What can we do to help parents understand and participate in care proceedings?

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore.

Imagine you have landed on an alien planet. The locals speak a completely different language. Their customs and culture are completely different to anything you know. There is no one available to translate for you. No one to explain. What happens?

Since starting this site in 2014 I have become more and more aware that many parents simply do not understand what is going on in care proceedings. Sadly, this group often comprises my own clients; after I have patted myself on the back about my great skills at establishing rapport and explaining things in simple terms, it becomes clear a few weeks or months later that they didn’t really understand at all. And by then it is often too late.

This was brought home to me with particular force recently. I was asked by a parent to look at the final judgment in her case and advise her if there was any way at all she could resist the making of an adoption order. With a terrible poignancy she sent me photographs of each page of the final judgment, laid out on her floor. The pages were in random order; some were missing. She clearly had no understanding at all of what had gone on.  She emailed me:

I wish I did right, from the beginning. But I guess it’s to late for me. My sw called me in today, to say they found a family for E, breaks my heart. To even hear her say that. I just dont know what I can do. I probably, will just have to accept it, and concentrate on my two kids who’s also placed in long-term care. Thank you so so much I appreciate your time. I’m sorry if somethings i wrote didnt make sense. English is not my first language and I do struggle with this.

In the narrative of many parents, often their lawyer is entirely absent. The social worker is afforded a God like power to make all decisions.

Quite rightly as a society we endorse non-means non-merits tested legal aid for parents in care proceedings – but without some kind of bridge between parents and their lawyers, is this a benefit that we are squandering? I do not think this lack of understanding comes about because parents are stupid – but mainly because they are afraid and confused. Language barriers of course, do not help but these problems of lack of understanding are not restricted to those who do not have English as a first language.

We know advocates for parents can help – David Tobis has shown how it works in the USA. There are also pockets of good work around the country  – see what New Beginnings are doing and individuals such as Surviving Safeguarding – but the lack of nationwide standards means that there are many dangerous people and organisations who purport to ‘help and advise’ very vulnerable parents.

I asked another parent for her views about the benefits of advocacy in child protection cases and her post is below.  It is clearly not only the relationships with lawyers that parents need help with.

Advocacy in Child Protection Interventions – guest post from a parent

Imagine you have landed on an alien planet. The locals speak a completely different language. Their customs and culture are completely different to anything you know. There is no one available to translate for you. No one to explain. What happens? You find yourself stumbling along, learning only by experience, by trial and error. Even if you do happen upon someone who does speak your language, they are incredibly busy and have little time to truly sit down with you. Time goes on and you do your best to muddle along but make mistakes in the form of misinterpreting or being unable to make your communication clear. You attempt to use their customs and communication styles but because you don’t have the cypher to the code they speak in your attempts are often misinterpreted, or even ignored because they simply don’t have the time to move at your pace. Wouldn’t it be incredibly useful if there was someone to act as a bridge and help you to understand better?

I am the mother of two children. One whom I have not seen and spoken to in nearly two years, the other who lives with me for a substantial amount of each week. There was a time when all three of us lived together, unfortunately that came to an end when I experienced a crisis. I had experienced domestic abuse, the result of which left my ex-partner with a conviction. I had experienced his wrath in the subsequent months leading from his arrest and conviction in the form of family court proceedings I weathered the storm, fought nearly 12 months through court, moved areas and tried my best to continue as a single mother of a child with a disability and a toddler. I had no family support. It would be wrong of me to say that I sailed through the whole process because things like this take its toll and with the best will in the world, co-parenting with someone who holds a grudge and who has made it very clear that they believe you are an incompetent parent is no easy task.

I asked for support, for a carer’s assessment so I could have a modicum of time to myself, to regroup and recharge, unfortunately that assessment was not forthcoming and a few short months later I reached crisis point. At that point social services became heavily involved and I was shoved onto what felt very much like a conveyer belt moving at great speed the controls for which were written in a foreign language.

My children’s case has been closed to my local authority now for a little over 6 months. I however am left with many questions, the result of which has led to an ongoing complaint. I am 18 months into that complaint with no resolution in sight. In an attempt to understand and find answers I have taken to Twitter and much online reading and have come to an understanding that there are many parents out there who simply do not understand the process they have gone through, have lingering doubts they were treated fairly and want answers. I count myself as one of those parents.

There seems to be a common theme amongst those of us who talk online, and also from many professionals (social workers, adopters, foster carers, barristers) who also spend their free time sharing their views, practices and experiences within the child protections system: parents are frequently not adequately supported.

This is where good advocacy could help. A good advocate tasked solely with the job of understanding you and your ‘planet’ whilst having plenty of knowledge of the ‘planet’ you find yourself on and finding a way to help you, and the ‘locals’ navigate your way through. Time would not be wasted. Misunderstandings may not happen, and if they did they could be cleared up. All the while keeping the goal at the centre of the process: safe and happy children. This is the position parents potentially find themselves in when they enter the planet of child protection. Parents and social workers often want the same things: for the children at the centre to be safe, to thrive, to be happy. A common goal. It was certainly my goal. Unfortunately somehow, and I take responsibility in this for I am not the best communicator when afraid and feeling very much alone, it was a goal that seemed to become lost amongst much alien talk of me being ‘disengaged’, ‘mentally unwell’, ‘abusive’, ‘neglectful’, ‘unaware’, ‘robotic’, ‘alcohol dependant ’etc etc etc.

From a purely personal point of view, I struggle to assimilate and understand lots of information at once unless I can refer back to it. I asked repeatedly if I could communicate via email (except in meetings of course). These requests were largely ignored. I took to initially politely emailing LA employees with questions or clarifications of my understanding. I sent information I had gathered over the years to refute some of the claims that were being made of me. I was also aware though that social workers have huge caseloads – I was frightened of annoying them, or of coming across as ‘unhinged’ – this is a left-over of years of dv.

It was only after a I had met someone now close to me who just happened to work within the system that I realised I should have continued to keep pressing my point home, I should have continued to ask questions – by that time the damage had already been done. I did manage to assert myself enough to now have a meaningful relationship with my youngest child, but my eldest is not lost not only to me but also to their sibling. Things could have been so different. A good advocate would have spoken up, would have helped me understand, would have helped point out the poor process that was taking place (and it was poor – that is becoming more evident). Very little of what I experienced could truly be seen as ‘child centred’ – and much of that, I now firmly believe, was because there was not someone who could help me to see into the culture of the alien planet I was on and could help the ‘locals’ see me rather than the preconceived ideas they had of me based on my inability (within the child protection arena, since, whether intended or not, the treatment I received was unfortunately quite similar to the tactics of my abusers, and probably unbeknownst to the social workers involved, only served to silence me) to advocate for myself and my children.

38 thoughts on “What can we do to help parents understand and participate in care proceedings?

  1. Angelo Granda

    A Parent’s View.

    Thanks for the post and ,of course, the sentiments in it aren’t new. Sadly, if we consider the trends, it seems to me that the wall against which parents and advocates throw themselves in their efforts to communicate with L.A’s and establish friendly, working relations gets higher and higher.
    The arrogance and sheer bloody-mindedness of the authorities gets worse and worse. Open authoritarianism has taken over; any previous pretences of openness and candour or of consultation,mediation etc. have been abandoned by the management.They have taken to behind closed doors decision-making as a matter of normal course.

    Matters are now so bad, spanish practices and dysfunction have taken over. It seems staffing,funding and the shortage of time now rules . C.S. management is now so bad, it doesn’t even bother responding to IRO’s who make enquiries never mind independent advocates or solicitors in the worst areas. Illegitimacy now appears to have taken over.

    Why should there be any change if the Court system will not enforce correct practice?
    It may sound negative but this is what we have come to. Basically ,the LA’s haven’t the time or inclination to be anything other than authoritarian .It is easier for them so to be! The law is simply one factor they have to overcome and the easiest way for this to be done is to refuse to work with parents and take cases to the Family Court. The Court is their short-cut to getting what they want and to meet their policy imperatives.

    Might I suggest that a journalist or a barrister go undercover and present as a parent advocate. They will soon see what the Public are up against.Stone-walling and gaslighting.

    QUOTE: In the narrative of many parents, often their lawyer is entirely absent. The social worker is afforded a God like power to make all decisions :UNQUOTE.

    In my experience, even solicitors are ignored when they ask for information or make other requests. Letters and e-mails are simply ignored whoever sends them. Sarah,as you don’t communicate directly with them yourself, you will have no way of knowing this.

    I hope this helps but it’s bad news,I’m afraid.

  2. Anita

    One day E will want to know why he was removed from his loving mother and older siblings. One day they will want to know why he didn’t grow up with them, why they were all removed from their mother, whose only crime was a lack of understanding of the system after the misfortune of being a victim of DV.
    Both these mothers may have had a chance, as they now understand, if they had spoken the correct language and understood the culture they were suddenly immersed in. And they are not alone: this happens to far too many of us, yet meaningful advocacy is still too rare for most of us to avail ourselves of.
    I know both these mothers: all they want is to go home, with their children. Which is also all I have ever wanted and what any of us, mothers deprived of our children, want.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I understand what you are saying and to a large degree sympathise with you BUT the issue of being a victim/failing to protect children in DV is a really difficult and hard one. I agree it can never be any woman’s ‘fault’ that they are subjected to violence by a partner BUT social workers then face a terrible dilemma if the woman does not accept her partner is dangerous and fails to end the relationship. this puts the children at immediate risk of really serious harm. They don’t have to get caught up in actual physical violence to be damaged by it. The consequences are life long.

      But of course, any woman in that situation needs to understand just how serious it is and how to get the help and support that will be offered to her. It was very clear from the emails of E’s mother that she just did not understand. They made for very sad reading.

  3. Tracey McMahon

    This is a great article, thank you, Sarah and parent.

    I want to explore what we mean when we discuss a need for “advocacy” and what that looks like. I’ve been involved with advocacy since 2015. I work with mother’s in care proceedings and who have experienced separation from their children.

    Advocacy by the very nature of representation of parents, is a fine line. My concern is that it is viewed through a therapeutic lens and it somehow addresses the trauma of separation. It doesn’t and nor can it.

    Advocacy or representation in a non-legal lay framework is very skilled. It requires that parents are legally represented as it’s not a service that is any way a replica of McKenzie Friends.

    Advocacy should shape the lens through which a parent views the care proceedings they find themselves in. It builds the relationship between the statutory service and the parent/s in a supportive manner and reframes the language they’re hearing so they’re able to have an improved understanding of the process. An advocacy service also needs to understand care proceedings as a legal process and have sufficient knowledge and training in the safeguarding of vulnerable adults. It does require a national set of standards. But we mustn’t be led down a merry path that it’s going to resolve issues such as separation and child protection concerns.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks for the comment Tracey – I completely agree about the fine line. When advocacy slips into partisan support it can be worse than useless. But when its a bridge between professional expectations and lack of parental understanding then it can be vital.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Do you find that the CS often assumes a God like power to make all decisions or do you consider parents misunderstand
        Do you find SW’s act independently or do they have to follow management instructions?
        Is there a national list of parent advocates which SW’s can give to parents to help them contact one ?

        1. Tracey McMahon

          Hi Angelo,

          I’ll try to answer your questions. I don’t think that SW feel they’re a god like power, however, I do feel that they actually don’t understand the power they have over the parents. While the child protection system is there and it’s flawed, it’s the only one we have and we can only change it one at a time. In two cases that have taken me four years to discharge, advocacy has to follow the due process and it can’t be misunderstood. SW are line managed and all have a manager they have to go up to. Where I feel that some of the decisions made are not a family centric approach, I have to be careful how I work with the parent to satisfy both the LA and the parent. It’s not even reframing the narrative. It’s framing the truth.

          Mostly, in my experience, a parent understanding the situation they find themselves in is the hardest to work with. I work with them and I have to be clinically supervised. I also have excellent professional relationships with local services so I’m able to work with parents so that they’re in a much more viable position to have their voices heard.

          This is what we are working on. My referrals come through solicitors and some local authorities. We are funded separately. But we are gathering our findings and will soon have a report together on how from our point of view this need is viable. I’m not aware that every local authority has a list. But I want to see a national set of standards that can be used at local levels.

          Furthermore, I do help to shape the lens for the parents in that they reduce their fear of authority, social workers and that they are human too. I can’t give them the tools they need to handle it, but I can assist them in renegotiating how they view the situation as a whole. That does work. In a very balanced way that they understand. It’s not that I’m on their side, it’s that I help them to view that all in the room on that day are on the side of the children concerned.

  4. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for your replies, Tracey.
    To help with your explorations……………………………..

    I feel Parent Advocates ( PA’s) should be clear about what parents will expect of them and what actual service is required.Parents will expect their advocates to support them fully and to intervene actively in their favour when necessary. I would say they expect them to be partisan towards them and have no conflicts of interest . Parents already have enough professionals lined up against them and ,in some cases, they complain their own lawyers don’t act solely for them. If PA’s want complete trust from parents they should be clear they are expected to be entirely independent from child-protection professionals and Local Authorities and should not ‘take advice’ or ‘instruction’ from them or from Family Court lawyers. Neither should they accept anything the other professionals say or spread about without question; they aren’t the result of impartial investigation but claims are made with the intent of ‘proving’ their own case. PA’s should face reality which is that the system ( the only one we have) is not fit for purpose and driven by (ulterior) political policy imperatives issued by L.A’s and their legal advisers.

    The most important thing to do is to gather information as soon as possible, create a proper chronology and push for a full examination of facts by a decision -making body at the earliest possible stage. The meeting or child-protection conference must be conducted correctly and PA’s should be fully aware of correct procedure. For example, conferences and so on should be quorate and minuted comprehensively and properly.Perhaps recorded. Parents and the others should be given adequate notice in accordance with guidelines and it should be ensured that parents have ample opportunity to circulate agreements and disagreements among all professionals in a timely manner before it takes place. PA’s should undertake checks,e.g. whether GP’s and school representatives have been invited in good time . Tracey, I think it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for PA’s to be very well versed in all the legal guidelines and procedures laid out in the Children Act. The reason why is because L.A’s often flout them. Parent Advocates should be prepared to write to the Court in their professional capacity and/or attend Court themselves where necessary in order to testify when cases are conducted incorrectly. Sometimes, for example, L.A’s dispense with conferences and make no effort to meet, inform,offer support and work with parents.
    There is certainly a role for PA’s in mediation and information gathering between doctors,hospitals and schools and parents. Those people are forbidden from talking or providing information to parents once child protection proceedings have started so their advocates ( as professionals) should seek out opinions and documents on their behalf. L.A’s only present negatives and shelve all positives. PA’s will present both positives and negatives.
    P.A’s should play a full part in fostering a greater obligation for consistent cooperation between parents and L.A’s . Mostly, the ‘Working Together ‘principles and guidelines which form the spirit of the Children Act are treated with disdain not by parents but by the powerful authorities or so parents will complain. P.A’s should be prepared to give clear testament to the Family Courts when this happens because the ability and willingness or not of Mum’s to work with the Authorities is so often the decisive issue at Court. The L.A’s accuse the parents of non-cooperation,being unable to understand issues etc. when the truth is the other way round.

    In my opinion, P.A’s should be trained to FOCUS on the aims of the Children Act. The aim is to keep families together NOT to blow them apart. I do think they should follow a ‘merry path’ (alongside parents) which will resolve issues such as separation and child protection concerns.
    To do so , they must be well aware of the causes and solution to problems of concern in each particular case. Foe example, the case described in the post above concerns domestic violence. SW’s are forbidden BY LAW to separate parents from children or interfere in Family life . Only a Court can do so. Even when Police take emergency action they should return children home within 72 hours or take suspects to court for an order.The solution to DV,, is not to act in haste disproportionately but to advise and conciliate , the aim being to keep parents together in the paramount interests of children. This is where SW’s fail and PA’s should advise accordingly. Parents should never be advised to sign inhuman ,unlawful letters of expectation or S20’s under threat of removal. PA’s should be trained to fill the gap left by SW’s and help bring about conciliation. Such methods will include arranging for family conferences which have also been found useful by the FRA advocacy service. Keeping families together is to be the focus. Even when domestic violence is very severe,the criminal courts will not interfere with family life to the extent Family Courts do. Conciliation is the solution as I have said above.
    How to encourage wayward parents to accept and understand concerns then to change and reform? The answer to that lies in taking proportionate action as taken by criminal courts when there is real evidence and parents are convicted. The key to reform is in forgiveness and grace. Once the threat of family separation is removed from the itinerary and they realise sanctions are to be proportionate , parents are able to acknowledge faults and engage with professional advice and support. They must be treated just as we want to be treated when we do wrong. Forgiveness and giving parents the chance is an essential humanity we should all bear in mind. Literally PA’s will find such an approach will WORK WONDERS especially if they discuss matters in confidence with the family and persuade Mother to forgive father ( or vice-versa).

    These are just a few things PA’s should be trained in ,Tracey, in my humble view. I look forward to comments from anyone.Please note I have said what i believe PARENTS want not what SW’s and lawyers want I notice Sarah frowns upon any chance that PA’s will be partisan towards their clients.

    Reply ↓

  5. Angelo Granda

    Might I add that I expect that should a P.A. give evidence to any decision- making body or Court which is not in the L.A’s litigation interests they will find themselves accused of partisanship and colluding with parents,not understanding concerns etc.
    They already have their arguments ready !

    1. Tracey McMahon

      Hi Angelo,

      Thank you for your thoughts and although that’s quite a list there, I’ll assure you that I do mostly what you’re suggesting however, there has to be a national framework that is in place.

      I’m usually involved once an application for an order is made. I am totally independent from LA, solicitors and barristers.

      From the outset following an initial assessment, I then spend time alone with parents in order to listen to their version of the position they find themselves in. We have our risk and needs assessment and that surrounds the parent/s.

      Ideally, where a plan is for removal at birth, we are only at the start of that process as LAs are still shall we say, “nervy” about allowing independent services in. I’d like to be involved in that area on a deeper level. We are working with some people on this process currently.

      It would be very easy to say that we have got children back with families. We have. But as independents, we have the facility to think and work with parents and I certainly do reframe narratives to LAs. Absolutely. On behalf of parents. Nobody else. Can you make a note of this in your list, please? 🙂

      For example, if a situation is framed as a risk by LA, I’ll take that risk, tip it on its head and work through that risk level and usually, find a way to reframe that risk so that the LA position is revisited. I’ll be blunt. “here’s the risk, we have addressed each element of that risk and here’s our planning to address your risk, now what are you going to do?” We listen to the parents because their voices are lost in quarry full of professionals who speak about them nor with them. We are their voices.

      That said, where we see something that is a risk that cannot be managed or will fail, it would be misleading to any parent to lean towards a narrative that will set them up to fail. That can take time and consideration. After looking at it all upside down, inside out and backwards. If this service is to be taken seriously as a professional service for parents we can’t expect the services we want to be listened by, to simply let go of their respective areas and welcome that because it’s parents that what we say goes. It’s simply not going to happen.

      I’m not going to lead any parent down any merry path. That’s wrong and it fails safeguarding rules that are in place for a reason. This is where “collusion” is an important discussion. I’m sad that we have to work against accusations of collusion before the service has had a chance to be lifted from the ground. The only way to overcome this is to show our independence and strengths in a very sophisticated flexing kind of muscle way.

      We can’t make SS go away. We can’t sort out financial/housing/substance/DV and make them not be a risk and concern, we can assist parents to address these concerns through local knowledge with a good understanding of what they can do to reduce such risks and help them to ensure (not for LA) their children”s lives are at the forefront of their lives, for as long as that parent is responsible for their child.

      It’s a lot of work. Just once case can take two years. Then if we “win” we also don’t leave parents. We remain with them with a view to working towards discharge. Because if a child is returned to parents, there’s a fresh set of challenges to address. We support parents in all of that and what comes with that. We are at every meeting, including FGC, LAC review, court hearings, with the parent/s. We submit reports to courts, take the witness stand and we stand up for parents. Where it is safe to do. Nothing from our side goes to anybody until it’s been read, signed, shared with the parent. Including the court.

      Hope that explains a little deeper.

      1. Angelo Granda

        To QUOTE you, Tracey.
        ‘I’m usually involved once an application for an order is made’.

        Please take note for your studies- ——- This is rather too late to make a real difference. In many cases the opportunity for advice and mediation will have been missed by then. Indeed the Working Together Frameworks of the Children Act clearly sets out the requirement for independent advocacy at the outset i.e. before any initial child-protection conference.
        You indicate that drastic decisions have already been made before you are appointed. Do you get what I am saying? The system has already failed in that respect at least!
        Perhaps you are able to comment . What do you think about this?,Sarah.

  6. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for discussing,Tracey.

    I wonder if any one looks at the wider picture in the same way I do. As a P.A.,you are independent from the L.A. and the lawyers and you act for the parents. Your job is to advocate i.e. advise, explain and intervene with the authorities on their behalf. Every thinking person involved including Sarah sees a real need for such services.Independent Parent Advocacy services are now evolving,increasing in number ,organising and seeking to create a national practice framework etc.

    In actual fact, the work you are doing is social work,isn’t it? This is actually what our existing SW’s ( the C.S.) should be doing! Most of them complain they are prevented from carrying out their family advocacy (support and advisory) function due to LA political interference which is largely ruled by financial interests. I have pointed this out on other threads and suggested that the C.S. should be separated from the LA’s and provided with their own budget. Now, because SW’s are not independent ,there are calls for independent parent advocacy services .Unfortunately, as with the C.S. you will also not be able to dictate support plans because you don’t control the spending . Why can the CS not be taken out of LA control and set up afresh? The SW’s might be renamed PA’s and apply themselves to their true vocations. Surely it would be more in the spirit of the Children Act.

    Some of what you say makes me wary ,although i agree with most of your sentiments and aims. I think you should be clear that when you attend meetings with parents, it is not true that everyone in the room is on the side of the children. No, it is a myth ,in my opinion , otherwise they would all be battling as you do to keep families together . LA’s seek to take children into care for political reasons disguised as ‘child-rescue’. You may have noticed already they aren’t open and candid by a long score.They do not act in the paramount interests of children when they separate families ( especially at birth) neither do they lessen risks.The risks to children are much higher in care. Tracey, never trust their aims are legitimate! This is why they are ‘nervy’ at allowing independent services. They don’t want anything which may oppose the political imperatives and over the years they have actively discouraged advocacy and worked against it despite the Working Together frameworks . Management instruct SW’s and exclude them or move them on if they express any opposition.The frameworks actually have guidelines included which says advocates must be allowed, indeed they must inform parents at the outset of their right to one.They rarely do in practice.

    Tracey, where we see something that is a risk that ‘cannot be managed or will fail’ P.A’s should go for the ‘narrative’ that it is impossible to eliminate all risk. All risks are manageable in that they can be lessened and monitored. Furthermore if the risk comes to a head and a child comes to harm then the system has failed not the parents or children. The plans should be improved upon and working practices changed! Of course families should not be set up to fail. It is the task of the Authorities to support them not to liquidate them.As you say this can take time and consideration but most of all,when making care-plans professionals should be trained in how to lessen risks and how to reform families.

    The path to reform has to be positive . It can be a merry path in my view. Those Authorities wielding the influence must be aware of the causes of family dysfunction;, d.v. ; drug-taking; mental health,chaotic behaviour and the rest. Most important is how to set about reform plans and an understanding that sanctions have to be proportionate to be successful.Not oppressive,degrading or emotionally harmful .In other words ,a plan should be humane. It’s not rocket science either but I think many SW’s lack training.

    Most problem families need moral guidance. D.v.,for example is caused by arguments, swearing, nagging,shaming, insulting behaviour,swearing and bad language ,drunkenness,shouting and drug-taking. These are what we will call chaotic life styles.In serious cases,it should be tackled by the criminal system where PROPORTIONATE penalties and punishments can be meted out to offenders as a prelude to reform.
    In less serious and mundane cases referred by the Police to the L.A., sanctions cannot be more severe. They must be looked at proportionately.
    It is not a sin for professionals to have fears for children, it is only natural and human. The sin is to allow ones fears to determine ones responses and to respond inhumanely. When responses are humane, families will reform and welcome help. Advice,moral guidance, example ,generosity and support will succeed. Teach them how to be happy. Not to drink in the house.No drugs. No yelling and screaming. No arguing- fathers should not even sit gossiping with their partners because that leads to fall-outs. Let them be taught how to live peacefully and conciliate when they do disagree and offend. Jaw-jaw always better than war war even if mediation is necessary. Forgiveness about which i talked above and magnanimity. Put in material improvements if necessary ,show the poor how to apply for grants or funds from the needy families project. Teach them day-today routine and consistency is necessary to happy families beating escapism,materialism and other vices by a mile. Teach the girls how home-making and domestic work is much more beneficial to their children and more profitable than going out to slave away for the benefit of employers.
    Positive life-styles bring their own rewards and families will thrive.

    I agree you can’t sort out financial/housing/d.v. and other risks but L.A.’s have a duty to do so. Sw’s are dedicated to sorting the problems out but aren’t allowed to do so by their masters. If the Social Services Director and managers won’t do the job and provide the protection and services they are in the business of providing ,they should get out all together and the SW’s granted independence as the professionals they are.
    Ha-ha, if i were ever a social worker,i would have been moved on or sacked by now and on the scrapheap.

    1. Mark C

      suggested that the C.S. should be separated from the LA’s and provided with their own budget.

      Local authorities have a statutory duty to protect children in their area, so it is not possible for childrens services (under the current legal framework) to be independent from LAs.

      In actual fact, the work you are doing is social work,isn’t it?

      Adoptive parents have a supporting social worker who is available to answer questions, help access support and explain the process and assist in dealing with other social workers/courts/legal departments etc. I think it would be sensible for parents who are subject to child protection proceedings to be offered a supporting social worker form a differne tteam to child services (vulnerable adults maybe) , though of course the parents may not accept assistance, or may not consider their social worker to be really on their side or may not need accept that they need help in the first place.

      Most problem families need moral guidance.

      I’m afraid these following paras come across as hopelessly naive and unrealistic – as if sitting someone down and saying “drugs are wrong” will cause them to say “oh yes, you are right!” and instantly throw off years of addiction (ditto with alcohol and violent behaviour/lack of anger management etc)

      parents are frequently offered treatment for addiction and either refude ot admit they have a prpoblem or refuse to complete the programme, or else do their best and then relapse under moments of stress or weakness.

      My cousin’s kids were in and out of foster care for years while their mother tried to deal with her drug problems. She never has done. Her kids were turfed out foster care with little support at 18 and both have since ended up back with their mother and subsequently hospitalised for drug overdoses themnselves. My own wee boy’s birth father, on being told that his drug use compromised his ability to be a good dad, said “spice is my life” and refused to even consider any treatment.

      And that’s just the cases I have particular knowledge of. LAs have a duty to offer support to families in crisis, but they certainly can’t make them accept it and not all are happy and grateful to receive it.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Thanks for your helpful contribution and fair critique,Mark C.
        I am suggesting more radical change in line with the ‘vision for change’. Currently,you are right to say that L.A’s have a duty to protect children in their area. The point is that in many areas (not all) they are failing . Sadly, they won’t put children first ;they put their own political policies and financial preferences first hence my solution is that they be sacked .Put the duty into the hands of an independent social work organisation with its own budget .
        Your suggestion that parents be given a supporting SW from a different team ,perhaps an adult team, is an interesting one and i suggested it myself some time ago.
        I don’t think i am ‘hopelessly naive’ about moral guidance and instruction.I am realistic and i acknowledge your difficulties as far as your cousin’s family. Some cases are more serious than others ,i understand that which is why i always lay great emphasis on proportionate sanctions and humanity. I repeat:-

        ‘These are what we will call chaotic life styles.In serious cases,it should be tackled by the criminal system where PROPORTIONATE penalties and punishments can be meted out to offenders as a prelude to reform’.

        On the subject of criminal penalties , in my experience fines are one of the most effective. Curfews,tagging etc. can also be effective as a means of control and monitoring and we should not forget probation services.
        Do you support the suggestion that Family Courts should be given the power to impose such orders ? Currently, in the serious cases you describe, the only choice they appear to have available to them is removal. As i say, if current practices are failing, radical new ones must be introduced.

        1. Mark C

          How would the criminal justice situation deal with the (relatively common) situation where eg a mother has mental health problems and learning difficulties, had a terrible experience of being parented by her own parents, may use drugs and alcohol sometimes and has a pattern of falling into relationships with violent men.

          How would it help her to be criminalised or fined (she is probably already on benefits/struggling financially)

          How would being tagged or placed on curfew stop her neglecting her demanding baby because she just can’t cope with her, or having unsuitable people visit her home?

          1. Angelo Granda

            To attempt to answer your three questions. Mark.C.

            1.By establishing the facts and circumstances and acting proportionately. If a woman has mental health difficulties ,learning difficulties,is on drugs and alcohol and is committing serious criminal offences , she should be dealt with accordingly .If the offences are down to a mental health condition, the criminal court has the power to commit her for treatment in a secure hospital, if necessary where she can be weaned off drink and drugs, cured and rehabilitated.

            2. In the same way as other criminals . When she is found guilty in a real court and treated proportionately, she is likely to accept all her faults and respond positively. The shock of a court appearance is often enough to induce change and fines are often used for first offences ; they are a well-proven method used widely by Magistrates to DETER re-offending.

            3. Tagging and a curfew are just one method of controlling miscreants. I suggest it may help if a Mum was neglecting her baby perhaps by going out with friends to the pub or bingo, drug parties etc. Abandoning children and not being at home to greet them from school ( Latch-key children) is wrong .
            However such methods will not stop unsuitable people visiting her home. Do you mean other drug-users? if it is thought her visitors are criminals, evidence should be found and they should be arrested and dealt with by the criminal system also. To protect her children from them.The Family Court does not have the power to interfere with liberties, the Police do!

            The problem with the current system is it does not FOCUS on the aims of the Children Act. The aim is to improve the lot of children and keep families together not to make things worse by imposing life-long mental trauma and degradation upon them through permanent removal.Thus i have suggested ,where there is not enough evidence to prove facts beyond criminal doubt, these less draconian ( more proportionate) sanctions should be made available to the Family Court.

        2. Mark C

          If a woman has mental health difficulties ,learning difficulties,is on drugs and alcohol and is committing serious criminal offences

          but I specifically meant the situation where she ISN’T committing serious criminal offences but has the other problems. Are you seriously suggesting that people should be sectioned for having depression or anxiety and sometimes drinking too much?

          then assuming they are sectioned, what happens to the child? In a case i know, the mother has been under section for over three years. Is the child left to languish in foester care in the hope that the mother does recover enough to look after the child? What happens if the parent then relapses or can’t cope with the stresses of being a parent? Are they in and out of foster care for the rest of their childhood? How is that uncertainty and disruption in their best interests?

          When she is found guilty in a real court and treated proportionately, she is likely to accept all her faults and respond positively. The shock of a court appearance is often enough to induce change and fines are often used for first offences ; they are a well-proven method used widely by Magistrates to DETER re-offending.

          The re-offending rate is about 30% and this rises to over 60% when a short custodial sentence is involved. But this even assumes a criminal case can be brought, which isn’t always the case. You also ignore the point that parents in this situation are often on benefits and/or struggling financially already. How is more financial stress going to help them care better for their children?

          I suggest it may help if a Mum was neglecting her baby perhaps by going out with friends to the pub or bingo, drug parties etc. Abandoning children and not being at home to greet them from school

          Certainly children are sometimes left without a respnsible adult to keep an eye on them, but neglect often also occurs in the home – eg a child left crying and unfed in a dirty cot, or strapped into a buggy for hours on end – and any form of curfew etc will not prevent this.

          And I think tagging can only be imposed as part of probation or alternative to custodial sentence, so is impossible if no crime has been committed/convicted.

          However such methods will not stop unsuitable people visiting her home. Do you mean other drug-users? if it is thought her visitors are criminals, evidence should be found and they should be arrested and dealt with by the criminal system also.

          Drug-users, heavy drinkers, people who carry out violent, sexual or other inappropriate behavioiur in front of children. Not all of this is grounds for arrest (how many people are arrseted for using cannabis these days?) but is still a child protection problem. and that’s even assuming the police have the resources to hang around outside the house of every parent who may or may not be unsuitably parenting their child.

          The problem with the current system is it does not FOCUS on the aims of the Children Act.

          Your solution seems to be to assume the Childrens Act gives the right to treat anyone as a criminal in order to shame them into being a good parent. I don’t think this is realistic (given reoffending rates and well documented problems people have when have dealing with drug/alcohol/cycles of DV/mental health issues) and is also excessively draconian, and also ignores the affects on children of their parentsbeing criminlased or sectioned.

          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I agree with your comments and thank you for taking the time to make them.

          2. Angelo Granda

            I do not suggest it,i assert that if a woman takes illegal substances and/or is intoxicated through alcohol and neglects to care for a child because of it e.g. if she fails to clean the nappies and the mattress clean, she is guilty of a criminal offence and should be dealt with accordingly by the criminal system in proportion to the circumstances. Alcohol levels can be measured and used as evidence also it is easy to demonstrate she is a drug-user. I specifically meant the situation where she ISN’T committing serious criminal offences but has the other problems. I am not suggesting for one moment she should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act unless it is proportionate.

            However,if they are sectioned, the child should be cared for temporarily by others just as they are now when their Mums are sent to a mental health asylum. If she is in hospital for over three years then so be it.Father or extended will willingly care for the child in most cases and rather than alienation from Mum,the child can be given regular contacts even if they have to be supervised. Yes the child,unfortunately has to wait for his or her Mum to be discharged from hospital when she is ill and indisposed,it is normal,didn’t you know that?y n assuming they are sectioned, what happens to the child? In one case I know of which involved an extremely successful entertainer and businessman,he and his brother had to wait for FIVE YEARS. Had they been consigned to family liquidation,their lives would
            have been degraded and their mother’s destroyed.

            QUOTE: What happens if the parent then relapses: UNQUOTE. Mark,try not to fall into the same trap as many SW’s and lawyers do. Think positively at all times .We should not act inhumanely or hastily just because a reform strategy POTENTIALLY MIGHT go wrong. If care-plans are the right ones and well financed, they usually go right. Those that go wrong must be improved upon.

            In answer to your fair point about the re-offending rate, the positive is the 70% not the 30%.We should look at the positives. In my experience, those miscreants who are struggling financially and on benefits anyway are more likely to respond by reforming themselves when fines are imposed proportionately to their circumstances. Money is a great influence on them and fines are a proven deterrent.

            In respect of your point about neglect inside the home , monitoring can be put in place.I suggest regular health checks on children, observation by schools and nurseries etc. plus there is always the preferred course of action advocated by most SW’s these days. Home support workers and /or mother and baby units.Mothers and fathers to be trained in parenting and given moral training .

            You are quite correct to say that curfew and tagging can only be imposed as an alternative to a custodial sentence. My suggestion is that the Family Court be permitted to impose such measures as an alternative to family liquidation even in cases where no criminal offence can be proven . Tagging and curfew were just two examples; there are other less draconian solutions as well.

            I contend that inappropriate behaviour of the kind you describe,Mark, is grounds for arrest and the Police should investigate fully and take action. They can take the offenders away and they have the power to keep them away ! Children must be protected from that sort of thing; sadly the SW’s,the L.A’s nor the Family Courts can protect them except by liquidating the families inhumanely. They CANNOT FORCE PARENTS TO UNDERSTAND AND PARTICIPATE which is whyi have suggested the Court should be given extra powers to do so and these extra powers should be proportionate and humane. The SW’s don’t have the time to hang around houses waiting for things to deteriorate ; they should dive into the hole head first and do their level best to instigate change much,much earlier .This is a strategy supported by Sarah,the CPR founder. She always speaks against hanging around,she maintains early intervention is the best course .

            QUOTE:The problem with the current system is it does not FOCUS on the aims of the Children Act:UNQUOTE.

            As an ordinary parent, it is my view ,that the child-protection system is out of control. Tell me ,Mark, what would you say if the Fire Brigade was called to your home and arrived on the scene then rather than turn on the water and assist you to extinguish the fire, they set about blaming you for it and reacted by destroying your home and your family? I would say they wereout of control!

            Do you mind if i ask a question regarding your own family? Was a family conference organised by the C.S.?

            Thanks for discussing .You make some good points and Sarah agrees as i do. However,in my view, we should all think more positively and focus. It is ALWAYS easier to come up with arguments to liquidate families and it is more in the financial interests of the L.A.’s. However,the focus should be on WORKING TOGETHER ,KEEPING TOGETHER.

        3. Mark C

          Of course you can think of a counter example to anything I suggest, and in many cases it will be corrct – there will be people who straighten out after a brush with a law, who benefit from life skill and parenting classes, who manage to overcome their drug and alcohol problems. There will be children who can be looked after by other relatives if a parent is hospitalised or sectioned.

          However, there are plenty of cases where all these things and more are explored and tried and nothing really works. In those cases it is cruel to continue to keep the child at home or in an uncertain temporary foster placement for years on end (ie the whole life of a young child, or a massive proportion of it) while more and more legal and social work solutions/interventions are thrown at the parents.

          You seem to think families should be kept togoether at all costs. I disagree, and this isn’t just from my own family experiences but from reading the case files of children who have been placed for adoption.

          And since you asked, yes there was a family conference and localfamily members offered a lot of support, including caring for the girls, making sure they got meals etc. Everything was bumping along until my cousin had another child and the older girls started missing school because they couldn’t leave the baby alone with the mother.

          1. Angelo Granda

            I appreciate your comments fully,Mark C.and I understand that often professionals meet up with cases which prove very,very difficult to handle and that the system fails.
            We are both on the same side, our priorities are humanity and the human rights of children . Their welfare interests are paramount even above those of parents hence that is why i have made suggestions as to how we might possibly tackle these problems more successfully.

            If we have different concepts of humanity and cruelty then we should explore what the differences are.
            In my view, it is a monolith of a myth that the lives of children are improved by family liquidation ; such a policy only serves to bring about lifelong mental torment and degradation for them. I meet them all the time in the streets ,often in the gutter . This is not to say there aren’t any success stories but i haven’t seen any . In cases concerning my own family, C.S . intervention has been nothing short of disastrous for the children involved. DISASTROUS.
            The lives of children are by and large blighted when the L.A’s liquidate families. The danger to children in the care-system is much,much higher . Whilst they are at risk of harm in the care of their parents ,undoubtedly they suffer massive emotional harm and degradation when they are separated and alienated from natural family.It is cruelty to children.
            On the other hand, you have expressed another view . That the permanent liquidation of families is preferable to keeping families together when nothing seems to work. You think it cruel to keep children at home or in uncertain temporary foster placements while legal and social work solutions are tried.You think it is cruelty to expect children to hang on whilst there Mums are cared for and restored to health. You say children should not have to wait for years and years. You say it isn’t in their best interests. You say it is better to remove them permanently from their loving family and put them out for adoption or into permanent foster-care.

            Sarah,i think ,will agree with you and that is where our perceptions differ. So whose is the false ideology?

            I think yours is . It is a misguided view of human beings. It is callous and fundamentally inhuman to liquidate families permanently .

            Of human bondage. Ask yourself this question. Were your son or daughter taken into hospital with an illness of some kind, how long would you be prepared to wait for them to recover? Would you give up on them after six months and stop visiting? Perhaps forget them and get on with your life. I don’t think so.Most human beings would wait forever or as long as recovery takes! Mums and their children have a bond which is lifelong. We might say they are enslaved to each other.The bond is unbreakable even by enforced physical separation; the bond is psychological and spiritual.It cannot be broken not even by death.

            Yes,I do think families should be kept together at all costs. When children are taken into permanent foster-care or adoption we all seem to agree that is FAILURE. The general consensus seems to be that the system has failed them.

            I have tried to suggest how we can improve the system and make it successful. I am not a professional,i only make suggestions .
            I have said that the system fails because there is a lack of focus and that the aims of the Children Act are put second to the interests of Local Authorities and those organising institutional care.

            I have suggested that the Family Court should be empowered to take stronger action . That druggies be forced to undertake hospital treatment ,for example. That they should be made to go for effective treatment and get off drugs. If such plans don’t work first time, then it isn’t their fault, it is the fault of the therapists. Methods should be improved when it happens.

            Mark, the problem with the system we have is that in many,many cases such plans are not even attempted ,the parents are written off too hastily . Everything appears to have been tried in the case of your cousin but in a vast number of cases children are condemned to removal because it is easier . No support is provided in line with the Children Act or interventions are left too late. So circumstances deteriorate rather than improve.

            If we focus on the true aims of the Children Act rather than the interests of the L.A’s things can only get better.

          2. Angelo Granda

            Well,i have waited for three weeks and no-one seems interested in discussing fundamental ideological differences. What a shame.

  7. Tracey McMahon

    Hi Angelo,.

    I do think you’re misunderstanding the role of an advocate in such proceedings.

    I appreciate all you have written and you’re not wrong in many ways.

    I’m unsure of your position here.

    I’ve stated that we are independent and that we are the voices of the parent.

    It comes down to basic economics. If parents aren’t supported, how does the then the voice of the child become the threshold?

    Anyone of us, can attack the system. We can all throw our hands up in the air and say it’s somebody else”s problem. We can blame austerity. (Plays a huge part in child protection) we can attack social workers who are accused of being child snatchers.

    I’m one of the few advocates out there that is open to discussing how to make it better. For children. And for parents that are lost in a world of reports about them and not with them.

    We need a child protection service and it’s shit.

    I’d really like to know what YOU think the answer is.

    Preferably in bullet points. I’m not great at massive amounts of text which explains why it has taken me four years to write up my research findings. From mothers that had left prison.

    I’m also unclear as to who you’re angry with and at. If it’s children’s services, I hear you. It’s gone from being a welfare approach to a risk measured tool. Making mothers feel as though they have to be “good* mothers. Because it’s the mothers that experience that most debilitating loss that No statutory body, can account for.

    I have huge concerns regarding the level of child protection in this country It’s not working.

    1. Angelo Granda

      Tracey,I think you are doing a great and necessary job .
      Please understand that I am not,i repeat not angry! My position is that of an ordinary parent.I have seen good practice and I have seen bad. I am appalled as you are at the extent of failure but i maintain it is ‘systemic’ and I do not put it down to social workers or advocates or blame anyone else as individuals. Social workers don’t ‘snatch’ children indeed most of them prefer support and monitoring plans , working together with parents etc.
      I don’t like to use terms such as child-snatching because they don’t help constructive discussion. Yet i do believe children are too often procured into care unlawfully with too much haste due to disproportionate fears and that often due process and legal safeguards are ignored. I have pointed out that changes are called for. Most of all independent advice and mediation is needed which is what you seek to provide.
      Unlike you i am not a professional but if you will put some bullet points to me,i’ll try and give my opinion.
      Constructive discussion can only help mend systems. One thing i have learnt is that blaming SW’s is not the answer to anything after all, as they say themselves,they don’t make the orders, the Judges do it.

    2. cb

      The whole system is initiated by the state and what has it produced, child birth reduction to an all time low unsustainable for any countries indigenous population to survive, How and why?
      LA Agents do not act within the Law, ie changing a childs birth registered name to the name of a non existent child allowing covered up truths never to see the light of day, in these courts, and replacing the truth with any abusive report requested (obviously for payment by the most trusted of society the medical profession, this practice started in Cleveland, false sexual abuse allegations, later false child injury allegations, there will be no end until the indigenous family birthrate reduces to zero, no victims to accuse. I as a grandmother have written proof of court documents of what I have stated here, having been given the full QCs court file that acted in my grandsons case

      1. Angelo Granda

        Carol, it does not matter one jot how much proof you have that professional evidence is wrong or if the L.A. acts unlawfully. Itdoesn’t matter ! The Court can just brush malpractice aside ; professionals behaving illegitimately is very low on its agenda. Whatever they do wrongly, the general attitude of lawyers is they do not act with malice Because concerns have arrived at the Family Court in the first case,it is assumed parents have done wrong and must deserve condemnation. They don’t have the time, the finances or the protocol to examine issues except superficially.

        1. K Banned

          The concern from the start was the low expectations of my grandsons development due to his negligent/incompetent birth at the then South Cleveland Hospital now James cook UV hospital,Breech, starved of oxygen
          Obviously the trap was set when we were sent back to this same hospital by our then family doctor to investigate the reason why he was unable to suck, head jerking back problems, cat like cry, head measurement chart head not growing, constant eyes infected.
          Cover-up and false unexplained injury accusations, cover-up of all medical evidence he suffered Cerebral Atrophy from his negligent birth, evidence from MRI & CT Scan all the evidence obviously still in this hospitals hands

  8. Angelo Granda

    The real point,though,is this.

    Even if a parent advocate is contacted and appointed to help ,advise,mediate and intervene on behalf of the parent/s at the outset,even if the SW’s conduct a case correctly and even if the evidence presented to the Family Court is ‘real’ evidence and even if it is forensically and scientifically correct and even if the parent/s have been found guilty of neglect and’or abuse in a criminal court, it is still INHUMANE to liquidate families permanently just as it would be to execute the parents.
    No other Court will issue such an order not even a Crown Court. The civil Family Courts liquidate families and the Judges do it for political reasons.They do it even when they know the L.A’s are wrong and have not been open and honest ( it is swept under the carpet). They make a political decision and the decision is fundamentally inhumane in contravention of the ECHR convention .Nevertheless it is IN FAVOUR OF THE LOCAL POLITICAL AUTHORITIES.
    The judges are flying along and wash their hands of human rights. Pilate style !
    The political authorities decide it is in their best interests to separate families and if the Family Courts allow them to do so,they will continue to do so.

    Perhaps one day,rather than support families and care for children at all, they may well decide it is cheaper and easier ( more expedient and efficient ) to solve the problem by gaoling them or eliminating the families completely. They would see that as a more final solution than liquidation,i suppose.

    If the civil Judge allows them to do it, why not? There is no genuine appeal process and no apparent lines drawn. The judicial system is broken and the L.A’s have a virtual free hand.

    1. K Banned

      I have always believed that ENGLISH courts are based on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth based on Christian religion, as sworn on Oath in the eyes of God.
      How can any untruths within these courts be allowed or tolerated, it is a sin to knowingly lie, and consequences certainly follow.

    2. Mark C

      The civil Family Courts liquidate families and the Judges do it for political reasons.They do it even when they know the L.A’s are wrong and have not been open and honest ( it is swept under the carpet).

      What is your evidence for this?

      If you read a family law blog (like say Suesspicious Minds) there are plenty of cases where Judges rule against LAs for not getting enough evidence, not showing threshold has been reasched, not properly assessing other family members and not exploring other options before deciding on adoption.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Mark, There is plenty evidence for what I say if you look at the mass of court judgments especially appeal court judgments all available if you study this resource in depth. Plus we all seem to agree the system is failing in many parts of the country.Sarah has herself intimated to us a general lack of accountability in Family Courts when L.A’s break the law,remove children unlawfully etc; the lawyers show little heed and it is low on their agenda.If anyone else behaved unlawfully ,they would be dealt with promptly.
        Yet,of course, we all know too that you are quite correct to say that although the judicial system is broken ,it still hangs on by a thread in some areas . Indeed ,i agree with you that some judges do rule against L.A’s.
        Instead of going round in circles and picking fault , i agree with Sarah, we should take time to discuss IDEOLOGICAL differences .The main difference ,apparently, between ordinary families and the ‘child-rescuers’ is one of proportionality.
        Whilst we all seem to agree the best thing for children is to remain with families and for support plans to be put in place, there are those who argue that the time-scales for children are too short to allow for such action. I have explained above why I think that is false ideology. What is your opinion? I hope it isn’t based on predication of past antecedents when cases have gone wrong.

    1. K Banned

      The Lame excuse throughout our terrible experience from South Cleveland Hospital Chief Executive was
      We were not party or involved in Rs case, nothing from this hospital was allowed into any court proceedings

  9. Angelo Granda

    I can’t explain why it is that Family Courts take seemingly incongruous decisions except by suggesting again that the Judge’s are acting in sympathy with the political imperatives of L.A’s.
    In many cases it is not in the interests of the litigation aims of L.A’s concerned for genuine ,case-specific evidence from hospitals with a full knowledge of a family and its full, medical history to be put before the Court. The L.A. lawyers will put it to the Children’s Legal Panel that expert evidence from a Court appointed paediatrician is necessary. The Panel will agree on it ; if a parent (or a grandparent if he or she is entered as a party) requests evidence from the child’s own consultant , the L.A. lawyers will argue that it is superfluous because teh Court has already ordered a full ‘assessment’ from an independent expert.
    Of course, the independent expert will not be fully informed as to medical history but also will receive much misinformation from CP professionals on which to base appraisals. Generally,they don’t bother consulting parents either and that affects their appraisals too!

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Angelo, your understanding of how expert evidence is obtained is not correct. Experts must be appointed jointly by all parties and will only be allowed in proceedings where the court deems then necessary. It is certainly NOT within the LA’s gift to insist on or veto any particular expert. Are you talking about the position pre-proceedings? I think you might be. If it is pre-proceedings then yes, it is up the LA to investigate and assess as they see fit. Once it goes to court however then the court decides. An expert instructed solely by the LA won’t be seen as ‘independent’ so I would expect parents to make an application to the court for an independent joint expert.

  10. Angelo Granda

    Yes,but in one case i know of, a strategy meeting held for the purposes of an S47 investigation set out the need for a Police Investigation into alleged child neglect also that a comprehensive medical report from the child’s medical consultant was to be requested.
    The consultant supplied a report which indicated how well the child had been cared for by parents and professionals alike and how happy she was in the parents care. School also provided written evidence favourable to parents at the strategy meeting itself. The L.A. decided to apply for a Care -order anyway and an ICO was granted without anyone seeing either report; they were both withheld.
    At the Family Court , the respondents requested that both be produced. LA claimed they had lost the school report . The Judge declared that ,as it had deemed an expert report appointed by all parties was necessary, that the report from the child’s consultant was superfluous.
    Neither of those reports were supplied to Court.
    Incidentally, after a Full Care-order was issued , the CPS finally issued its verdict which was that there was no realistic evidence of child neglect thus no chance of a conviction.
    Much later on following an inordinate delay, an official investigation upheld the parent’s official complaint, apologised for the withholding of ‘vital’ medical evidence from proceedings and instructed the LA concerned to supply it . They still will not do so!
    Much as I appreciate your helpful replies to comments,Sarah, please do not presume ordinary parents don’t understand what goes on pre-proceedings or during them. We do. We hear clearly what Judges say!

    May I call your attention to this quote from Tracey McMahon’s contribution above and ask you to think about it:-

    QUOTE: Mostly, in my experience, a parent understanding the situation they find themselves in is the hardest to work with :UNQUOTE.

  11. Angelo Granda

    In my opinion which is one of an average parent ,it is totally,totally unacceptable for L.A’s to obtain medical reports on children then withhold the reports from their parents ( especially those who have co-operated ,provided medical details themselves and given the required consent).My opinion is the same whether the reports are issued pre-proceedings,during proceedings or post-proceedings! A child’s parents with parental responsibility have an inalienable right to see them. It is wrong that the L.A. should be able to pick and choose which medical information it reveals as it sees fit. You can bet your shirt they will never withhold any which support its own litigation aims. They declare and circulate critical reports like a flash.
    ALL reports should be shown to parents before court in good time for them to put good ones forward in support of their response to ‘concerns’ and those issued pre-proceedings should be circulated as a matter of course to the various conferences and decision-makers .

    I doubt if many lawyers will dispute my opinion.

    QUOTE: If it is pre-proceedings then yes, it is up the LA to investigate and assess as they see fit. Once it goes to court however then the court decides: UNQUOTE.

    In the case i have described very briefly above,Sarah, the medical and school reports were not circulated to anyone ;they were hidden and that will ,in my view, render invalid all other appraisals including those of court experts even those jointly instructed.

    Unfortunately, the judicial system is broken.Actually the respondent barrister asked the judge to make a court -order and the L.A. was ordered by the Court to reveal the consultant’s report . Still, the L.A. failed to do so!
    Apparently, the Judge never spotted the contempt neither did anyone else. I think at the later stages of proceedings, the need for completion within 26 weeks takes over from the need for fairness and honesty.

    It was only following the official complaint that the L.A. acknowledged its wrongdoing admitting the reports were ‘vital’. Even then, they showed contempt towards the findings of their own Complaints investigator and still won’t reveal them.

    It is also important to note that the consultants ( and schools) themselves refuse to talk to,correspond with or supply reports directly to parents once child-protection proceedings commence whether they go to Court or not. They are forbidden from doing so by the L.A. apparently.

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