In The News

News items that should be right on your radar:

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Question it!

Welcome to another week.

Leaked guidelines from Facebook have emerged which confirm that the social media platform will not delete videos of abortion, self harm or violent death. However, it will remove controversial materials under certain circumstances.

The guidelines, whilst designed to protect freedom of expression, could be viewed as contradictory. The leaked documents reveal that whilst Facebook will allow videos of abortions, it will only allow such videos if there is no nudity. They also conform that ‘handmade’ art showing nudity and sexual activity is also allowed, but digitally made art showing sexual activity is not.

Comments such as “Little girl needs to keep to herself before daddy breaks her face,” are allowed because Facebook takes the view that “violent language is most often not credible until specificity of language gives us a reasonable ground to accept that there is no longer simply an expression of emotion but a transition to a plot or design…. From this perspective language such as ‘I’m going to kill you’ or ‘F*** off and die’ is not credible and is a violent expression of dislike and frustration.”

The Telegraph reports that:

“Yvette Cooper, a former Labour Cabinet minister who chaired the House of Commons home affairs select committee in the last parliament, said the leaks “show why we were right to call on social media companies to urgently review their community guidelines as too much harmful and dangerous content is getting through”.

She said: “In most cases the reality of sharing vile and violent images of violence and child abuse simply perpetuates the humiliation and abuse of a child. 

“Images should be given to the police and removed instead. Facebook are getting this wrong and need to urgently change.”

Our question this week then is just this: do you agree with Facebook’s guidelines, or Ms Cooper? 

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Tell Politicians What You Think About The Family Courts

Researching Reform is very privileged to have a readership which includes families and children with experience of the Family Courts, however politicians, peers and judges also visit the site daily, and we know they read your feedback.

As politicians publish their manifestos and go about making pledges this month, they will also be reading your thoughts on the system in order to understand what’s not working, so now is a good time to let the future government know what you think about the family justice system.

We are adding our Top Ten Bug Bears below:

  1. Inefficient Monitoring Of The Impact Of Financial Incentives Across Child Welfare Organisations And Agencies
  2. Culture Of Mistrust And Disrespect Towards Families And Children
  3. Inadequate Training For Social Workers And Judges 
  4. No Efficient Mechanism For Correcting Material Errors In Judgments and Court Bundles
  5. The Race To Adoption” Process
  6. The 26 Week Rule In Care Proceedings
  7. Forced Adoption Practices
  8. No Hub For Professionals And The Public Offering Simple Guides About The System And The Latest Relevant Research
  9. The Need To Refine The ‘Risk Of Future Harm‘ Threshold To Avoid Miscarriages of Justice
  10. No Current Guidelines On Child Welfare Professionals Using The Internet And Social Media To Track And Trace Parents

There are of course many other concerns that we could add, but we would love to hear your thoughts. What’s on your list?

BUG BEARS (1)

 

 

 

New Research On Corporal Punishment Versus Positive Parenting

The latest research on corporal punishment of children suggests that professional organisations are increasingly of the view that all physical punishment of children should be stopped.

The paper published in March 2017 and featured on the Marriage And Family Review, is a critique of an earlier piece of research entitled “Children and Parents Deserve Better Parental Discipline Research: Critiquing the Evidence for Exclusively “Positive” Parenting. The paper attacks the earlier publication for being flawed, and whilst the two papers represent an academic struggle between researchers they both make for interesting reading.

If you would like to read the papers in full please leave a comment below this post and we will forward them on to you.

A very big thank you to Professor Joan Durrant for sharing this research with us.

For anyone interested in ending corporal punishment of children, The Global Partnership To End Violence Against Children offers information and ways to get involved. Follow them on Twitter at @GPToEndViolence, hash tag #EndViolence.

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News Outlet Lies About Its Coverage Of Rooftop Protest At Child Minister’s Home

The Consumer Watchdog Foundation has claimed that it was the first and only site to publish a story about the rooftop protest at former Children’s Minister Ed Timpson home last week. It also claims that it followed the events as they happened.

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This is not true. Whilst we broke the story first with real time video footage, and a full 24 hours before the CWF, a media outlet called The Northwhich Guardian followed shortly after us and then another online media site, The Nantwich News mentioned the protest. The Consumer Watchdog Foundation however, didn’t get to the demonstration until the following day.

We wrote in last night to mention that they had made a mistake about coverage, but as of this morning the comment has yet to be published and no correction to their article has been made. A comment added after ours has been approved.

This is not our biggest concern with the CWF’s article. It is riddled with factual errors and tries to liken the rooftop protest to a terrorist act. Protesters have been made aware of the news item by other campaigners and they are understandably very upset.

Other than getting the age of the rooftop protester and the number of hours the protest lasted wrong, as well as failing to verify details of the event or follow it in real time as they claimed to have done, the outlet then tries to liken what was a peaceful protest to Jo Cox’s untimely death. Offensive and in bad taste? We think so.

That the article was written by Consumer Watchdog Foundation Editor Leigh G Banks, (who is allegedly a former Fleet Street journalist), doesn’t do the publication’s credibility any favours.

Whilst we appreciate that the CWF is trying to create conversation around family policy in the UK, we do think their lack of journalistic care is something the CWF should address, especially when writing about issues affecting real families and children.

Many thanks to Forced Adoption Exposed for alerting us to this news item.

Self Interest And Protectionism – No Question?

Welcome to another week.

You’ll have to forgive us but this week we’ve decided not to offer you a quick question to mull over. Instead, we’d like to share with you what we feel is a growing concern inside the child welfare sector in the form of councils and fostering agencies fighting it out to try to reclaim pieces of a child protection pie they seem to feel entitled to.

Whilst we accept, and support, organisations that want to offer vulnerable children a better alternative to what can sometimes be a deeply traumatising start, the way the child welfare sector works is clearly not putting children at the heart of its decision making. And the looming economic crisis is only making things worse.

We already know that fostering agencies and local authorities try to ‘incentivise’ parents to adopt and foster through pay (a big bug bear of ours and one we write frequently about), but the scramble for funds appears to be causing a frenzy.

Although we’ve had several investigations and inquiries into fostering and adoption in the UK, the latest consultation headed up by Martin Narey – often referred to as the ‘Adoption Tsar’, whatever that is – looks like a thinly veiled attempt by councils to stop independent fostering agencies from ‘stealing their business’.  Likewise, fostering agencies lashed out at the increasing use of Special Guardianship Orders last month by suggesting they placed children at risk – no stats currently exist to show whether or not more children suffer abuse at the hands of Special Guardians over foster carers or adopters.

And a bizarre new book intended to promote fostering has surfaced. Extracts of this book have been featured online over the last few days and include experiences of children in foster care but after a harrowing account from one child was published, which we decided to write critically about for the awful way in which the child had been treated, another account followed right after which was so odd we questioned its authenticity over on Twitter. The account reads like an infomercial:

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So what’s going on? Well, it looks like the sector is taking advantage of well meaning individuals looking to improve outcomes for children whilst at the same time trying to revive a service which has been badly affected by budget cuts, and family court judgments advising that adoptions and fostering arrangements should always be a method of last resort.

Are we wrong? Have we become so cynical about the system that we believe it is capable of almost anything to preserve itself, rather than reinvent itself, which is always so much harder when everything is against change and doing the right thing?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Martin Narey Offers Personal Email Address For Feedback On Foster Care

Martin Narey, best known for his role as CEO of Barnardo’s, has been appointed by the government to head up a review into Foster Care practices in England and Wales and he’s just shared a personal address on Twitter inviting all those with a view to get in touch.

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Setting aside for a moment the fact that this Inquiry is not the first of its kind (the government launched a similar one as recently as last year to little effect) or that it appears to be an investigation backed by local authorities who have had enough of fostering agencies luring people away from council run services, it is a good opportunity for young men and women to tell the government what needs to be improved.

We would also urge those contacting Martin to share their submissions to him somewhere public, if happy to do so. 

The official line on the Department for Education’s consultation page is this:

“We want to learn from those who have an interest or experience in fostering, including children and their representatives, to build a better evidence base and gain first hand and frontline insight about how the fostering system works in practice and the issues and challenges facing it. This will help us to spread best practice and to understand where changes might be needed to make a lasting impact on outcomes for children in care.”

It’s worth nothing that as all government work has come to a halt as a result of the general election, it’s not clear whether this review will go ahead after June 8th or why Martin is asking for feedback to a personal email address, or perhaps one he’s created for feedback because government channels are currently closed, so making feedback count over and above government business is important. That’s why we suggest sharing your feedback online, somewhere highly visible if you’re comfortable doing so.

Martin is joined by Mark Owers as joint leads for this investigation. Mark’s formal title is Children’s Services Adviser (you can find him on Twitter at @markowers73), and he appears to have extensive experience working within the foster care sector as a children’s social worker, including time as a member of the Leadership Team at The Consortium Of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA), and ‘professional adviser’ to the Adoption Leadership Board.

The consultation description offers more on who it would like to seek views from and what kind of feedback they’re hoping to get:

We’d like to hear from the following about how to make fostering more effective in meeting the needs of children:

  • practitioners
  • academics
  • foster carers
  • children in care
  • children and adults who have left care

We’re looking at:

  • the types of fostering currently offered by providers
  • the status, role and function of foster carers in relation to other professionals
  • how we commission, regulate and inspect fostering settings
  • what works best in fostering settings to improve outcomes for children and young people
  • how we can improve the experiences of young people entering foster care, transitioning between placements, and leaving foster care

The consultation is now open, and closes at 5pm on 16th June, 2017. 

Martin’s email address is sirmartinnarey@gmail.com and you can chat to him on Twitter at @martinnarey.

 

 

 

New Definition For Child Sexual Exploitation Published

The government has released a working document for child welfare professionals and all those who work with children and families which outlines a revised definition for child sexual exploitation (CSE). It replaces the 2009 guidance ‘Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation’.

The document, which was published in February of this year, defines CSE as:

“A form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.”

This definition is not statutory, meaning that it’s not a legal definition, however it has been published to help professionals detect CSE and take the necessary next steps to address it.

The guidance goes on to say:

Like all forms of child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation:
• Can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18 years,
including 16 and 17 year olds who can legally consent to have sex;
• Can still be abuse even if the sexual activity appears consensual;
• Can include both contact (penetrative and non-penetrative acts) and non-contact
sexual activity;
• Can take place in person or via technology, or a combination of both;
• Can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and may, or
may not, be accompanied by violence or threats of violence;
• May occur without the child or young person’s immediate knowledge (through
others copying videos or images they have created and posting on social media,
for example);
• Can be perpetrated by individuals or groups, males or females, and children or
adults. The abuse can be a one-off occurrence or a series of incidents over time,
and range from opportunistic to complex organised abuse; and
• Is typified by some form of power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the
abuse. Whilst age may be the most obvious, this power imbalance can also be
due to a range of other factors including gender, sexual identity, cognitive ability,
physical strength, status, and access to economic or other resources

The guidance also explains that “Child sexual exploitation is never the victim’s fault, even if there is some form of exchange: all children and young people under the age of 18 have a right to be safe and should be protected from harm. One of the key factors found in most cases of child sexual exploitation is the presence of some form of exchange (sexual activity in return for something); for the victim and/or perpetrator or facilitator.”

The document offers rough guidelines on which demographics are most affected by CSE, indicators for the phenomenon and the effects of CSE on children. It also offers suggestions on how to respond to incidences of child sexual exploitation.

If you have any questions you can contact the Department Of Education here. 

 

CSE Know signs

 

Judge Rules Council Deliberately Obstructed Mother’s Adoption Challenge

In a case which represents an important development in highlighting unethical practice inside the child welfare sector, a High Court judge has ruled that a council and its social workers as well as the legal team advising, purposefully blocked a mother from challenging an adoption order.

The council did this by failing to tell the mother about the timing of the placement plan and the process she would need to go through in order to apply for the order to be revoked.

Community Care tells us Judge Charles said, “fairness (and in my view, common sense and straightforwardness) meant the council should have explained to the mother that unless she issued an application by a certain date, it would proceed with placing the girl… I suggest that not only is a race between an under-informed parent and the adoption agency likely to be unfair, it is also likely to create significant risks to the achievement of a result that best promotes the welfare of the child and the timely completion of a plan for adoption.

The judge then quashed the placement decision.

Speaking directly to the ethical concerns, Judge Charles also said the case raised issues which needed to be considered by officials drawing up guidance in this area.

The argument that took place in court was over whether the council had a duty to tell the mother the date on which her child would be placed or how she could challenge the placement. The judge then drew the council’s attention to the statutory guidelines on adoption:

“If, before the child is placed, an application is made for the revocation of a placement order, the local authority cannot place the child without the leave of the court.. It is not however appropriate for a local authority to proceed with the placement when it is aware of the application for leave, and an attempt to do so in order to frustrate the birth parents’ application could be challenged in court by an application for judicial review.”

Judge Charles went on to suggest that the guidance should be clearer so that family professionals understood that being “aware” of an application not only covers a position where an application has been made with the court, but also where a council knows an application is being considered.

The mother now has permission to make her application to the court, and the legal status of the child’s prospective adoptive parents has been scaled back to ‘foster carers’. The mother will also be able to claim damages under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right to a fair trial.

This kind of ‘race to adoption’ where parents are intentionally left in the dark is something we see often when assisting families, so we hope this new judgment will have a positive impact moving forward.

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