Welcome to another week.
A recent article in the New Zealand Herald calls out a practice in the country’s Family Court called ‘uplifting’. (WARNING: article features highly distressing video footage).
The practice can involve physically removing a child from persons or premises in order to return them to a parent whose custodial rights have been breached.
There may be no warning that the uplift is going to take place, and police are often called in to remove children.
Uplifts occur after an aggrieved parent applies for a warrant to have their child returned. The use of ‘reasonable force’ is allowed where considered appropriate. The element of force and a sharp rise in the use of uplifts, are causing concern.
Video footage showing children in acute distress during the removal process has sparked outrage in New Zealand. New Zealand Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern called the recordings “horrific” and observed that being forcibly removed from the home was clearly traumatic for children.
Professor Mark Henaghan, who is Dean of the faculty of Law at the University of Otago, said the Family Court had lost sight of their duty to place children’s welfare first and that the uplifts were ‘terrorising the children involved.’ He goes on to say:
“It’s become a battle of enforcement between the parents, courts, saying we’ve made an order, therefore it has to be enforced otherwise the court’s not carrying out its job…But the primary job of the [Family] Court is the welfare of the child. And I think if they saw some of the consequences of some of these warrants they may look at it differently.”
Speaking about the role of the police in uplifts, Police Association president Chris Cahill said the measure was also hard on police as officers were effectively “pawns” in the “wider games by parents”. He goes on to say:
“Often the police doing [uplifts] are the younger ones and they are only five or six years older than the children they are removing and that is tough on them.”
Cahill suggests that social workers should be tasked with carrying out uplifts.
The Labour party in New Zealand has continuously called for a review of the country’s Family Court, and more informed decision making before judges grant warrants to remove children.
Our question this week then, is just this: do you think the use of reasonable force to remove a child is ever ok?