Our next story looks at what happens when councils ignore expert evidence encouraging the use of support services and choose to file care orders instead.
1. Could you give a brief summary of the facts of your case?
Our four children were removed from our care without our consent, all through forced adoptions. The two eldest were placed with family and our two youngest were adopted by strangers. The orders were made using the ‘risk of emotional harm’ threshold, however my wife’s lawyer felt strongly that the criteria had not been met. I was unrepresented because I could not afford a lawyer.
Our family became known to social services because my wife pushed one of our children’s car seats a little too aggressively, which resulted in her being placed on the child protection register. She was then removed from the register a year later and was never placed on it again. We both have medical conditions which can be addressed with medication. Both my wife and I have argued in front of the children at times but we have never gotten physical with each other. Like most parents, when we get tired we can shout at the children too, however this behaviour was viewed in a completely different light by social services.
Despite several assessments which confirmed that my wife and I could look after our children with support from professionals, we never felt supported or listened to. When I began to get upset about losing my two eldest daughters, professionals in the case just assumed the behaviour was proof that I couldn’t parent, and instead of offering me help to cope with the loss, they simply penalised me for my pain, and assumed the anger was “part of a pattern,” which professionals ended up taking personally and then simply pushed on with the adoptions out of what felt like spite. It was all very primitive.
Incidents included a social worker assaulting my daughter, another social worker blocking my way when trying to stop the assault, being routinely threatened with prison if I didn’t agree to various suggestions, and being told my children would simply vanish if I was obstructive.
2. What went wrong in your case?
Our solicitors during the first set of hearings didn’t seem to be bothered, and just weren’t interested in pursuing the truth. Most of the judges we came across in subsequent hearings seemed preoccupied with internal politics which appeared to affect the way they processed our case. We got the feeling there was collusion between the professionals and a lot things had been decided before the hearings actually took place. A strange cultural quirk I also noticed was that judges seemed to accept whatever social services told them without questioning the quality of the reports or evidence produced. When it came down to our word against theirs, we didn’t stand a chance.
Bizarrely, when we did eventually get a good lawyer who was fighting our corner, the council then threatened to sue her and her firm. It was like watching a soap opera.
3. What happened after you alerted the professionals to the errors?
Nothing. No one seemed to be able to correct the mistakes that had been made in the paper work. The most distressing aspect of the case was the taking out of an Emergency Protection Order for my son. A prominent politician at the time was so concerned by the EPO in our case that he even raised it in Parliament, where he questioned the legal validity of its use in our case both under Family Law and Human Rights Law.
4. How do you feel the errors were dealt with?
They were never dealt with and no one has been held to account for the incredibly poor way our case was handled.
5. What do you think could have been done differently?
I think adoption targets have a lot to answer for. They blind social workers to their reason for being, which is to first and foremost offer families support and guidance. Not remove children from loving parents who if you treat with respect and kindness would be only too glad to work with them.
6. What message would you like to pass on to the child welfare system?
The system can’t carry on like this, it needs to improve drastically. If it doesn’t, its days are definitely numbered.
If you would like to share your story, get in touch by leaving a comment below or emailing Researching Reform at contactnphillips at gmail dot com.