Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Kidnapped By The State: The Scandal Of The UK’s Stolen Children

Last week, a delegation from the European Union visited the UK to investigate innumerable allegations of illegal practices relating to forced adoptions, i.e. taking children for adoption without parental consent. The barbaric practice is not permitted in any other European country, except here. If you think it couldn’t happen to you, read on.

Conservative MP Lucy Allan’s nightmare began with a visit to her GP for depression, which spiraled into a sequence of horrifying events, over which she had no control. Having been referred to social services for “support”, she was branded an “unfit mother” by an expert in the pay of the local authority, who she had never met.

Experts used in family courts have been widely criticized. Professor Jane Ireland reviewed reports submitted to the family courts by psychologists and found most of them were written by ‘professional experts’, some not even qualified, who make up to £4,000 per report. Those who side with the parents are rarely invited back.

Lucy Allan’s husband was never interviewed, yet based on a specious “expert report”, they came within a whisker of losing their child. Despite this horrendous experience, Lucy Allan was one of the lucky ones. She had the resources to launch a robust legal challenge, most victims do not.

If you’ve ever burnt toast, given your child too much freedom or not enough freedom, put your coat on before that of your child, suffered with depression or had a panic attack (even once), been in care, been in an abusive relationship (even though it’s long over), be afraid. Any of the above could constitute “risk of future emotional abuse” to your children, and is increasingly the sole basis upon which children in the UK are surreptitiously taken from biological parents and adopted without their consent. 95% of whom will never see their children again.

To compound this tragedy, many children won’t be adopted at all. 4,000 children under irreversible adoption orders languish in care homes or foster homes. Meanwhile, children in care are routinely ignored by social services when they report abuse.

While children are being ripped from their birth parents on the grounds of "possible risk of future emotional harm", they are being placed in the care of proven abusers and suffer actual harm. A report in the Independent last year found that, More than 2 out of 5 foster carers in proven abuse cases had been subject to previous allegations - yet they were still caring for children.

Haringey Council (responsible for failing to prevent the tragic death of baby P’s) and the police were criticised last year for ‘serious failings’ in a review into the suicide of teenager Mary Stroman. They failed to investigate claims she had been sexually abused for 4 years. As many as 9 police officers can be deployed to restrain a mother while her newborn baby is ripped from her arms by social workers, without any evidence of wrongdoing, yet children who report actual abuse continue to be ignored by police and social services.

If someone is accused of murder there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In UK family courts, the child’s biological parents are presumed guilty and their children can be removed, in secret family courts, without any evidence or legal representation and without any right to appeal, never to be seen again. If parents dare to speak out about their injustice, they face prison.  Even when families can prove that they are fit and the decision was wrong, the adoption orders are irrevocable. It’s a life sentence for a crime that was never even committed.

Single mothers, lower income families and foreigners are the most vulnerable. For example, a pregnant Italian woman came to London on a training course and had a panic attack. She was sectioned, sedated and woke up to find her baby had been forcibly removed. A court order was granted to conduct a caesarian and then to have her baby adopted without consent. At no point was she, the baby’s father or her family consulted.

One of the worst miscarriages of justice (that we know of) carried out in UK family courts was that which was inflicted upon the Musa family. The couple’s 4 children were seized on trumped up allegations. When proven to be fallacious, new ones were presented. When the couple had another baby, six police officers and 3 social workers ripped the baby from his mother’s arms when she was breastfeeding, just hours after giving birth. Under the Children’s Act, parents and children are entitled to regular contact until an adoption order is obtained. During the first visit with their older child, she said she had been interfered with sexually at her foster home. They never saw her again and they will never know what became of her.

This would appear to contravene the Children’s Act but it seems the law, when it is there for the protection of vulnerable children, is not always binding. In 2010, The Telegraph quoted a whistleblower, At a recent case conference, the social workers admitted that maybe they had made a mistake, and that the mother they had falsely accused was in fact devoted and blameless. But apparently, because of “press interest” in the case, the officials agreed that the council could not afford the very damaging publicity which might follow if the unhappy children were reunited with their parents. It was therefore vital that the council should continue to justify its actions.

Last year, Justice Pauffley severely criticised family court judges, social workers and local authorities for colluding to remove children from their biological families without just cause. In an appeal case, she lambasted the unnamed authority for removing a child based on ‘the result, almost certainly of cutting and pasting” the social services report. Ms Pauffley described this practice as having “become the norm” in local family courts, which she found ‘profoundly alarming”. She described “an established but largely clandestine arrangement between the local authority and the court which, to my mind, has considerable repercussions for justice”.

The concept of the good enough parent, emanating from the work of Donald Winnicott, and integral to any good social work teaching, was designed to defend ordinary, imperfect parents, against what he saw as the growing threat of intrusion into the family from professional expertise. Social workers in this country are increasingly seen as that threat. Due to government policies that incentivize child removal, the focus of social work had shifted from supporting families to succeed to that of setting them up to fail.

The statistics speak for themselves. Over 2,000 children per month are taken into care. In 2014 the number of children being removed from their families in England alone was nearly 30,000.  In total, 67,000 children are in care in the UK. Many are so distraught they run away. Around 10,000 go missing every year.

The head of the Social Worker’s union, Bridget Robb, has expressed concerns at the speed at which this government, through policies and incentives, is moving social work away from being about doing everything possible to try to keep children with their biological families to a culture that favours forced, fast adoptions. There has been a 96% increase in the number of court orders placing children for adoption in the last 3 years. She believes this disturbing trend is a result of government ideology and sits with the rhetoric of the welfare state and, “the language about an underclass of people not deemed fit to look after their children”.

There is no greater risk to children than poverty and this government, through its blind pursuance of austerity, is pushing poor families over the edge, psychologically as well as financially. There’s something fundamentally wrong with a system that provides State payments of £400+ per week, per child to foster carers, but only £50+ per week, per child to biological parents.

Where there is evidence of abuse, as was the heartbreaking case of baby P, of course swift intervention should be made but, more children are taken for emotional abuse than physical and sexual abuse added together. Despite “baby P” the number of children taken for physical abuse is steadily falling as a percentage of the total number of children removed.

What’s happening in the UK’s family courts makes the Irish Magdalene laundries scandal look like Narnia. When the European delegation publish their findings we should brace ourselves to be shamed. As Nelson Mandela said, There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children. 

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