Today I want to talk about the Children and families bill 2013, I’ve already shared some thoughts on the sections covering SEN but today I’m writing my personal views in relation to those sections of the bill mainly concerning ‘Adoption and children looked after by local authorities’ & that of family justice (public family law).
People maybe somewhat surprised to hear me say this, but the proposed changes within this section actually worry me more than any other part of the bill! Yes, that does include SEN! Despite SEN being of great importance to me, as it affects my own family and is what I campaign for, there is ever increasing campaigning for the issues the surround SEN, and over time more knowledge and awareness has been developed. Its the issues surrounding adoption and family justice that concern me somewhat more, mainly due to societies ignorance when it comes to this dark and somewhat hidden area of law, one that leaves families broken. I honestly believe that if every single person in the UK really knew how the laws surrounding these issues were applied, then things may have moved with the times and the true meaning of justice would have been found by now.
Its an area that doesn’t affect many of us. Many will never have to deal with family courts, social services and the possible heartache of losing a child to the state when no crime has been committed. Yes, many children do need to be taken from parents who fail to provide the right home environment, parental care and so forth, but it may surprise you when I say that many children are in fact taken from loving homes, from the parents who are able to care for them and Is desperately long to do so. These parents haven’t inflicted any sort of harm or pose any risk of future harm to their children, but have them removed from their care all the same.
Are children really taken by the state when really they should remain with the loving family they were born into? Yes! Believe it or not this is true and thousands would tell you so if given such an opportunity to do so!
I apologise for such a long post, but firstly, before I go on to enlist the reasons why I think some of the areas of the bill have left myself and many others concerned, let me highlight the current problems within this somewhat hidden area of our family justice system and that of the laws that surround child protection (Children’s Act 1989) & that of the ‘Adoption and Children Act 2002.
Do you actually know any of the following?
Children are currently placed on child protection registers with a huge proportion being removed from the care of their birth parents, simply because the local authorities claims that there is a “Risk” of emotional abuse to child one day in the future. Here’s a few examples when this happens…
A child born into a family where a mother has been abused by a partner! This can be physically, emotionally or sexually! This could be before the child was even born or in some cases, even conceived. What’s more the mother may have left the relationship having built up the courage to do so, but is now faced with the involvement of the Social Services (SS).
Example… A woman who is to frighten to leave her partner, a man who controls and bullies her, finally gets up the courage to report him to the police and bravely leaves the family home with the children. With no place to live she contacts family support services. Someone, either the police or support service has approached the SS (Social Services) as the child protection laws permit them to do so. Now the children of the woman are placed on the child protection register because the mother “Allowed” herself to be emotionally abused by their father. The woman is a mother who has never hurt her children, her local GP and Health Visitors have no concerns, school is happy with her children’s progress, yet this mother now has to report every move she makes to SS. The SS eventually do apply for care proceedings and she eventually loses her children. The reason given… “Risk of Emotional Abuse!”
Next time you hear about a battered wife or even husband, who didn’t speak out, the chances are they were not only afraid of their partner but also of the involvement of their local authority and its Social Services team. Because as I’ve explained… Such a situation can warrant the authorise to apply for interim care orders.
Basically, there is a strong that children are removed from parental care because the mother has reported a crime in which she has sadly fallen victim to!
Then their are those parents who have Special Educational Needs or a disability!
Believe it or not, many of these parents have there children removed from their care, having only just given birth to them. In many cases this is within hours! Their only crime, they have been born with SEN or a disability. Instead of support, these babies are removed and placed on adoption registers where many are adopted quickly due to them being newborns. In actual fact, most adoptive parents have been decided upon by the authority during the birth mothers pregnancy, sometimes before she is even aware of the looming situation.
The majority of children taken by the state and put up for adoption are children under 3 years old. It is known by all that these children are much easier to adopt out.
I know of a case where the Local authority is awaiting care proceedings for a 3 year old toddler. She is the daughter of a mother with slight SEN and is said to be too advanced. They claim there is a risk the child will become to clever for the parent in later years (this therefore highlights as RISK OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE)!! The parent only has a mild learning disability due to the radiotherapy she received for her childhood cancer! Sadly I know all this because the mother involved is in fact that of my little sister. Yes, having asked the SS for support following an abusive relationship she now could lose her child too.
Another issue in need of highlighting is how local authorities claim there to be “Risk of Abuse” if the parent of a child has sadly been the victim of child abuse during their own childhood years. This gives the social workers another reason to step in and take the child. Many mothers have lost their children for such reasons and this is never really brought to light. You may think, “No there must be additional reasons’ I know I used to think so too! The truth is, many of these mothers have their babies taken at birth, they don’t have the opportunity to prove they are able to be a good parent, let alone there be any other reason for the removal of their child from their care.
Many parents desperately do all that they can to cooperate with SS. They later find that by having done so, the SS have written poor reports on there parenting. Normal everyday small issues such as lack of time to do the housework are extremely exaggerated and blown out of proportion in court.
And here’s the really scary bit that up in till last year I was totally unaware off…
Are you aware of any of the following?
SS can use evidence in a family court that is based on hearsay! It will normally be evidence that is made up of unfounded information and sadly false allegations.The court will except and permit evidence of such type regardless of it having not been investigated or validated! The judge will use this along with other reports (often including that of expert reports given by those who have never even met the child) to decide a child’s future, one that can potentially rip a loving family apart. The family courts are the only courts that use such evidence. If we tried to use hearsay evidence in a court of criminal law a judge would refuse to even permit it let alone use it.
This means you could technically upset your neighbour who thinks its awesome to ruin your life by making a little call to the SS telling them a load of untruths. SS may then get involved, stick your children on the register and then a year down the line, start care proceedings and once in court, produce that silly hearsay evidence which is the icing on the cake and inferences the decision of the judge, leaving you hopeless and without a voice.
Now, I say without a voice as my next point is just that! Its the “Gagging of parents” by the family courts.
We can argue all we want that family courts should be transparent and open to the public but lets be honest, this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. This is because of the child protection laws and the need to keep children safe from the media and allow for family privacy. However, what we as a society fail to realise is that families who lose their children when no crime is committed are gagged by the court. If they leave the court having lost their child and therefore go on to campaign their innocence, taking it to the media in a desperate attempt of gaining justice and being reunited with their children, they are actually thrown into prison for having done so. The parent will not have named their child but this doesn’t actually matter as they are still seen to have broken this unknown law. Where is the justice in that.
If a women is rapped she is able to tell her story if she wishes. She can even do it anomalously if desired. A loving parent desperately trying to get her children back, can however not do this without receiving punishment. Its like living in the dark ages, so much so it scares me.
This is where other laws are discredited, such as that of the human rights laws. Yes, honestly it sounds unbelievable that a parent can be punished for exercising their right to freedom of speech.
Basically, when a child is taken under the category that is “Risk off emotional abuse” parents are being punished for crimes not yet committed, ones that more then likely, possibly, never actually will be! These are simply risks that are based on a strangers report.
A court of law wouldn’t punish someone for looking in a clothing store where the Security guard felt that the person in question looked suspicious and therefore posed a “Risk”of shoplifting! They just wouldn’t, would they? Could you imagine the public outrage? Then why is this any different?
Why don’t many of you know about all this? Because you are not meant too. Its not that its some type of a conspiracy, all of the above is there to be discovered if you look close and hard enough! Just ask the press! National papers headline Newspapers have repeatedly reported the darker sides such as the allocation of bonuses for given to social workers for hitting adoption targets. Even though this was abolished some years back, it still doesn’t do the local authorities reports and statistics a bad turn or even that of the Individual social workers CV.
Other problems faced…
Lack of funding and current cuts for support services aimed at helping families combat areas of concern that some local authorities see as a green light to place children on the “At Risk Registers” These could be services to support single parents, parents with disabilities or those in need of support to leave violent or abusive partners.
The benefit cuts only add to pressures already inflicted on low income families, sadly creating a risk of State intervention for reasons beyond their own control.
The way in which social workers work, has to under go a complete reform for things to change. You may ask why they miss some children, why certain cases highlight how SS left abused children with parents who later killed them. This is because the SS spend to much time chasing around families of those they wish to label “At Risk Of…”
Sadly, many of those cases we read about in the paper, concerning SS lack of intervention despite the many reports and noted concerns, would have likely ended up in a state children’s home’s or with foster parents if they were saved in time. These Children are harder to adopt, the ones who are abused! Adoption agency who are constantly in battle with one another, struggle to find them adopters because of the great psychological impact that has been left with the child. Sadly it seems that putting children up for adoption under the age of 3 and with a label that reads “Risk off” as opposed to “Abused” makes them all the more disirable!
Only once changes have been made in the way the system operates, can that of the changes proposed in the Children’s and families bill 2013, actually be of great benefit to all. However, to pass these clauses within this bill as legislation, and to do so as things currently stand, will only make the above issues a whole lot worse.
Areas of concern in the 2013 Children’s and Families Bill…
Part 1 Clause 6
The Adoption and Children Act Register
Relates to when a local authority can add children to the adoption register
Supply of information for the register …
Children suitable for adoption or for whom a local authority in
England are considering adoption
Children suitable for adoption or for whom a local authority in England are considering adoption can be added to the Adoption register.
Search and inspection of the register by prospective adopters…
Regulations may make provision enabling prospective adopters who
are suitable to adopt a child to search and inspect the register, for the
purposes of assisting them to find a child for whom they would be
This is extremely unclear to me and I’m left asking myself “Can I be mistaken here?” You see from what I have read of the proposed legislation is that Local authorities will have the power to place a child on an adoption register, even before a court has made an order! Now are we just talking children in state care or those who remain with birth parents who are currently awaiting for a court hearing to decide if to oppose a care order?
I understand that for those children in long term care or foster placements, those who’s parents are not capable of caring for them, this may in fact be beneficial, especially if they have been in state care sometime. Given that these children are not in contact with birth parents and the ones who are, are in support of this then OK maybe! But for those parents who feel that the system is failing them, those fighting for children to remain with them or at least another family member as a last option, should most defiantly not have their child added to a register for prospective adopters to search through. This is a decision for a judge alone. By allowing the local authorities to add children they feel suitable for adoption to an adoption register is ludicrous. Parents will feel they have little hope in keeping their child at home with them. Especially if once at the hearing the local authority announces that prospective adopters have shown an interest in the child. This shouldn’t sway a judges decision but I lack confidence that it won’t. Social workers should be busy assessing appointed family members for suitability of becoming long term Carers if these have been put forward. Its important that all avenues have been fully explored before a child should be seen as a suitable candidate for adoption, especially when evidence is built upon hearsay evidence. If anything its not fair on both potential adopters and birth parents if a courts decision has yet to be made.
What’s more hasn’t it been said that we already have an overload of children needing loving homes? Why add those who’s futures have yet to be decided upon. We all know that children under the age of 3 are adopted more easily and these children shouldn’t be added to registers just for desirability.
Part 2 The Family Justice System
Clause 14 introduces a 26 week time limit to proceedings for care & supervision orders, with provision for extensions in certain circumstances.
Although I understand that it is of extreme importance to ensure more children who are truly unable to be cared for by birth parents, are placed into loving permeant homes more quickly. Removing the disruption of constant foster placements and state care homes, I fear that this rule will leave judges in a position to make life changing decisions on a whim.
With the use of hearsay evidence still being allowed to continue and the lack of independent support and advice for the parent, its my opinion that more parents who can, and in fact already do provide a safe and loving home for their child, will end up losing them to the state, simply because the SS claim their is a future “risk”
It is a great concern, that resources needed to ensure an effective 26 week timetable, will not be put in place at the same time as when the bill becomes a legislation.
With a 26 week timescale I am deeply concerned that this will reduce the time in which birth parents have to build a decent case for defence, access appropriate advice and support (especially given the long waiting times for such services due to funding cut backs). Above all, it will reduce the time needed to demonstrate to the court their parenting abilities. Although it is stated that family courts will always consider the best interest of the child and if able, will always aim to keep children within the family network by placing children with potential family members/relatives as opposed to placing them in state care and on adoption registers, the proposed timescales will leave less time for assessments of these potential family members/possible carers leaving the judge with no choice but to consider additional arrangements.
Above all it saddens me to see that this section of the bill has put empathise on the need for speeder timescales to unable a court to make an order for a child to be placed up for adoption and not one that ensures it makes the right decisions, whatever that maybe. Personally with such empathise given on adoption (including the addition of adding children to the adoption register even before that decision has reached at court) makes me think families will stand less hope then the little they may currently hold.
Sorry for such a long winded post. I could have most probably created all this into a more managing piece, though I’ve just felt a need to get it all off my chest and lay it out there for all to see and read.
I’d really love to hear the thoughts of others, whether the bill directly affects them in someway or they just want to make an opinion. After all… As they say… “Two voices are always better than one!”
You can click here to see proposed registration and changes as a result of the Children’s and Families Bill 2013