The Guardian newspaper tells us that Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, has backed a drive to encourage parents with multiple children in care to use birth control. Munby expressed his views yesterday in a speech for social workers.
Munby goes on to explain the reasoning behind his view: namely that he feels the cycle of social workers removing multiple children from the same families on a regular basis is a frequent occurrence and needs to be addressed.
The comment comes after Munby personally backed a new initiative which is, successfully, tackling addiction within family units and which also condones the use of birth control as an active measure to reduce the number of children going into care from such families. The Family Drug and Alcohol Court, the initiative run by Nick Crichton who was at one time the only full time family judge in the country (and a recipient of the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Award for his work inside the system), encourages parents to use birth control.
Researching Reform are strong advocates of FDAC and we can understand why Munby backs this ground-breaking initiative but we are not sure that birth control is the solution, on its own.
Having spoken with Nick Crichton ourselves in the past, he explained one crucial element of the cycle at play – many families consciously choose to have another child when the first is taken into care. It is a form of grieving. And although the second (or third, or fourth) child is never a ‘replacement’ as such for the child or children who are taken into care, it is a form of recompense for what is a deeply traumatising experience for mothers, fathers and other siblings, too.
So whilst we back the essence of this drive, which is to educate and inform families about their options, we also feel some deeper work needs to take place. We would be very surprised though, if that work wasn’t already going on at FDAC, which has an excellent track record for keeping families together.