What do children think about opening up the family courts?

There is serious concern that opening up the family courts, for increased media access for example, is going to harm children and is not what they want.

The Children’s Commissioner investigated this issue in 2010 and said:

For our research, we spoke to more than 50 children and young people, and what they said raises a number of serious concerns. The overwhelming view was that reporters should not be allowed into family court proceedings because the hearings address matters that are intensely private. The events discussed are painful, embarrassing and humiliating and the children and young people said their deeply personal details were the business of neither newspapers, nor the general public.

They did not trust the press to get the facts right and felt strongly that articles would be sensationalised. They were worried about being identified and fear being bullied as a result.

It is of great concern that the children and young people said that if a reporter was in court to hear the evidence, they would not speak freely to professionals charged with undertaking assessments. This could seriously impact on a judge’s ability to make difficult and often life changing decisions in the child’s best interests.

You can download the report here.


There has been a further report by the ALC and NYAS in 2014 which you can read here.

The children interviewed were not happy with the idea of information about their cases being widely accessed and did not think that was a solution to dealing with criticisms of the family court system.

  • In the context of early discussions young people said they are not always informed about what is happening in their case – before or during proceedings. They said out dated paternalistic approaches by professionals are not in children’s interests: they need honesty and accurate information about processes and decisions about their care and at a time when they can make informed choices.

Further reading

The not-so-secret life of five-year-olds: legal and ethical issues relating to disclosure of information and the depiction of children on broadcast and social media

Marion Oswald, Helen James & Emma Nottingham


Widespread concerns around the privacy impact of online technologies have corresponded with the rise of fly-on-the-wall television documentaries and public-by-default social media forums allowing parallel commentary. Although information about children has traditionally been regarded by society, law and regulation as deserving of particular protection, popular documentaries such as Channel 4′s ‘The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 year olds’ raise questions as to whether such protections are being deliberately or inadvertently eroded in this technological ‘always-on’ online age. The article first describes the documentary series and the results of an analysis of related Twitter interaction. It considers responses to freedom of information requests sent to the public bodies involved in the series with the aim of establishing the ethical considerations given to the involvement of the children. The paper goes on to explore the privacy law context; the wider child law issues, the position of parents/carers and the impact of broadcast codes. It considers if lessons can be learned from how decisions in the medical context have dealt with issues of best interests in decision-making and in disclosure of information concerning the child. The paper concludes that additional legal and ethical safeguards are needed to ensure that the best interests of children are properly considered when images and information are exposed on broadcast and social media.


8 thoughts on “What do children think about opening up the family courts?

  1. Catherine loughran

    I beleive they should be opened up they have took too many babys off innocent parents for stupid stuff like weight loss exmha for domestic voilence issues where the dad hits the mom instead of removing.these children from decent parents work with them the children system is corrupt taking away new borns and its a disgrace

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      weight loss in a new born is emphatically NOT ‘stupid stuff’. I have dealt with several cases where a baby just wasn’t being fed at home. If the baby had been left there, he would have died.

  2. Angelo Granda

    Catherine did not write that weight loss in a new born was ‘stupid stuff’. Let us not disrespect her view casually. She said and I quote: they have taken too many babies off innocent parents for stupid stuff like weight loss :unquote.
    Whilst stupid will not be the word chosen by most child-protection professionals about themselves ,I am afraid it is vernacular often used and we should respect the common man. It is the sign of a civilised country to do so.
    As it happens, I feel many parents will agree with Catherine and the comment by Sarah here will give them cause for grave concern. Please note she is not talking about just one case but ‘several cases’ which lends weight to Catherine’s complaint that ‘too many babies are taken from decent parents’.

    In my view , babies and children are often removed because of dangerous ,false ideology held to be true by the child – rescue brigade who actually believe they are doing right . This is one example where several children at least have been taken wrongly. It is false to say ‘if the baby had been left there ,he would have died’. That simply is not true!
    To start with, a new born will not be discharged from hospital until it is known that he is gaining weight and that the Mum is fully capable of feeding the child either naturally or by bottle. Secondly , baby and Mum are monitored and supervised by midwives and health visitors for a while after discharge . These professionals pay home visits .Were the LA’s prepared to work with decent parents ,as Catherine suggests, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY the child will die. Not only that ,the Children’s Act says quite emphatically that it is in the paramount interests of the welfare of children to be cared for by natural family. It is wrong to remove babies unnecessarily because it is known that both mental and physiological trauma will ensue. It is somewhat of a myth that removal into care helps the situation .
    All comments welcome.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sorry, but I do not withdraw my comment. It is simply wrong and foolish to be so dismissive about weight loss in a baby. It is this kind of denial which leads to parents losing care of their children. Weight loss in a baby is serious and should be treated seriously. I am not going to sugar coat this for anyone.

      Also I think your information about how long babies stay in hospital is very out of date – they are quick to discharge asap and the kind of support that young mothers may have had decades ago just doesn’t exist now.

  3. Angelo Granda

    Furthermore, if absolutely necessary, Mum could be incarcerated together with baby or directed by a Court to spend time in a mother and baby unit for training as recently described by a SW on another thread. There is always an alternative.

  4. Angelo Granda

    Don’t misunderstand me ,Sarah, I know full well and I am sure all parents and other readers will also accept that weight loss in a baby must be addressed ; it MAY have serious implications and it should never be underestimated when it occurs. No-one will expect you to withdraw that comment.
    However, what we must try to do is get right inside the system in order to see and recognise where it goes wrong. I am talking about the system and I am not criticising you personally .
    Some issues like weight loss in babies should never be dismissed but neither should they be over-estimated and exaggerated by LA’s and used as reasons to remove children from family .
    It is highly unlikely that a baby will die if left with a Mum who is given support, advice and instruction etc. including supervision and/or reform with monitoring. Especially when under a court order or when Mum and baby are sent to one of the excellent establishments we have been informed about on another thread a month or two ago,at Christmas. We talked about family preservation.
    With all these possibilities and alternatives available, for a Local Authority to argue for removal saying the baby would die ( not might but would) if left with family is a gross exaggeration, isn’t it?
    Two questions for you, if you have time:-
    a) Do you deny that sometimes LA’s have illegitimate aims and that sometimes they are dead set on getting children into care for exploitation and/or financial reasons?
    b) Do you accept that if due legal process and legal guidelines are not followed scrupulously , when families are liquidated permanently , then the order has been issued following illegitimate Court proceedings?

    Inhumanity thrives in systems dominated by nameless bureaucrats who are granted too much power. These organisations attract many charlatans as well as well-meaning ,honest individuals. Unfortunately ,it is inevitable. When we have child-protection systems run by local government departments we are bound to see it. In a bureaucracy ,the various functionaries tend to act without thinking; they will sign off children for adoption, transportation offshore or to various residential homes ( some meaning a life in captivity) even to concentration or refugee camps on the instructions of their management, obey the management and alter reports etc. to suit management. If they don’t, they don’t get far up the ladder.
    It is also very easy for lawyers to fall into the same trap, let’s not deny it. They may tend to step over disproportionality rules knowing proceedings have been illegitimate but doing the easy thing and saying , the baby will die if not removed. Trouble is that when we allow illegitimate legal process on one occasion , it soon becomes the norm. You say it has happened several times in your experience. I think it is called HYPO-NORMALISATION. That means that very little regard is paid to criticism of professional malpractice allowing inhumanity to thrive.

    I hope this comment makes sense but whatever neither lawyers nor SW’s should take it as personal criticism .I know most of you would not fall into malpractice but we are all human and I’m afraid many do. It comes with the institution you work for.

    All comments welcome.

  5. Angelo Granda

    QUOTE : It is this kind of denial which leads to parents losing care of their children : UNQUOTE.

    This appears to say that removal is ordered not for real or alleged neglect but for being ‘ in denial’ about problems.

    I hope it explains to readers why it is that LA’s concentrate often from the outset on peppering a case with suggestions that parents won’t acknowledge concerns,are defensive ,in denial,unable to work with professionals etc.

    Even when it turns out allegations and reports are wrong , the Family Court will still remove children because their parents have had the audacity to argue against them.
    For a respondent to be discriminated against for responding in accordance with court directions seems wrong.
    I suggest the LA’s purposely exaggerate and fabricate much evidence. When parents deny falsehoods,their children are doomed.

    1. HelenSparkles

      Sigh, no children are not removed because their parents are in denial. They may indeed be removed because of the issue their parents are in denial about, if it is a risk.

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