Researching Reform, a project which was started in 2009 to help highlight issues around child welfare legislation and policy, celebrates its ninth birthday this week.
Since its launch, the project’s website has recorded developments within child protection and family law, both in the UK and abroad. It has hosted children and their families’ stories about the family justice system, stakeholders and members of the government, and details about events looking at the system and its processes.
In its first year, the project welcomed eighteen comments on its website. Today, we are lucky to host a growing number of thoughts from our readers, many of whom are service users, and, or, actively engaged in trying to improve the family courts.
In 2009, public comment on child welfare in the UK was unheard of. Politicians refused to discuss social care, child protection and divorce, considering the topics to be political minefields which could ruin their careers. Social work and medical professionals were also wary of discussing these issues, with many in denial about the problems both the system and families faced in trying to resolve these matters.
Researching Reform was met with hostility by child welfare professionals, judges and lawyers, who, understandably, did not feel comfortable with the project’s often direct and transparent approach to a system which had historically been closed to the public.
Today, many of those same professionals have begun to support the project, and embrace the project’s openness and inclusive methods. More people than ever are speaking out about difficulties inside the child protection system and, crucially, willing to engage with service users, who are parents, extended families, and children.
This year we would like to thank not only our readers, who have been jaw-droppingly loyal and who continue to offer thought provoking and insightful views, but also brave child welfare professionals who have spoken out and tried to offer solutions to the obstacles they and families face inside the child welfare sector.
The site’s viral stories offer insight into what our socially conscious and politcally savvy readers care about most. With almost six thousand shares on Facebook, this 2015 piece on politicians leaving the chamber whilst then Home Secretary Theresa May delivered what was widely anticipated to be a ground breaking speech about the child abuse inquiry, is our most read story. Not far behind is our breaking story about Lord Blackheath, who admitted in the House of Lords that he had knowingly trafficked children to Australia, where they were subjected to sexual abuse and placed into slavery, facts which he also knew, before illegally separating them from their parents and shipping out what amounted to thousands of children. Our third most popular post offered parents information on recording child protection meetings.
Researching Reform will continue to push for change on child welfare issues. Thank you for standing by us and doing the same.
A very special thank you to the children who have spoken out, who have shared their experiences with us and who have lived through some truly terrible circumstances with a deeply humbling grace. This site is, and always has been, for you.