Fashion Shows Where Kids In Care Are Paraded For Adoption? Welcome To Middle America.

Featuring some of the most offensive content on adoption we have seen in some time, and stemming from a film called Catwalk Kids, this documentary highlights the practice of pushing adoptive children down a catwalk in front of prospective parents with a view to finding children in care a permanent home.

If the name of this 2011 documentary alone doesn’t make your blood boil, the short trailer will. Eighteen seconds in, and what appears to be a spokesperson for this embarrassing policy tells us, “We assumed these children were un-adoptable.” This is what kick starts a rationale which tries to justify placing children on display in order to secure adoptions for some of the most vulnerable children in America. The same spokesman tells the interviewer, “This is for the children. This is for them.” Not for the State then, desperately trying to rid itself of a massive financial burden.*

Unable to find secure placements for children in need, those interviewed for the documentary explain that as the current strategy to find homes was not working, a new and radical plan was needed. Rather than look for an intelligent solution, the authorities involved decide to glamourise the adoption process by making these children ‘perform’ up and down a makeshift catwalk.

No one seems to have considered what damage this is doing to their self-esteem, or general development. At best, these children may  grow up thinking that in order to be loved they must be fun, glamorous and engaging. At worst, those children who are not ‘chosen’, may develop mental health difficulties that will linger on into adulthood.

The stupidity of this practice just takes our breath away.

As does a scene in the trailer in which another buffoon justifies their warped idea of a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality  by saying, “This is a business,” and another declaring, “Without marketing, we would have to close our doors.”

The documentary does attempt to give different views on America’s Fashion Parade policy. In a thought-provoking segment of the film, one of our favourite British child welfare campaigners David Akinsanya, talks about the flaws in our own adoption policies and the ways in which the government has let children down. Of the State’s involvement in raising children, David says,

“How dare we as the State say we’re going to take children away from inadequate parents and then be inadequate parents ourselves? ”

The documentary also touches on adoption practices around the world, including the UK’s own National Adoption Week, when the Sun newspaper runs ads with children’s photos and details about them with a view to securing adoptions. This practice, which is not exclusive to The Sun, continues to raise serious concerns about children’s right to privacy and just as importantly their safety.  These images are circulated to The Sun’s 5 million strong readership, and more once the Sun’s website, which they also use to ‘advertise’ children, is included.

The name of the film is of course designed to grab your attention and upset you, but much like the practice of throwing children onto a catwalk the premise is lacking in substance and completely misses the point. Making a sale is not equal to a happy ending.

Catwalk Kids is available to watch on Amazon, and is free for those with Amazon Prime or Amazon’s monthly video package.

*Stats from 2006

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The Buzz

The latest child welfare news:

Question it!

Welcome to another week.

Ongoing failings within Family Court process have been highlighted in a recent case where judge, Mrs Justice Pauffley condemns, amongst other things, unethical private agreements between judges and social work staff, negligent child protection assessments of parents and psychiatric reports which are written often in a day and without even speaking to the family members whom the reports are about.

The case is so riddled with deeply embedded malpractice that President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has promised to tackle the secretive nature in which agreements are reached between local authorities and the court.

Mrs Justice Pauffley said in court:

‘There was, apparently, an established but largely clandestine arrangement between the local authority and the court which, to my mind, has considerable repercussions for justice.’ Mrs Justice Pauffley added: ‘In public law proceedings the local authority is the applicant. It is not and should never be seen as the decision maker. That is the role of the court.

Our question to you then, is just this: how can the Family Court rid itself of unethical practices? 

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Ministers and Children’s Policy – What’s New

 

Prime Minister Theresa May has made a number of important changes to the roles and responsibilities of ministers working on child welfare policy.

These include a wider brief for Minister Of State For Vulnerable Children And Families, Ed Timpson, with added responsibilities in the areas of children’s mental health, the pupil premium and the National Citizen Service.

We still think it’s strange that child welfare matters continue to be lumped in under the Department for Education, and spread out across other ministerial roles. It’s time we had a dedicated department for this work.

We’ve added a break down below of the current roles, responsibilities and who’s in charge of which area:

Department of Health

  • Philip Dunne Minister of state for health Hospital care; NHS performance and operations; the workforce; patient safety and maternity care
  • Nicola Blackwood Under secretary of state for public health and Innovation Children’s health; school nursing; and mental health in general
  • David Mowat Under secretary of state for community health and care Carers; community services; learning disabilities; and all elements of primary care – including dentistry and pharmacy

Department For Education

  • Justine Greening Secretary of State for Education; minister for women and equalities Early years; adoption and child protection; teachers’ pay; the school curriculum; school improvement; and the establishment of free schools and academies; crossgovernment equality strategy; transgender equality
  • Edward Timpson Minister of state for vulnerable children and families Children’s social care, including child protection, children in care and adoption, care leavers, local authority innovation and intervention, and the Children and Social Work Bill; special educational needs, including education, health and care plans and reforms, attainment and progress, high needs funding; rounded and resilient young people, including mental health and character; school sport and personal, social and health education; National Citizen Service; behaviour and attendance, exclusions and alternative provision; pupil premium and pupil premium plus
  • Caroline Dinenage Under secretary of state for women, equalities and early years Childcare and early years, including free childcare expansion; school bullying; sexual orientation and transgender policy; the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Nick Gibb Minister of state for school standards Teachers; national schools funding formula; curriculum assessment and qualifications; school accountability, including Ofsted; Education for All Bill
  • Robert Halfon Minister of state for apprenticeships and skills Careers education and guidance in schools; apprenticeships; funding for post-16 provision; further education and sixth form colleges

Communities and Local Government 

  • Sajid Javid Secretary of State for Communities Supporting local government, communities and neighbourhoods; and Troubled Families programme

Home Office

  • Sarah Newton Under secretary of state for vulnerability, safeguarding and countering extremism Drugs and alcohol; antisocial behaviour; crime prevention; gangs and youth crime; child sexual exploitation and abuse; online child abuse; honour-based violence; missing children; FGM; prostitution; domestic violence
  • Robert Goodwill Minister of state for immigration Resettlement policy including the operation of Home Office resettlement programmes for vulnerable children and families

Ministry of Justice

  • Elizabeth Truss Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Overall strategy on criminal justice; penal policy; human rights; and rehabilitation
  • Dr Phillip Lee Under secretary of state for victims, youth and family justice Offender health and mental health; substance misuse; Taylor Review of youth justice; youth custodial estate; YJB; youth sentencing; restorative justice; and family law, family justice and mediation, including Cafcass
  • Sam Gyimah Under secretary of state for prisons and probation Prison reform; custody; offender employment and education; probation services; parole; and sentencing

Department For Work and Pensions

  • Damian Hinds Minister of state for employment Employment strategy; Jobcentre Plus; Youth Contract; family support issues, including childcare, maternity benefits and flexible working
  • Penny Mordaunt Minister of state for disabled people, work and health Cross-government disability issues and disability benefits

Culture, Media and Sport

  • Rob Wilson Minister for civil society Volunteering and social action; voluntary sector; social investment; mutuals; youth work policy; NCS

What do you think? Would you create new departments, or add other areas that may have been overlooked?

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Debate Explores The Future Of Legal Aid

An open event next month, hosted by Halsbury’s hopes to explore issues relating to Legal Aid and Litigants in Person (LIPs).

The debate takes place on 22nd September 2016, 6.30pm -10pm, and will be held at One Great George Street. 

Confirmed speakers to date include:

  • Joshua Rozenberg QC (as chairperson)
  • Sir Robin Knowles
  • Paul Yates (Freshfields)
  • Ruth Daniel (Access to Justice Foundation)

Questions up for debate will include:

  • Where are we on access to justice for those with limited income: how have we got here, and (most importantly) where do we go from here?
  • How do we ensure quality of service for those that receive legal aid?
  • If the future is maintaining current budgets, are there smarter ways of spending which can ensure this has a greater effect/impact?
  • How do we set up a justice system that respects and caters for unrepresented litigants?

This is a free event and hopes to bring together senior figures from politics, the judiciary, the Pro-Bono and Legal Aid communities, campaign bodies and others to discuss Legal Aid and priorities for the future.

If you’d like to attend, you can book your place here.

For anyone unable to attend, you can follow the debate on Twitter, @HLEThinkTank and search the hashtag#HLEDebate.

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The Buzz

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Researching Reform For Jordans

For our column over at Jordans this month, we explain why the appointment of a fourth Chair for the nation’s Independent Child Abuse Inquiry should be viewed as a second chance and what the Inquiry must do now to make the most of that chance.

In the article, we discuss the missing elements to the Inquiry which are currently preventing it from moving forward and we offer some suggestions for improving the Inquiry’s chances of success.

You can catch the article here.

As part of our commitment to transparency we’ve added a short film about Jordans below for anyone wishing to know more about the publication we write for.

Question it!

Welcome to another week.

The Court Of Protection has often raised concerns for the secretive way in which it conducts its business. With far reaching powers like the ability to compel individuals to undergo abortions, surgery and even detain those considered to be mentally impaired in places like hospitals, it is a court with an enormous amount of influence on day-to-day living.

Google “Court of Protection Problems” and a lot of items come up, including an article from The Guardian which explains why the Court Of Protection carries out much of its work behind closed doors. The piece explains that many of the cases the Court hears are private and involve families who would prefer not to let the world in on their personal affairs.

But every now and then a case crops up which blurs the boundary between right to privacy and public interest, and raises questions about the judges who make such draconian orders. The case of Kathleen Danby, a grandmother facing jail for hugging her grand-daughter is one such case. The case began with a contact order which effectively banned Ms Danby from seeing her grand daughter, Janine, who was placed in care.  Ms Danby defied this court order in 2014 by hugging Janine, an event which was caught on CCTV by social workers, and subsequently saw Ms Danby go to jail. Ms Danby faces jail again, after her grand daughter ran away from her care home recently, and tried to make her way to Ms Danby.

Whilst we don’t know the reasons for the order banning contact (the article explains that Ms Danby lives near Janine’s father, so perhaps there are concerns in relation to his conduct), we do know that Janine is 20 years old, an adult in the eyes of the law. Ms Danby is 74 years old, and clearly not deterred by jail time.

No one has yet questioned how Janine was able to run away from her care home not once, but twice. We already know that there are huge numbers of children running away from care homes in England, a phenomenon which continues to place children at risk of exploitation and other forms of harm.

So our question then, is just this: Do you think the Court Of Protection is handling this case in the best way possible, regardless of what the facts may be, or is it unfair to judge without all the information? 

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Professor Jay Appointed Head Of Abuse Inquiry

Former Inquiry panel member, Professor Alexis Jay, has been chosen to replace Justice Goddard as Chair for the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual abuse.

In a statement on the Inquiry’s website, Professor Jay says:

“I am committed to ensuring this Inquiry does everything it has set out to do and does so with pace, with confidence and with clarity.

“Be in no doubt – the Inquiry is open for business and people are busier than ever working hard to increase momentum. The Panel and I are determined to make progress on all parts of the Inquiry’s work, including speaking to victims and survivors.

I am determined to overcome the challenges along the way. I will lead the largest public inquiry of its kind and together with my fellow Panel members we will fearlessly examine institutional failures, past and present and make recommendations so that the children of England and Wales are better protected now and in the future.”

In a letter to the Home Secretary  in which Professor Jay responds to the Government’s invitation to Chair the Inquiry, Professor Jay accepts, and declares she has no direct interests relating to the subject matter of the Inquiry. The letter goes on to detail her experience as a social worker, manager and Chief Executive and Chief Inspector of Social Work For Scotland. However she is perhaps best known for her report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, often referred to as the Jay Report, which was very well received by survivors and victims of abuse.

Professor Jay’s appointment is important for several reasons. It of course symbolises the latest effort in finding a reliable and appropriate Chair but it is also the first time that the Inquiry has hosted a Chair without any legal qualifications. This may prove challenging if the Inquiry continues along its adversarial path, holding trial-like hearings and flirting with Inquiry boundaries as set out by the Inquiries Act, but it is also a blessing. The Inquiry is heavily dominated by legal minds, which whilst very useful for pouring over detail and pulling out potential violations of law, is not so well suited to teasing out the narrative which has allowed abuse in this country to go undetected and ignored for so long. That requires someone who has direct experience with the subject matter of child exploitation and a solid understanding of victim and survivor culture. Professor Jay may well be able to offer the insight necessary to make the Inquiry much more efficient and potentially ground breaking.

We wish Professor Jay much luck and strength.

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Loophole Allows Unqualified Psychologists To Practice

An article in the July-August edition of Private Eye magazine highlights a controversial loophole which could allow incompetent and unscrupulous Family Court experts to practice whilst enjoying immunity from malpractice claims.

It describes how unqualified psychologists are able to act as experts, and dodge malpractice claims by simply avoiding the use of various “protected” titles like ‘educational’, ‘clinical’ or ‘forensic’. This means that they can offer their services without the need to be  registered and regulated by the UK’s watchdog, the Health and Care Professions Council  (HCPC).

The article goes on to express concerns about unregistered court experts who are often invited to give evidence on cases involving rape, child exploitation and child contact and care cases. The piece focuses on one particular psychologist who is not registered but uses several of the protected titles on his website and has worked on high profile and often complex child protection cases. However, as he calls himself a consultant and not a psychologist the HCPC maintains he is not misusing a protected title  and therefore cannot act.

This development is particularly serious because the consultant works in the Family Court advising on child welfare matters. The new Family Justice Council Guidelines also require that psychologists working in the family courts as experts must be HCPC registered – which this psychologist is not.

Professor Jane Ireland’s 2012 report detailing serious concerns about the quality of expert evidence from Family Court psychiatrists and psychologists – it found that over 20% of psychologists  in  family cases  were  unqualified  and  65%  of  expert  reports  were  either  of  ‘poor’  or  ‘very  poor’  quality – is also mentioned in the Private Eye piece. Jane’s report was responsible for the new Family Justice guidelines on expert witnesses which were designed to protect the public.

It’s clear that the law and policy in this area needs urgent attention. Researching Reform is a strong advocate of regulating this area further in order to ensure that the quality of expert evidence in the Family Court, and in other courts too, conforms to best practice guidelines.

We are adding a redacted version of the  Private Eye piece below:

“A  gaping  hole  in  the  regulation  of  psychologists  could  put  the  public  at  risk  from  unscrupulous,  inept  or  unaccountable ‘experts’.  

Providing  psychologists  don’t  use  one  of  nine  so-called  ‘protected  titles’  –  for  example,  educational,  clinical,  or  forensic  – any  can  offer  their  services  without  the  need  to  be  registered  and  regulated  by  the  U.K.’s  watchdog,  the  Health  and  Care Professions  Council  (HCPC).  Even  if  serious  concerns  or  complaints  are  raised  about  them,  they  remain  immune  from investigation  because  they’re  not  registered.

Nowhere  is  the  danger  of  the  regulatory  body’s  impotence  more  starkly  illustrated  than  in  the  courts,  where  it  seems  that unregistered,  unqualified  and  potentially  unfit  psychologists  can  operate  as  ‘experts’  in  even  the  most  serious  cases  of murder,  rape  or  child  sexual  exploitation.  No-one  illustrates  this  absurd  Catch-22  better  than  ‘consultant  psychologist’ [edited],  who  has  acted  as  an  expert  in  several  high-profile  cases,  including  the  [edited]  child  grooming  case,  where a  gang  raped  and  trafficked  underage  girls.

[Edited],  a  trained  educational  psychologist  who  used  to  work  in  local  government,  has  been  the  subject  of  at  least  four complaints,  including  manipulating  data  and  acting  beyond  his  qualifications  and  expertise.  Three  have  not  been  investigated because  he  has  never  been  registered  with  the  HCPC.  Because  of  the  fourth,  his  application  for  registration  in  2012  was refused,  when  he  was  judged  to  be  ‘not  of  good  character’.

According  to  his  website,  [edited]  also  acts  in  the  family  courts  in  sensitive  child  contact  and  care  cases,  in  what  looks  like a  clear  breach  of  new  guidelines  from  the  Family  Justice  Council  (a  public  body  which  advises  on  family  justice  matters) and  the  industry  body  the  British  Psychological  Society  (BPS).  The  guidelines  state  that  family  courts  expect  all psychologists  acting  as  experts  to  be  HCPC-registered  unless  they  are  academics.

In  fact  his  website  offers  services  in  several  of  the  areas  of  expertise  covered  by  protected  titles  (educational,  forensic, practitioner,  counselling),  again  contrary  to  what  the  BPS  says  in  its  online  directory  of  chartered  psychologists  (in  which [edited]  is  listed).  It  says  that  ‘anyone  offering  services  within  these  [protected  title]  areas  must  also  be  registered’  with  the HCPC.

[Edited]  website  logo  even  uses  the  word  ‘educational’  –  but  because  he  simply  chooses  to  call  himself  a  ‘consultant’,  the HCPC  maintains  he  is  not  misusing  a  protected  title  and  thus  it  can’t  act.  It  adds  that  statutory  regulation  and corresponding  regulatory  titles  are  decided  by  the  government,  and  it’s  for  ministers  to  change  them.  The  BPS,  meanwhile, says  it  now  only  ‘advises’  on  standards  and  best  practice,  ‘but  where  we  are  aware  of  gaps  in  regulation,  we  raise  these with  the  regulator’  –  i.e.  the  HCPC!

The  BPS  says  it  can’t  comment  on  individual  members,  but  adds  that  it  has  raised  concerns  that  the  general  title ‘psychologist’  is  not  protected.  It  still  seems  happy  to  promote  [edited],  though.

As  the  HCPC  admits,  [edited]  is  not  the  only  one  dancing  rings  around  registration.  Prof.  Jane  Ireland  –  author  of  a damning  2012  study  which  triggered  the  recent  family  court  reform,  having  found  that  one  in  five  psychologists  in  family cases  was  working  beyond  their  expertise  and  65%  of  expert  reports  were  either  of  ‘poor’  or  ‘very  poor’  quality  –  tells  the Eye:  ‘All  practising  psychologists  who  act  as  expert  witnesses  should  be  regulated  so  that  the  public  are  protected’.

[Edited]  was  refused  registration  because  of  ‘concerns  about  his  character’  after  staff  at  [edited]  Young  offenders Institution  asked  in  2012  for  proof  of  identity  and,  er,  HCPC  registration.  It  triggered  lengthy  and  ‘inappropriate’ correspondence  between  [edited]  and  the  jail.  An  HCPC  regulatory  panel  threw  out  his  appeal  in  2013,  saying  he  was completely  unable  to  accept  that  his  written  outbursts  had  been  unacceptable,  that  he  had  demonstrated  no  insight  into  the potential  consequences  and  that  he  had  shown  no  remorse.  The  panel  said  that  he  had  displayed  a  similar  attitude  in communication  with  the  HCPC  itself,  that  it  could  not  rule  out  a  repetition  of  similar  behaviour  and  that  his  conduct  would ‘damage  public  confidence  in  the  regulatory  process’.

[Edited]  response  to  the  three  complaints  made  by  fellow  psychologists  has  been  to  fire  off  counter-allegations,  the  irony being  that  those  properly  registered  and  regulated  complainants  then  find  themselves  under  HCPC  investigation,  while  he escapes.

Thus,  in  the  [edited]  grooming  case,  [edited],  a  registered  chartered  psychologist,  was  so  alarmed  to  find  an unregistered  educational  psychologist,  whom  she  considered  neither  qualified  to  reach  his  conclusions  about  an  adult  sex attacker  nor  completely  open  about  those  conclusions,  that  she  complained  to  both  the  HCPC  and  the  BPS.  She  was  told neither  could  do  anything.  Instead  she  herself  was  investigated  when  [edited]  fired  off  a  counterblast.  ‘It  was  very  irritating, but  of  course  there  was  no  merit  in  his  complaints  and  they  were  all  swiftly  dismissed,’  she  told  the  Eye.  [Edited]  boasts on  his  website  about  the  [edited]  case:  ‘Of  the  seven  men  convicted,  five  were  given  life  sentences.  The  man  I  assessed was  given  a  sentence  substantially  below  that  of  his  co-defendants,  and  without  a  tariff’.

Another  victim  of  [edited]’s  revenge  salvos  was  [edited],  an  academic  and  leading  clinical  and  forensic psychologist.  After  taking  advice,  he  complained  to  the  then  regulator,  the  BPS,  that  [edited] had  manipulated  IQ  test scores  in  the  trial  of  a  man  accused  in  2008  of  converting  replica  weapons  into  firearms  used  in  a  series  of  murders.  It made  the  man  appear  less  intelligent,  and  therefore  less  culpable.  [The academic]  told  the  Court  at  the  time  he  had  ‘never encountered  such  extraordinary  conduct  before’.  In  the  event  it  seems  [edited]  evidence  held  little  or  no  sway:  the defendant  was  convicted  and  sentenced  to  life.

When  [edited]  duly  counter-complained,  however,  the  BPS  decided  to  investigate  [edited] complaint  first.  It  swiftly  exonerated [the academic];  but  it  never  got  round  to  investigating  [edited] because,  in  the  meantime,  fitness  to  practise  and  regulatory issues  had  been  passed  to  the  HCPC.  [The academic] told  the  Eye:  ‘Guidelines  indicate  that  the  need  to  protect  clients from  unsafe  practice  from  psychological  experts  and  professional  witnesses  is  paramount.  But  there  is  absolutely  no protection  if  a  psychologist  is  not  registered’.

In  a  third  case  involving  [edited],  while  he  again  escaped  investigation  of  complaints  about  his  expertise  and  findings,  it took  almost  two  years  before  his  unfounded  counter-allegations  against  a  registered  psychologist  were  dismissed  –  this  time with  an  HCPC  apology.

No-one  can  say  whether  the  complaints  about  [edited]  would  have  been  upheld.  The  scandal  is  that  because  he  can  so easily  act  outside  the  regulatory  system,  no-one  even  bothers  to  consider  them.”

What changes would you like to see in the regulation of Family Court experts? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

A very big thank you to Roger Crawford, who alerted us to this article.

Private Eye

 

 

 

 

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