhelmed with work. This is because of the govt’s demands for massive savings. When we have the BMA telling us that the NHS is in crisis, then there’s a problem. Jeremy Hunt wants junior doctors to work for 15 hours at a stretch – do you want to be seen by a doctor in hospital who has been at work for 15 hours – I don’t!

    1. angelo granda

      There are many urgent problems in child-protection and their full solution is not always immediately clear.We cannot expect to have the answers ready made for every scenario and set of circumstances.In particular instances a social worker has to make his own responsible judgment.The more attention he pays to the guidance laid down by the law,the more likely he will be to make right judgments in accordance with the law.He is making the judgment because his conscience tells him to.Like every other judgment,its correctness will depend on the information on which it is based and the objectivity with which it is made.

      You are ,of course, more than well aware that many people with experience of the CS be they natural parents,adoptive and foster parents or lawyers are expressing honest concerns about the objectivity of SW assessments.We acknowledge there is no institutional conspiracy to corrupt the system and we acknowledge that our concerns do not apply universally across all the CS.

      We are trying to be constructive here on the CPR and we are all interested in your contributions.So few SW’s comment so your honesty is like a breath of fresh air.

      I would like to examine the mechanics of the (alleged) CS lack of objectivity in more detail and will appreciate your honest answers to the following questions:-

      1. In what form does the LA make its budget known to SW’s?
      2.Does it present each SW with an individual budget or does it just issue general guidance? E.g, don’t present any care-plans for supervision orders this month,we cannot afford it!
      3.Have you ever seen a child protection conference swayed by budgetary considerations? Perhaps circumstances might call for removal of a child from home for safety reasons but the LA cannot pay for litigation that month?
      4.Has it ever been suggested to you that the LA prefers permanent removal plans due to financial pressures?

      Kate,please bear in mind a current case where an INDEPENDENT SW has contradicted a CS assessment in almost every aspect of it.The ISW recommends a supervision order and the CS permanent removal.

      1. ian josephs

        Two swift changes in the law WOULD meet every scenariio !
        1:- Child should never be taken from law abiding parents who have committed no crimes

  20. angelo granda

    Ian, I disagree that those two changes in the Law would meet every scenario.
    The Law already stipulates that children should never be taken permanently from Law-abiding parents OR from non-Law-abiding parents except when the scenario is so serious that ‘nothing else will do’.
    In other words, sanctions made by Family Proceedings Courts must be in proportion to the circumstances .
    The problem is that however many times and in whichever way the Law is changed, it will make little if any difference.The Family Courts do not guarantee us our human rights. The hearings aren’t always fair ones for several reasons including openness and conflicts of interest. It allows for disproportionate sanctions because it regularly washes its hands of procedural safeguards leaving the system open to abuse. It knows that removal is often planned for because of LA lack of resources rather than absolute necessity.It endorses orders which exceed those sanctions which may be implemented by any other court even a Crown Court against the spirit of Article 3(ECHR) and when it goes along with removing babies at birth,it appears sometimes to contravene Article 14 . The same article appears also to conflict with the targeting of impoverished victims of the so-called ‘cycle of deprivation’.
    For those reasons,in my opinion,the only answer is to stop Family Courts hearing serious cases or to ban permanent removal completely.

  21. Clara

    Adopters themselves can find they must protect their families from destruction. In these cases there is forced adoption disruption and the consequences on a young person and the second family can be devastating. Adoption works. It works in part because we are by nature able to be parented by more than one person – alloparenting. Being an adoptive parent means making a lifetime’s commitment to caring for a child. This commitment to be there as a parent “no matter what” is what every child deserves – but the grief of losing a child is so immense. The emotional anguish and trauma can overwhelm and neither the legal system nor agencies cope well with emotionally distraught parents. I am not a conspiracy theorist but there is an awful lot of conspiring that goes on in local authorities when they have decided to remove a child, whether this is a birth child or an adopted child. Being on the receiving end of distorted assessments and twisted narratives, being demonised and vilified, especially when you are a loving parent striving to do your very best, is an unforgettable and harrowing experience. It is traumatising and the legal system doesn’t make sufficient allowances for the emotional impact of trauma. A parent that is angry because their nervous system is dysregulated, who is avoidant, because of emotional overwhelm and stress, or is perhaps emotionally blunted can come across as difficult, aggressive, indifferent, or cold and unfeeling. These trauma responses can make a parent behave and react in ways that social workers can misinterpret and use against them; it can make them unlikable and errors of judgment are made by courts. Take the case of K -an adoptee who was eventually made a ward of court, whose adoptive mother was described as cold and unfeeling by the local authority. This poor mother was probably in complete shock and struggling to cope with her daughter’s incredibly challenging behaviour..How hard did those parents fight for their child? They must have cared and loved her deeply. Having care proceedings instigated against you on top of all the difficulties you are facing as an adopter (or birth parent) is horrendous.

    Adopters are given the most damaged children to parent according to research, and in the teenage years, problems come to the surface. This could be a tremendous opportunity for a young person to heal but if the support is not there, and it often isn’t, things can get very hairy. This happens in approximately 30% of cases, with child to parent abuse being a major issue. Adopters can be frightened of reporting such abuse for fear of recriminations. It seems their fears may be sadly justified as there is a worrying blame the parent culture and ignorance about the effects of early life trauma. Normal consequences parenting won’t work with a child that has suffered significant loss and trauma. Not all social workers appreciate this. Parents can be told to parent their children in ways that are counterproductive and stress levels in the family home escalate. There is much education that needs to be done.

    I recall once hearing Baroness Butler Shloss being interviewed and saying that not every child was suitable for adoption. I felt saddened by this as every child should in my view have the opportunity to have a second family because it is by far the best option in terms of outcomes. It is human nature to be able to be parented by others. It’s in our biology. The next best thing to bringing up my child would be to know they are truly loved and cherished by someone. Doesn’t every child deserve this? Don’t blame the adopters – and remember they can fall foul of the ‘rescue the child’ approach just like birth parents!

    The fact that a parent and child cannot live together does not mean anyone has failed – birth parents are often trapped in cycles of abuse and neglect and had so little chance. Best to turn their lives around and let go – work on the terrible agonising grief. And get support with this. Who knows what will happen later in life. We need to get rid of the blame and shame culture. When we get rid of the blame culture in adoptions we won’t need to use the term disruption – unless parents really are abusing their children – and hopefully are serving prison sentences. Parenting under a full care order won’t be so hard on the parents. We may see a lot more adopters having to parent under full care orders if the court of appeal’s criticisms about misuse of the s20 has an impact. But perhaps more scrutinising of authorities is not a bad thing. I would personally like to see more use of Wardship in adoptions. So there could be greater accountability for local authorities and courts overseeing adoption reunifications rather than it being a one way street once there is a ‘disruption’ . I am not very keen on this word!

    Sorry long post – a lot to say…..interested on any thoughts about it. Hope I haven’t caused offence. What I said here does not obviously pertain to any particular case or family.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks for your comment, it is very thoughtful and I agree with it, particularly about the need to end the culture of shame and blame.

      1. angelo granda

        Clara, i thank you also for your views which will be of great interest to readers.

        I agree with you that alloparenting can be successful.The existence of Godparents (who make a lifetime commitment) and will také over from natural parents on occasion and Grandparents,aunties who také over from mum and dad in a crisis is alloparenting, which evolves in the normal course of family life, in my view.

        Alloparenting cannot be forced.I think adoption should be confined to situations where the natural parents make their own decision that :-

        a) they do not want the child
        b) they are unable to care for the child
        c).that for the good of the child,they prefer him or her to have a better life than they can provide.

        As far as c) is concerned this will apply in cases like that where extremely impoverished families have given children up for adoption to good,well-meaning folk like Madonna.

        Likewise,historically, children have often been smuggled abroad to evade tyranny in their home countries and alloparented abroad.There is also the example of voluntary evacuation during the Blitz cue Uncle Tom type permanent adoptions eventually.

        I do not think it can work by force.

        I look forward to your further comments.

  22. ian josephs

    It is claimed that adoption is a LAST resort when nothing else will do but clearly that cannot be true as many other EU countries like France and also Monaco (where I live and work) do find other resorts and solutions without any forced adoption so there is no reason why the uk should not do the same and use other remedies before ever resorting to adoption against the will of parents.
    There is NO circumstance that justifies taking a baby at birth from sane law abiding parents especially for Crystal ball inspired risks that may never happen ! That is why I help pregnant mothers escape the UK to reach other more civilised countries where social workers actually help parents instead of taking away their children;
    There is much talk of immigrants seeking asylum in the UK from oppressive regimes in their own countries.
    Few people realise that the UK is the ONLY country in the world where pregnant mothers flee the country to have their babies born elsewher so as to avoid forced adoptions.
    Surely that indicates that something is very wrong indeed?
    I repeat that if the law changed so that children could never be taken from sane law abiding parents most of the complaints from parents would fade away.
    I think they would all vanish if gagging orders were outlawed for similar parents and children (except for genuine matters of national security National Security) and similarly no orders forbidding indirect contact between parents and children by phone or email.If parents were to be charged with a serious crime the child could be held and then only returned after a not guilty verdict

  23. angelo granda

    QUOTE: I repeat that if the law changed so that children could never be taken from sane law abiding parents most of the complaints from parents would fade away :UNQUOTE

    Ian, I understand the thinking behind this,which is one of your golden rules, but don’t agree with you for the reasons I described above.
    It is not impossible to arrange for evidence which shows that a sane person is less than sane ,also criminal courts will only convict a parent for ‘CRIMINAL NEGLECT’ and abuse.

    Can you see that sometimes there will be occasions when sane (in most respects) but but(in other respects) wayward and inadequate parents can cause significant harm to children through ‘NON-CRIMINAL NEGLECT’?
    There are certain circumstances when temporary removal of children from harmful scenarios will be wise and indeed there are times when one parent at least recognises the need for respite and calls for it.
    Permanent removal from parents except in the most dire circumstances of child abuse (perhaps sadistic torture of children or sex abuse) inflicted by deviants such as Fred West should be outlawed completely in my view. EVEN IF THEY ARE CONVICTED OF CRIMINAL NEGLECT!

    A Crown Court cannot order the permanent liquidation of a natural family because it is not humane and neither should a Family Court.
    On the other hand, temporary removal ,when all less intrusive alternatives have been considered and reasons given for their rejection, can be beneficial to both child and parent/s.
    Of course,rehabilitation back home for the child should always be the main target and reviews should be held every six months when it will be discussed.
    I believe the key to successful temporary removal plans lies in the current Children’s Act. That is openness and honesty,clarity as to what is expected of parents ,targets for attainment before children can be sent home, clear time-scales etc.
    For example,a young Mum might be told to attend a drug addiction unit for three months,get clean,také weekly drug tests for a probationary period, attend a weekly parenting class and pass an assessment. If successful,children to be sent home.IF NOT SUCCESSFUL, to revert to stage one for another six months Hope and the chance of getting the child home never to be taken away.
    I believe parents would respond positively to clearly defined targets and would even sign S20’s on that basis.

    Essential to all this would be an impartial SW.

    1. angelo granda

      Before anyone says ‘that is all very good in theory but where would we get the money to pay for it all’ the answer is from the tax-payer.
      The protection of children and the ring-fencing of the human rights of Citizens must také precedent over everything else in a civilised country.
      Can anyone imagine the Government refusing to finance defence programmes against foreign invasion? No,tax-payers pay for nuclear deterrents to prevent foreign tyrants coming in and taking away our human rights! Indeed immigrants come to this island state to get as far away from tyranny as they can.
      Neither should the Government spare any expense in protecting our human rights domestically.
      Civil rights and liberties are the absolute priority.

  24. ian josephs

    I can conceive of no situation Angelo where a legally sane and law abiding mother should have her baby taken at birth. The ONLY folk I financially help to escape the UK are pregnant mothers who then have their babies peacefully in more civilised countries like France or Ireland.I repeat that I break no laws and neither do the pregnant ladies who appreciate the kindness of and help given by social services in their new countries.
    [Abusive, unevidenced ranting follows so rest of this comment is deleted]

    1. angelo granda

      [I have deleted this comment. If you want to have this kind of conversation with Ian Jospehs, I suggest you head on over to his website. I won’t have it here].

      1. angelo granda

        Thank you very much for deleting my comment ,Sarah. Actually, i woke up this morning with the intention of e-mailing you requesting its withdrawal.It was out of place and too close to the bone .
        Ian talks of friendly,more sympathetic sw’s in these other countries like France,Monaco and Ireland.
        Maybe it would be constructive to go further into their organisation and methods.

        1. Are they independent?
        2.Who pays their wages,Local Authorities,Government or the Courts?
        3.Assuming these other countries have their own equivalent of our Children Act,what directions are written down for sw’s to guide them?
        4.Do they have family courts like us?
        5.If so,what orders are available to the court to mend families?
        6.Is there less emphasis on adoption as the golden remedy or more?

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I think Dr Fenton Glynn is carrying out further research into what other countries are doing on the ground. From my own experience when visiting Finland this summer, it seems clear that there is more of a focus there on trying to support families to stay together and there is less of a ‘push’ towards adoption. All countries will have some kind of primary legislation and court system which deals with child protection because sadly, abuse of children is common to all countries and they need to be protected.

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