Our aims as a site
We want not only to provide useful and credible information to ALL those involved in the child protection system, but also to be part of the debate about what we can do to make our child protection system the best it can be.
That means we don’t want anyone to feel shut out of the debate or that we will censor or ignore their contributions.
However, we worry that for far too long, constructive debate has become hostage to a number of people who put forward extreme and unsupported allegations about the ‘evil’ and ‘corruption’ of an entire system.
We are going to try to strike a balance between welcoming debate and views that may not chime with our own and not becoming overwhelmed or overrun by hyperbolic conspiracy theorists.
It may take a while to see if we have that balance right. But in the spirit of welcoming debate we here provide a response to a number of points raised by commentator ‘Winston Smith’.
We are having discussions at the moment about the best way to deal with comments here that we feel are not helping: we agree with this very helpful article from Urban 75 about the kind of commentators we don’t want to encourage.
We think we will probably delete comments to various posts which we think are obvious trolling or attempts to push unsupported theories.
However, we will continue to collect them in Mythbusting and try to answer them. In that way, we can’t be accused or ignoring or censoring, but equally our attempts to debate and inform won’t be derailed by malice, ignorance or wild accusations made without any evidence in support.
This response is provided by Sarah Phillimore, a family barrister since 1999. If she has got anything wrong or there is anything you would like to add, please let us know.
I am going to respond to some of the recent comments of a Mr Winston Smith. Mr. Smith asserts:
Unfortunately a major scandal erupted in 2008 when it was finally proved that Central Government were paying generous grants to each LA. to increase the numbers of children Forced Adopted each year. In many LA’s bonuses were also being paid to SW’s to secure Forced Adoptions. I have the printout showing the sums paid, including the £1,025,000 paid to “Blogshire Council” , my own, and with which Elected Members still deny was happening and go white when I hold it under their noses.
They were known as Public Service Agreements and if you failed to meet your target by the end of the year you were financially penalised, not only on this, but across the board on the other 11 PSA’s. So you had every incentive to prioritise the adoption of babies.
This appears to be the familiar territory of ‘adoption targets’ where the wish of successive governments to increase the number of children adopted from the care system led to targets and performance incentives to encourage LA to find permanent homes for children who may have spent many years in the care system.
This is of course very different from a system which sets ‘targets’ for the removal of babies because they are easier to adopt.
We don’t deny that most adopters would prefer to adopt a child who is as young as possible – hopefully the younger a child the less trauma he has already suffered and the more easily he will become part of the adopter’s family.
But does this translate into LA taking babies for no good reason, because babies will be more easily adopted and this in turn will enable them to meet their ‘adoption targets’ ?
I don’t agree. We have already dealt with this issue in our Mythbusters section but I think I should repeat the salient points here
- Even though local authorities have targets to match children in their care with adoptive parents faster than before, in England the average age at adoption was three years and eight months at 31 March 2013. Just 2% of children adopted in England in the year ending 31 March 2013 were under one year old
- Only 6% of Looked After Children in England were under one year old at 31 March 2013.
- It usually takes at least three months for adoptive parents to be matched with a child after they have been approved to be adopters (see column A12 in the Underlying Data spread sheet)
Although the amounts of money paid to local authorities who meet their targets for placing children in their care and for assessing adoptive parents can be large (see this official Written Answer from 3 September 2007 towards the bottom of this page) they do not exceed the cost of the proceedings. For example, the largest payments in this table were made to Kent County Council, who received £2,156,583 over three years. Information on the numbers of children placed for adoption by Kent County Council in 2005-2007 is not readily available, but more recent information suggests that the average number is 205 children per year (see the adoption scorecard for 2008-11 here). Dividing £2,156,586 by 205 would give an average payment of £10,519.93 per child placed for adoption. Even without details for the costs of all social workers involved in a case, plus legal representatives at court – usually for both the local authority and the family involved – plus court time, plus foster carers, it is clear that any money paid in the form of a bonus does not come close to covering the cost of removing a child from their family and placing them for adoption.
Since then subsidies have returned on a more indirect basis.
There has been TWO MSBP/FII/AIB Relaunches since, on a very similar basis to your site.
This has always been the focus of all of this.
Sadly I cannot respond to this as I don’t understand what it means, so I will need Mr. Smith to clarify.
Since the mothers are accused of “Munching” the kids and won’t “confess” they if under 5 are likely to end up being Forced Adopted as they cannot be returned home.
We agree that if a child is subject to care proceedings and is aged 5 or under, then adoption is much more likely to be considered as part of the final care plan than if the child was older. Simply, adoptions are less likely to succeed the older a child gets and once a child is over 7 it is unlikely that adoption will be a realistic option.
However, here Mr Smith appears to ignore all the other options that are routinely before the court in care proceedings such as Residence Orders or Special Guardian Orders to family members. The LA is under a statutory obligation to undertake kinship assessment.
Presumably Mr Smith must have access to some clear statistics to be able to assert confidently that those under 5 are ‘likely’ to be subject to ‘forced adoption’ and we would be grateful if he could share this information with us so we can consider it.
Since peoples’ “professional” theories are involved they have just gone on behaving in the same way and continued to try and prove their theories.
Ruralsocialworker, the last thing we need is yet another campaign which denies everything, of which there have been a number over the years.
I think this comment shows Mr. Smith has misunderstood the aims of this resource. We do not say and have never said that the system is perfect and that no mistakes are ever made. What we do say is that we do not accept that professionals routinely lie and collude to ensure that children are removed from loving homes for the purposes of meeting adoption targets.
We are keen to discuss new and better ways of operating, the only rule which we insist upon is that serious assertions require serious evidence.
If Mr. Smith truly believes we wish to be ‘another campaign which denies everything’ then he needs to have another look at the site and what we are trying to do. Hopefully then he will accept this criticism is untrue and unfair.
Meanwhile anew campaign has been created by the adoption agencies and members of the government ,also appointing Martin Nairey as Adoption ,and include bringing in the American “Fost-Adopt” system and reducing times to6 months. So we are back where we started.
Mr. Smith appears to be referring here to attempts to speed up adoption times for children in care and to make it less traumatic for children by encouraging their foster carers to adopt them. I think both are very good ideas. I do not see how this fits into an allegation that the State steals children for adoption. Rather they are examples of how the State is attempting, quite rightly, to improve outcomes for children already in the care system.
Children are taken into Care for silly reasons and in breach of procedures. Once there they will not be returned and dubious or provably inaccurate evidence concocted as the LA does not wish to be proved wrong.
I cannot and do not deny that mistakes are made and mistakes in this field can have very serious consequences. But none of us here, from a variety of perspectives within the system, accept such mistakes are routine or are made deliberately and maliciously in furtherance of some State plot to steal babies.
It is emphatically NOT my experience that children are taken into care for ‘silly reasons’. Again, assuming Mr. Smith has some statistical information to back up this assertion, we would like to see it. As far as we know, serious reasons are needed before a child can be taken away from his home – which is entirely as it should be.
I refer Mr. Smith to the legal section of our site and in particular our discussions of what is meant by ‘significant harm’. I can find nothing ‘silly’ there.
I reject the assertion that evidence is routinely ‘concocted’ and again would request that Mr. Smith provide his evidence for this extremely serious assertion so that we can consider it.
In 15 years I have never come across deliberate concoction of evidence. Yes, I have seen sloppy evidence gathering and reporting, misunderstandings that became hardened into believed ‘facts’ and people making assumptions where they shouldn’t. It is my job to challenge that.
But deliberate falsification of evidence? Never. So either I am a stooge of the system and too stupid to notice when this is happening under my nose OR it doesn’t actually happen very often or at all.
The greatest area of corruption is the Expert Witness, in view of the huge sums being paid, and they repeatedly give diagnoses NHS or private clinic experts say do not exist.
Mr. Smith seems unaware of recent changes to public funding of expert witnesses. The sums paid on legal aid rates are very far from ‘huge’ and in fact the prevailing concern is now that we will lose the services of valuable expert witnesses as they won’t agree to be instructed on the new low rates.
I would urge Mr. Smith to read what the Legal Aid Agency are now saying about the remuneration of experts.
I don’t understand what he means by ‘repeatedly give diagnosis NHS or private clinic experts say do not exist’ and again I think that such a serious allegation requires some serious proof.
There is an almost 100% “Guilty” verdict in the Family Court
I accept that if care proceedings are brought, the most likely outcome is that a court will make a care or supervision order. Two conclusions can be reached from this:
- Care proceedings are a farce and the conclusion is a rubber stamp; OR
- Care proceedings are not bought lightly given the enormous expense and time they involve for cash strapped LA and only the most serous cases will go to court.
I support the latter conclusion. Mainly because this fits exactly with my own experience over many years. In fact, when I am critical of the way a LA has conducted a case, I can think of only a handful of cases where I felt they acted too quickly; the majority of my complaints are that they waited far too long before taking decisive action.
Basically we are into the same scenario as Cleveland, Satanic Abuse, Constructive Memory, MSBP, those cosmic megascandals all those years ago, where groups of true believers continued to doggedly defend them, even though disproved.
Here Mr. Smith refers to a number of ‘megascandals’ and appears to lump our site in with those ‘true believers’ who continue to doggedly defend the indefensible, even in the face of evidence.
I am not quite sure what he means here and again, suspect he has misjudged or misunderstood the aims of this site.
I think this artice from Slate is interesting about the hysteria which surrounded the issue of child satanic abuse. It is a good example of the danger of proceeding to reach conclusions about extremely serious matters when your evidence is weak or even non existent.
However, regarding KinCarers , this statutary duty is regularly ignored by LA’s.
Admittedly grandparents maybe too old but other relatives are ignored.
Regularly aunties or sisters are advised to file for Residence Orders or SGO’s themselves. Uproar round at LAQ legal offices.
LA will go for Forced Adoption and only after a bitter battle with numerous court hearings agree to an SGO.
This isn’t my experience. Every case I do, when a family member puts themselves forward they are assessed – they have to be. It is the law. If the LA assessment is negative, the family member can come to court and argue their case or even seek permission for a further assessment. I was involved in a very recent case where the court agreed the maternal grandparents hadn’t been properly assessed and ordered a further report from an Independent Social Worker.
This includes busting the Placement Order in the CoA on Appeal.
I would like to respond to this but I don’t understand Mr Smith’s point.
These are usually either with the foster carer or a remote relative with either no contact or once every six months.
Again, I am going to need some statistics to back this up as it is very far from my own experience of the orders courts will make and the contact parents are likely to have.
LA’s and FD judges will move heaven and earth to prevent any child’s witness statements, prevent the Wishes and Feelings Pact being done, and prevent them being called as witnesses in violation of Practice Direction on Child Witnesses Dec 2010.
The children are kept isolated to prevent their view a being known and the are routinely obstructed from instructing their own solicitors if Gillick Competent.
Again, evidence please. This isn’t my experience. Courts are rightly worried about the impact of children becoming directly involved in court proceedings, particularly if it involves them giving evidence about the abuse they have suffered but to say ‘heaven and earth’ is moved to prevent them is nonsense.
I invite Mr. Smith to read the case of Re W in 2010 about the court’s approach to children giving evidence, which may assist his understanding.