“More And More Paedophilically Inclined Men Start With Child Abuse Images.”

A leading expert in Germany on paedophilia running a rehabilitation programme has warned that an increasing number of men are accessing child abuse images online to act out their fantasies.

This, only days after Britain’s senior child protection officer proposed that all paedophiles who access these images should be spared jail.

Dr Beier’s key points in the interview, make for important reading:

  • Paedophilia is not a choice;
  • Not every paedophile commits sex offences against children and not every sex offender is a pedophile;
  • There are two types of offenders – those paedophylically inclined and those who use children as substitutes due to the lack of relationships with those their own age
  • Paedophiles know that sexually abusing a child is wrong, so there is no diminished mental capacity involved;
  • More and more paedophiles are exploring their sexual orientation by accessing child abuse image online and;
  • Reoffending rates among sex offenders remain very high.

Crucially, Dr Beier believes that the answer to reducing offending lies in offering support to juvenile offenders with ‘sexually conspicuous behaviour’, getting their families involved so that they feel supported as many paedophiles feel isolated and alone, and for countries across the world to join forces to create effective programmes which reduce the accessing of images online and sexual offences against children.

Another significant point Dr Beier makes is that reaching out to paedophiles who are not yet known to the justice system is perhaps the most important aspect of tackling child sexual abuse. He says allowing paedophiles the opportunity to come forward to seek support voluntarily is the way to prevent sexual offences in the first place.

This expert’s views should serve as a warning to our government – before we remove jail time with a view to offering offenders counselling, we need to have effective programmes in place first.

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

A medical researcher in the Netherlands has concluded that the surveys Dutch doctors use to detect child abuse very often leads to false accusations.  As of 2011, all emergency rooms and GPs in the country have to fill out a child abuse detection questionnaire whenever they treat a child. It is currently the only country in the world which has this kind of mandatory screening for child abuse.

The article tells us:

“Schouten investigated over 5 thousand such questionnaires from five Utrecht doctors. For her study, she kept track of how many negative and positive scores there were, and then how many of those children were in touch with child welfare or were reported to the child abuse hotline in the following 10 months. She found that in 92 out of 100 cases the suspicions were unfounded. And in 1 out of 100 cases, signs of child abuse were missed. “

The researcher proposes that instead of accusing parents straight off, developing good communication with families and approaching any injuries with a view to working out what caused them first, are far better ways to safeguard children.

Whilst the UK does not employ exactly the same methods when it comes to detecting child abuse, the GMC have issued ethical guidelines for doctors which are at face value positive and pro communication and support. This is an extract from the guidance:

“Child protection is a difficult area of practice that can involve making decisions that are emotionally challenging, complicated by uncertainty and sometimes go against the wishes of parents.3 Doctors should work with parents and families, where possible, to make sure that children and young people receive the care and support they need. But in cases where the interests and wishes of parents may put the safety of the child or young person at risk, doctors must put the interests of the child or young person first.4 Failure to act when a child or young person is at risk can have serious consequences for both the child and their family.”

However, there are similar problems with incorrect diagnoses of abuse here. Whilst child abuse referrals have soared, the level of child abuse actually detected has not increased.  In the past false accusations have been made through diagnoses based on photographs . Other methods such as secretly filming parents and diagnosing mothers with controversial mental health disorders have also been used to detect abuse, but continue to cause debate.

Our question then, is just this: what could the UK child protection system do to ensure better detection of child abuse and a reduction in rates of false diagnoses? 

We have very strong views about this, but we’ll hand over the floor to you.

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Tomorrow Is National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day

In order to raise awareness around the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE), March 18 has become the day organisations, government bodies and people around the world unite to try to tackle this issue.

The Metropolitan Police have already released stats on the extent of CSE which shows that this crime has shot up by 50% in London since 2014. In reality, what the stat may indicate is that the crime has become more visible since child protection went to the top of the government’s agenda 3 years ago.

Police forces around the country are also backing the Helping Hands campaign, which you can follow on Twitter with the hash tag #HelpingHands. More information on the day itself can be accessed on Twitter, too. 

Whilst it’s all well and good everyone backing the idea of preventing child sexual abuse, rallying cries from leads in this area are falling flat, not least of all because police forces and the government have made it clear that the severe lack of resources to fund this kind of work means exploitation is still rife. 

For us then, Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird’s words about the Helping Hands campaign, seem a little hollow:

“Doing all we can to keep the most vulnerable members of our communities safe is incredibly important to me and I give my full backing to this campaign.

There is lots of proactive work taking place to raise awareness of this issue and educate people about spotting the warning signs and I will ensure Northumbria Police continues to do all it can to tackle this completely unacceptable abuse.

Anyone who comes forward seeking help will be listened to and given the protection they need.

Absolutely no child or young person should be left to suffer in silence and our officers are committed to seeking justice for victims and put offenders before the courts.”

Nevertheless, an important day and if just one child is protected as a result of it, worth every tweet, post and news article.

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Social Workers Are Still Visiting Schools In Secret – It’s Time To Stop It.

In a case which bears all the hallmarks of shoddy child protection practice, a social worker has been criticised and a council fined for abducting a child from school to place her with new carers. 

This case has several aggravating factors.

The first is that the local authority decided to remove the child but never told the parents or the child in question, who had learning difficulties, about their decision.

The social worker in the case then went to the school unannounced, and removed the child. We do not know whether the child willingly left with the social worker or understood what was happening at the time.

The council’s reasons for removing the child without anyone’s knowledge was that one of the child’s carers was uncooperative and aggressive, and another carer failed to attend meetings. The carers in question were the child’s biological aunt and uncle. The child was also being looked after by her grandparents from time to time. The aunt and uncle denied the allegations made by the council.

Then, the social worker failed to tell the new carers about the child’s needs. The child then fled the new carers’ home and went back to her aunt and uncle, where she stayed past her 18th birthday.

The subsequent complaint made by the aunt and uncle was also poorly handled.

However, the most serious aspect to this case has to be that the Ombudsman could not find any evidence to support the council’s view that the original placement could not work. The Ombudsman went on to tell the council that it would have to review every single foster placement they had terminated in the last 12 months to ensure court procedures had been correctly followed.

Whist there are several issues with this case –

  • Removal of a child which could potentially fall under abduction/ kidnapping
  • Breaches of procedure
  • Personal conflicts of interest from professionals in the case and;
  • A lack of evidence to justify child protection decisions

The practice of turning up at children’s schools without warning is the focus of this post, and it is a practice that must stop. Deeply traumatising for children, and with no legitimate policy or law to underpin this conduct, social worker visits during school hours whether to interview or remove a child are not professional, nor are they appropriate. And Ofsted agrees.

Two reviewing bodies have now actively called out social worker visits to schools. Surely it’s ripe for review?

UPDATE: We decided it might be helpful to make a Freedom Of Information request on this practice as well, so we add it below:

FOI SW Schools

McFarlane For President?

With the news that the current President Of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, is set to step down next year, speculation will soon mount as to who will succeed him.

Munby’s decision to retire appears to stem from deep disappointment over the lack of progress inside the Family Court during his time as President. In a recent interview, he told The Law Gazette that there was “depressingly little to show for over two years’ hard pounding”.

Enter Justice McFarlane, an appeal court judge who works on Family Law cases, and who has recently begun to produce highly political judgments and calls to action urging improvements inside the system.

His provocative speech to the Family Justice Council earlier this month, where he called on the government to rethink the country’s adoption policy, and his overtly political judgments, which he is using to highlight problems inside the Family Courts (like this judgment where McFarlane talks about the lack of resources for social work teams and the impact this is having on adoption decisions), are efforts at amplifying his own voice, as well as the courts’, and though he is less polished and considered than the President (see this awkward generalisation about mothers, which reads like an attempt to get fathers on side), there is more than a little of Munby’s outspoken style in McFarlane’s approach.

He’s clearly taking part in sector politics, too. Whilst his comments about the shake up of the adoption process will appeal to families who are going through child protection hearings and desperately trying to fight for support to keep their children, McFarlane is trying to tread a fine line between gaining the public’s trust and reassuring  child welfare professionals he is ‘on their side’. That balancing act is evident in both his speech to the Council and his comments to the media. Whether he would have the courage to call out appalling acts of misconduct and highlight the less than ethical practices inside the system in the often direct and unflinching way Munby did, remains to be seen.

Whilst the new President of The Family Division won’t be announced until next year, we’ll be watching McFarlane. Let us know your thoughts on who you think might replace Lord Munby in 2018.

Lord Justice McFarlane

Sir Andrew McFarlane was called to the Bar in 1977 and practiced in chambers in Birmingham until 1993 when he moved to specialist family law chambers in London. He appeared at all levels of court including the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights. He was appointed as a QC in 1998. In April 2005 he was appointed to the High Court, Family Division and was for 5 years the Family Division Liaison Judge for the Midland Circuit. He was the legal member of the Government ‘Family Justice Review’ Panel.

He was appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal in July 2011 and now sits full time in the Court of Appeal in London.

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Andrew McFarlane

 

RR For The Huff Post: Should All Paedophiles Be Spared Jail?

For the Huffington Post this month we respond to Britain’s chief child protection police officer, who has suggested that all paedophiles caught watching child pornography online should be spared jail.

We explain why this policy proposal is flawed and yet again, like so many child protection policies, is really all about money and resources.

Coincidentally, our article comes out just as a debate in the House of Commons is published today about a petition which calls for harsher penalties for paedophiles who access online child abuse images and videos. The petition which refers to “April’s Law”, has been signed by over 126,500 people, and reads:

“We the undersigned call on the prime minister to make all sex offenders remain on the register for life no matter the crime, for service providers and search engines to be better policed regarding child abuse images and harder sentences on those caught with indecent images of children.”

You can catch our article here. 

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Contact After Adoption

Whatever you think of Independent Reviewing Officers, the National IRO Managers Partnership website offers some really interesting articles and resources on all sorts of things and their latest share focuses on contact after adoption.

The site talks about another platform called Research In Practice (RIP) and it is their website that features information about contact after adoption and covers topics like reviewing contact plans and listening to children. We haven’t had the chance to read these materials yet but we would be very interested to hear your views.

Th RIP Home Page says:

“This website supports practitioners working on making positive post-adoption contact plans and supporting birth relatives and adopters through contact planning for their child.

The materials on this website bring together knowledge from research and practice. They draw on research by Professor Beth Neil at University of East Anglia. Research in Practice has worked with Beth and practitioners across England to share expertise and produce accessible and practical resources for professionals involved in this work.”

Here are some links from the posts:

This effort reminds us  of the brilliant Family And Children’s Resource Programme over in America, which offers videos on best practice social work. We’d love to see RIP develop their content to include these kinds of videos, too.

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

Social worker and Founder of the Migrants Trust, Margaret Humphreys has told the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse that the abuse, lies and cover ups involved in children being sent abroad to other Commonwealth countries during the 1940s-1970s, amounted to human rights violations.

The conduct by government organisations and officials which sparked this comment includes:

  • Physical and sexual abuse,
  • Conditions of slavery and terror,
  • Removal of identities, and;
  • Lies that suggested the youngsters’ parents were dead
  • Collusion and cover-up by institutions and agencies,
  • State sanctioned kidnapping of children
  • Children being knowingly placed into the hands of paedophiles

A 2015 debate in the House Of Lords in which Lord Blackheath confirms he and others were involved in several of these government initiatives, also confirms Margaret’s experience through her work helping former child migrants find their biological families.

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Our question then, is this: who should be held accountable for these crimes – the government or individuals involved, or perhaps both? 

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