Tag Archives: mums on the run

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.


Keep on Running

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Is the UK spending its money in the wrong places?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mums on the Run #2. Tim answers some questions.

But not enough.

John Hemming’s gone very quiet, Tim is debating my mum’s vulnerability and the fact that I don’t have enough reported cases to my name to comment on the fact that Hemming and JFF appear to be encouraging vulnerable families to leave the UK and go to a house which is profoundly unsafe.

I have discussed all this in more detail here.

I have asked some questions of Hemming, JFF and Tim. I have got some answers from Tim via Twitter and his responses that thrown up even more intriguing questions.

For my own sanity here is a handy cut out and keep guide to the information we have at the moment. I will probably get it laminated.


Question put Tim’s response My comments.
When did JFF/JH/IJ start sending parents to Gena’s house We never started But a parent has provided a message from JH saying ‘why not go to Genas’?

Tim confirms JFF had a meeting and agreed to continue ‘not to send’ people to Gena. What was discussed at that meeting?

Why did JH buy Gena a caravan to house other parents if JFF weren’t sending them?

How much money has JFF/JH/IJ paid to Gena Not answered Gena says JH paid for a caravan at her address in France where parents could stay
If they paid her money, what was it for? Not answered
Is source of money donations from public or from private purse of JH/IJ? Not answered We need to know if members of the public are being solicited for money by JFF
What checks/risk assessment do they carry out Claims they have never sent any parents to Gena so never needed to assess her But JH has clearly advised a parent to go to Gena’s. So this response is untrue and we need to know more about their assessment process.

Why did JH buy Gena a caravan to house other parents, if JFF wasn’t sending them?

What did they know about the conditions at Gena’s house Claims never sent any parents there so wouldn’t need to know. So what on earth was being discussed at the meeting about Gena? Why does Tim say that JFF gave advice NOT to go to Genas? What did they know, and when did they know it?
When did they know that mothers were complaining about abuse and theft at Genas? Not answered Again, we need to know when the meeting was at JFF about Gena and what was said
When did they know that Gena was living with a man who poses a clear sexual risk to children? Not answered Again, we need to know when the meeting was at JFF about Gena and what was said
Do JH/JFF/IJ refer ‘mums on the run’ to any other people? Claims not. This is not supported by what others say. JFF need to be utterly open and transparent about their activities in this regard.


Some other issues

Attempts are now being made to show that the mother’s who have raised this issue with me are themselves mentally unwell and unfit parents.

So I ask JFF very clearly. You say you didn’t assess Gena because you weren’t sending anyone to her.

Then why were you advising and helping mothers to leave the jurisdiction that you are now describing as mentally unwell and unfit parents?

Just how many families have you helped leave the jurisdiction?

Gena says John Hemming has sent her 4 families.

Is this true.

Please be open and honest about what you are doing. Vulnerable children – and vulnerable mothers – are being put at considerable risk of harm by those who persuade them to leave the jurisidiction. If JFF and its advisers really are able to offer a good quality legal representation for parents, if they are ‘winning’ so many cases, then they don’t need to encourage parents to ‘flee’.

Censorship and the protection of commercial interests – the woeful state of our debate about protecting children.

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore
On the morning of Friday August 21st I posted a comment on the Marilyn Stowe blog after the former MP John Hemming had written a guest post about adoption statistics. The biography attached to his post described him simply as a highly educated and respectable former MP and councillor. It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, silent as to any of his other activities which have caused me and many others serious concern over the years.

My comment on this piece, about the need to be aware of and alert to these activities of Mr Hemming, led to an invitation from that site’s owner to contribute a guest post. I was happy to do so as the issues I wished to raise are, in my view, serious and significant.

Later that day I received an edited version of my post and was asked to accept the revisions made. I did not receive that email until fairly late on Friday evening. It was not until sometime later that I was able to sit down and give these revisions my full attention. When I did, I was unpleasantly surprised by what I found.

Of course, it is entirely up to Ms Stowe what she permits on her blog. I cannot dictate to her what she publishes. But I am very unhappy to note that significant portions of what I wrote have been removed, despite everything that I had written being

  • true
  • highly relevant to my argument and
  • already published elsewhere and well and truly in the public domain.

Most concerningly, a sentence from the judgment of Wall LJ in RP v Nottingham had been removed.


Search Engine Optimisation versus open and honest debate

I queried this via email and was told that the site would be penalised in its google rankings by relying on links to other sites in the way that I had done and the commercial interests of the site must be protected.

As I pointed out in reply, it is difficult to see how including the final sentence of a paragraph from a judgment from Wall LJ would have negative implications for any Google rankings. Ms Stowe was also happy to include a link to my own site when discussing an article about other European countries, but would not include a link to a post setting out the connections between Hemming, Josephs and Booker.

I commented further:

I think this is a very important issue – either you are unable to post relevant information because it may damage the site’s commercial interests OR there is some other reason, as yet undisclosed to me, as to why this information can’t be published by you.
I am pretty ignorant of SEO issues and how Google issues penalties, so I will take your word about that. But I will remain very puzzled why the words of a former President of the Family Division in any way are relevant to issues of Google ranking and protecting your site’s commercial viability.
And it does of course raise a wider and even more important issue about how the necessary debate about the child protection system is best served if such an important and well respected source such as yourself, finds itself unwilling to discuss certain issues because they may impact on the commercial interests of the site.
Are your readership aware of these potential constraints? I certainly wasn’t.
[EDIT I have just received an email from Marilyn Stowe to say that they are going to ‘call it a day’ and will not publish my post. I have received no further clarification about why the edits to my post were required or necessary, other than that it is the policy of the blog to be ‘non confrontational’]

I am left in this rather uncomfortable position. If the reason given for the editing is correct, then information which is a) true b) relevant and c) in the public domain is being excluded from the debate on the site, to protect its google rankings and its commercial interests. However, I am unable to accept that as a reason for censoring a quotation from a judgment of a High Court Judge.

So what was I trying to say that wasn’t fit to publish?

I will set out my original post below and the edits and you can make your own minds up about the reasons for editing. But whatever the reasons, this cannot be the way to conduct the necessary open and honest debate about the child protection system that is needed now, more than ever.

I of course am happy to provide a right to reply to anyone I discuss in my posts. I am happy to be educated further about the impact of Search Engine Optimisation tactics on internet debate. I would also be delighted to know that Mr Hemming is prepared to renounce his links with Ian Josephs and Christopher Booker and to put his obvious drive and intelligence to better use.

But unless and until he does that, if he wishes to position himself as a credible and reliable voice in this crucial debate, others are entitled to have the fullest possible information about what he actually believes, with whom he associates and the risks they pose.

I set out my original piece below and will indicate in the text in bold what has been removed or altered. I have not included the minor edits regarding a choice of word or phrasing. It is the wholesale removal of pertinent facts to which I very strongly object.


Open and honest debate about the child protection system is needed now more than ever.

I am a family law barrister of 15 years experience and the site administrator of www.childprotectionresource.org.uk which was set up on 2014 in an attempt to provide accurate information to all those involved in the child protection system.

This guest post arises out of another guest post published on this site by John Hemming. 

On the face of it, this post looks like a respectable attempt to analyse statistics around the number of children adopted in the UK. I accept now, and have accepted for years, that we urgently need an open and honest debate about what is really going on in our child protection system.

Although Mostyn J (and many others) are simply wrong to opine that there are ‘only’ 3 (or even no other) systems in Europe that permit forced adoption – see this post from Claire Fenton Glynn – it is true that England and Wales are by far the most enthusiastic proponents of ‘forced adoption’ of all Council of Europe member states and we are entitled – even morally obligated – to discuss this and to understand why.

However, just because the debate is necessary and important, does not mean we should not take care about who is contributing to it and what they are saying.

I have been concerned for many years about the motivations of many of those prominent figures in the debate and the impact they are having. Mr Hemming is described in this guest post as a highly educated and respectable former city councillor and MP.

But there is another side I think it is important to share. Disclaimer: My run ins with Mr Hemming now extend to four years of internet debate. He has made formal complaint about me to the Bar Council (not upheld) and gave an interview to the Daily Mail following his expulsion from the mumsnet website in 2014, which curiously felt it appropriate to publish both my real name and my mumsnet user name side by side. It is entirely possible that my dislike for what I perceive as Mr Hemming’s tactics of intimidation, [this has been edited to read: ‘it is entirely possible that my dislike for Mr Hemming’s tactics…] means I am not able to take a dispassionate view about his activities.

Therefore I present to others the facts so that they may make up their own minds.

The family law system as ‘evil’.

A good starting point to understand why Mr Hemming has nominated himself as a crusader against the ‘evil’ family justice system can be found in Jonathan Gornall’s article in 2007. Mr Hemming then repeated his allegations about the ‘evil’ and corruption of the family justice system to Wall LJ in the case of RP v Nottingham in 2008

It is plain to me from these documents, that in addition to the allegations set out above, Mr. Hemming believes that HJ was in the pay of the local authority and thus was “the local authority’s expert”. For good measure, he asserts that the system is “evil” and that “there does seem to be little concern in the legal profession about the reliability of opinion offered in court.”. The clear implication behind the “witch findings” items on the website set out at paragraph 95 above is that “experts” like HJ are in it for the money; that they are happy to “manufacture ‘evidence’”; and that they are in receipt of “phoney” letters of instruction. The result, Mr Hemming asserts is a “disaster”.
98. In my judgment, these comments are not only wrong and ill-informed; the simple fact remains that they have no foundation in the evidence presented either to the Nottingham County Court or to this court. That they are made publicly by Mr Hemming once again strikes me as an abuse of his position.[This sentence has been entirely removed with no warning or indication to the reader that Wall JL’s paragraph has actually been cut short]

This remains Mr Hemming’s position in 2015

Mr Hemming repeated again in a comment on my blog in August 2015 that the system is ‘evil’ and then opined that children are taken into care just because their parents smoke. He made no response to my challenge that this was clearly a nonsense assertion.

But it is not simply comments like that which raise concerns. Mr Hemming unfortunately does not restrict himself to comments. He takes action – and he has clear and active current links with others who, in my view, pose a significant danger to vulnerable children. [This has been edited to say simply ‘pose a risk’]

One such person is Ian Josephs. I provide a full discussion of his activities on this post, together with links to support my assertions.  [This has been entirely removed and replaced by ‘who assists mothers facing care proceedings to leave the UK]
In brief, it has now come to light that Marie Black, convicted of a number of serious child sex abuse offences in July 2015, was assisted by Ian Josephs to leave the UK rather than face probable care proceedings. [this sentence has been removed entirely]When challenged, Mr Josephs asserts that he is doing ‘nothing’ wrong, he would help ‘any’ mother facing the evil of forced adoption and he undertakes no prior risk assessment before handing out money, and undertakes no follow up once the parents leave the country. He estimates he has spent at least £30,000 and ‘assisted’ 200 families to date.

This network supporting ‘mums on the run’ is clearly supported by Mr Hemming, who writes about it on his own blog and appears on a video on Youtube with Mr Joseph. The links between Hemming, Joseph and Christopher Booker are also depressingly clear.

I have to give Mr Hemming recognition for bringing to light some important issues which were over looked. It is right, for example, to be concerned that recent cases involving children from other countries showed a widespread ignorance of our obligations under the Vienna convention. He is right to be concerned that the apparent promotion of adoption over other options for children in care, may have had a distorting impact on the practice of various professionals.


The impact of assertions that the system is ‘evil’

But why must he have this debate in the context that the family justice system is ‘evil’? How is this helping anyone? I am dealing with an increasing number of parent clients who are unable to engage with the system due to their massive amounts of distrust and fear which such irresponsible hyperbole promotes. It is beyond depressing and irritating to be constantly told I am a ‘legal aid loser’ with my ‘snout in the trough’. I have faced these and similar comments over many years from both Mr Hemming and Mr Josephs.

I remain concerned that positive outcomes from Mr Hemming’s campaigning were thus no more than a fortunate by-product and do not reflect his dedicated aim. That aim would appear rather to be to encourage partial and misinformed debate about the family justice system, including an appearance on national television in 2014 to tell parents to leave the country as they won’t get a fair trial.

This kind of comment coming from a serving MP – as he was at the time – can only have had massive impact on some very desperate and vulnerable people.

Desperate need for open and honest debate

We urgently need open, honest debate about what on earth is going on in child protection system. And I don’t think we will get that from Mr Hemming given his current associations and clearly expressed views about the ‘evil’ of the system – presumably that evil extending to all who work in it, including me.
But as ever, I am delighted to be proved wrong.