If we were to recount the number of procedural wrong-turns and foul play every time we got an email from the parents we assist, we would be typing forever, but we are so fed up at this point of watching family law professionals do whatever they wish, that we’re writing a small list of Bug Bears here.

These are the things which defy belief, and most of the time, law and procedure:

  • Failing to support a parent with Parental Responsibility: if one parent is making major decisions about children without the other parent, and social workers are tasked with supporting these parents, at the very least social workers, note it down. If you’re feeling really adventurous, why not actually do your job and find out how this is affecting the children?
  • If you’re going to write a social work report, make it fact not fiction: so much court time is wasted with a parent having to explain, over and over again, that social work reports are riddled with error. Get it right the first time people, and you won’t have to spend even more time on your cases. Think of it as case management. Being organised and focused has its advantages.
  • You’re not here to judge, Your Honour: far too many judges spend far too much time thinking they’ve been asked to make judgment calls on styles of parenting which have already been deemed perfectly safe for the children in question. This is not your domain. Your title is confusing, we know, but you’re there to find solutions, not mould the world in your own image.
  • It’s not a popularity contest: Newsflash. Parents are not here to win your affection or joust for your favour. Get on with the business of finding and sifting facts, please.
  • Mediation -didn’t you hear? It’s like never gonna happen (not like this anyway). Making mediation compulsory isn’t going to help anyone. Why not try making common sense and procedure compulsory instead?
  • The Voice of the What? Yes, children have thoughts too. We should listen to them. It’s up to us as adults to figure out how we process those thoughts without compromising their trust and understanding. Our children are the future – let’s not make them hateful and bitter citizens.
  • She said, he said, they said: It’s all well and good everyone making allegations, but nothing should fly in court unless there are facts to back it up. Maybe our family law professionals need a refresher course on fact finding and evidence gathering. The last time we checked, hearsay and gut instinct alone were not acceptable forms of ‘fact’.
  • The Eleventh Hour Versus The Timetable: We don’t care if it takes three weeks instead of two to find the right solution for a child in care – better than a lifetime of sorrow and misery for that child facing a wrong decision, just because some prat in an office plucked a number out of thin air for a timetable.
  • How Many Social Workers Does It Take To Change a Light bulb? It’s a familiar story for most children in care, but the high turnover of social work staff in each child’s life is a disgrace. If a child had attachment issues before going into care, he’s likely to leave with far greater ones after his stint in it. Assign one social worker, and unless they die or finish their time with a child, they should not be replaced. It’s that simple.
  • Stop Sneaking Around: Whether it’s Local Authorities taking children from parents without telling them, backhanding judges reports to ‘seal the deal’ pre hearing, or swooping down on parents as soon as they give birth to take their babies, the levels of barbarity know no bounds inside the system. World Class systems don’t behave this way – earn your reputation and strive to keep it, rather than living on old kudos, long worn out.
  • What Did You Say Your Qualifications Were? If you’re a social worker or a court expert, you need qualifications to do the job (don’t get us started on the levels of training, which are appalling too). If you’re out there on the field without one, it’s only a matter of time before someone will spot you. Get off the pitch and come back and play when you’re a pro.
  • I’ve Played By Your Rules and I’ve Won… But I’m Still Going To Lose? We’re always incensed by reports which require parents to adhere to behaviour, classes or types of support, who pass with flying colours and who are still denied contact with their children. Real growth is not a token gesture – it’s a conscious choice by a parent to reclaim their child. Take it seriously, just as you wish others to take your work seriously.
  • Stop Gagging Me: If a consumer has a complaint about a product, we don’t go to court and stop them from complaining, or penalise them for it – we have proper channels to deal with complaints. Listen to the gripes against the system – it’s not just hot air from disgruntled parents, it’s an opportunity to improve your services.
  • What’s My Day Job Got To Do With It? As long as parents and grandparents are not breaking the law, it should not matter whether they are selling chocolate willies, campaigning for changes inside the family justice system or have an ingrained mistrust of social work professionals. It is irrelevant as fas as child welfare and contact go. If we had a penny for the number of times social services cut parents’ and relatives’ contact just because they complained or lobbied the system for change we would be very wealthy indeed. No one likes a system which reacts like a big girl’s blouse. Get over yourselves already and get down to business.
  • You’re a Big Bully: the system likes to throw its wait around and Domination Fever is catching. No one is working to bully parents into submission. Bully your clients and lose respect.

We have many, many more bugbears, but these were the things on our mind today. By all means, do add yours below.