A lawyer has told France’s President Emmanuel Macron that French law must be amended to ensure that parents of children placed in care have adequate rights to defend themselves and challenge care orders.
Michel Amas submitted a proposal for the legal amendment to the French President, with the support of Yves Moraine, a lawyer and the mayor of Boroughs 6 and 8 in Marseille.
The development was reported by French news outlet, 20 Minutes.
Our translation of the report is added below:
Marseille: “Parents of children in care have no rights” – Marseille lawyers want to change the law.
CHILD PROTECTION: A bill was sent to Emmanuel Macron asking for parents to have more rights to defend child protection cases.
After his video denouncing the injustice of certain situations of children placed in care went viral, the Marseille lawyer Michel Amas wants to create new rights for parents.
Collaborating with Yves Moraine, a senior official of the municipal council, Amas submitted a proposal for a law to France’s President Emmanuel Macron.
The aim of the law is for lawyers to ensure access to the child welfare file before the hearing, and for judges to be required, within a certain time, to respond to parents’ requests.
“I have represented people who have been given thirty year prison sentences for their crimes, but nothing is more violent than what happens in the family court. ” A lawyer at the Marseille Bar, Michel Amas was a specialist in medical negligence cases before finding himself working on a case involving the unjust removal of children from their parents, a situation he describes as unacceptable: “The parents of children placed in care do not have fewer rights than others, they have none,” the lawyer said.
He has since defended 300 child protection cases throughout France and, each time, he says he has to confront the same problem: “There is a presumption of guilt which weighs immediately on the parents. And this mistrust is reflected in the total lack of resources given to parents to be able to defend themselves and to be involved in the process. ”
A video goes viral
In July, when one of his clients was in despair, he spoke out in an online video which was viewed almost 4 million times. “The video did not go viral because I am charismatic but because I respond to the angst of parents”, insisted Michel Amas, who does not intend to stop with the video and today launched an initiative to change the law.
Or at the very least, to help the law evolve. Rather than overhauling the 1945 ordinance on the protection of minors, Amas hopes to re-orient the “risk of harm” threshold so that it sits in the right place. “Over time, the threshold has slipped, and the courts now consider parental conflict to be enough of a reason to remove children, rather than treat issues with medical follow-up, social assistance, or household help”, he said.
“The child, the parents, the grandparents have less rights than an individual suspected of a crime,” said Yves Moraine, lawyer and leader of the LR majority in the city council, who cosigned the bill which was passed to the French President. “We demand the creation of additional rights and that these rights are implemented without delay,” he added. “It is not normal for defenders not to have any weapons to represent parents,” said Michel Amas. You can ask a judge for a visit at the weekend on behalf of the parent, two hours instead of one, but the judge does not have to answer us. And when that contact is not granted, there are no other courses of action.”
“The camera does not protect the child but the judges”
Grandparents of a 5-year-old boy, placed a year ago with a foster family, Sabrina and Hugo say they are “living a nightmare”.
They are ready to welcome him into their home in Gémenos, ready to take him to school, to extracurricular activities, but they face long delays inside a system whose procedures are achingly slow. All they want is to get three hours with their grandson, an occasional outing, an overnight stay in their home, to see how things go.
The proposed law aims to reduce the period of investigation and require the magistrate to respond to the requests of the parties within one month.
It also forces child protection services to file their report before the hearing.
“In criminal cases, we can submit evidence, defend our clients… I have pleaded hundreds of times, but in child protection cases I have never received any social services reports before the hearing,” laments Mr Amas, who also said, “the camera does not not protect the child but the judges.”
Taking a more diplomatic stance, Yann Arnoux-Pollak, president of the Marseille Bar, said he supported the approach and emphasised that “if we want judges to do their job, we must give them the means”.
It remains unclear whether parliamentarians will take up the bill.
You can follow Yves Moraine on Twitter @YvesMoraine, and watch the latest videos on the French child protection system by Michel Amas on his law firm’s website.
Please note that the video below, in which Michel talks about the problems within France’s child protection system, is in French. Amas confirms that he will not mention the names and details of the families involved in the relevant child protection cases.