New birth certificates rolled out across Australia’s New South Wales will allow a child to decide whether they would like to include details about their birth parents and adoptive parents in the document. Information about siblings from birth families and adopted families will also be included.
The Integrated Birth Certificate (IBC) was announced on 16 November and was implemented to reflect the state’s ‘open adoption’ policy, which promotes ongoing connection to a child’s birth family and cultural heritage.
The UK also operates an ‘open adoption’ policy, which means every local authority has a duty to promote a child’s connections with their birth family.
People adopted before 16 November 2020 in New South Wales will be able to apply for an IBC, while those adopted after that date will be issued an IBC automatically, along with a post-adoptive birth certificate.
The comment was made by Ford at the National Children and Adult Services Conference.
The child welfare system is no stranger to reviews. Type in “care review” into our search engine on this site, and dozens of entries appear. Despite the number of reviews that have taken place in the last decade alone, some experts and child welfare professionals agree that not much has changed inside the system for children.
However the current government, and past government which have ordered these reviews, take a different view. Many politicians believe that these investigations have raised awareness of the biases and bad practice inside the child welfare sector and have led to improvements for children in care.
Our question this week then, is in the form of a poll:
The government will look into a legal presumption embedded in legislation which says both parents must be involved in a child’s life whenever possible after separation or divorce.
The decision to review the presumption comes after several children in England and Wales were killed by domestically abusive or violent parents, following family court ordered contact despite opposition from the ‘protecting’ parent.
The review will examine the way the courts have been applying the presumption and the impact on children when decisions to enforce the presumption have been made.
A written statement announcing the review made by Under-Secretary for Justice Alex Chalk MP, in the House of Commons yesterday, offers more information about what data the review team will be collecting, and details about the Advisory Group for the project.
Chalk said, “This is an important, and complex, issue and this approach is intended to identify whether any reforms are needed in this area, and if so, what kind (legislative or otherwise), and to ensure that any conclusions and recommendations are rooted in a solid understanding of the effect of the presumption and its exception, and the evidence base surrounding its application.”
The Ministry of Justice will now be launching a tender process to identify the most appropriate individuals to conduct the evidence review.
Completion of the review and an update on its findings is scheduled for next Summer.
The full statement can be accessed in the above link, or read below:
“On the 25th June 2020, the Government published the Final Report on Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases, alongside an Implementation Plan. The Report contained a number of recommendations from a Panel that included external experts, and the Implementation Plan set out how the Government proposed to address the recommendations.
One of the recommendations made by the Panel was “that the presumption of parental involvement be reviewed urgently in order to address its detrimental effects.”
I am pleased to announce the commencement of a review into the presumption of parental involvement in child arrangements, and certain other private law children, proceedings. This review will focus on the application of the presumption and the statutory exception in cases where there are allegations or other evidence to suggest that involvement of the parent would put the child at risk of harm.
The Review will focus both on the courts’ application of the presumption, as well as on the impact on children’s welfare of the courts’ application of these provisions. In particular, the Review will examine:
(i) how courts are applying sections 1(2A), (2B) and (6) of the Children Act 1989, which together require courts to presume, in child arrangements and certain other private law children proceedings, that involvement of a parent in the child’s life will further the child’s welfare, unless there is evidence to suggest that involvement of that parent would put the child at risk of suffering harm, and to define involvement as ‘involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child’s time’;
(ii) and the impacts on children’s welfare of the courts’ application of these provisions
This is an important, and complex, issue and this approach is intended to identify whether any reforms are needed in this area, and if so, what kind (legislative or otherwise), and to ensure that any conclusions and recommendations are rooted in a solid understanding of the effect of the presumption and its exception, and the evidence base surrounding its application.
I am establishing an Advisory Group to guide the evidence gathering for this important Review. The Advisory Group members will be:
The evidence that this Review will gather will include a case file review, input from those working in the family courts and an academic literature review of how the presumption is currently applied and the impact of parental involvement on the wellbeing of the child.
The Ministry of Justice will follow a competitive tender process to identify the most appropriate individuals to conduct the evidence review.
I anticipate being able to update the House before summer recess with the outcomes of the Review.”
A company charging £10,000 to train people to manage their private family law cases in court without a lawyer and represent others involved in divorce and child contact proceedings, has caused concern among parents on Facebook.
The Family Law Association (FLA) has been reaching out to posters on its Facebook page to recruit customers through unsolicited private messages, which are sent once Facebook users leave a comment under posts on the company’s Facebook page.
Steven Wade, co-founder of the Family Law Association and a former McKenzie Friend for Families Need Fathers, denied the company had sent out any unsolicited emails, telling Researching Reform, “We advertise our courses on our website and social media but don’t solicit individuals to offer them training or a franchise.”
Several parents going through the family courts sent Researching Reform the private messages they had received from FLA about its training scheme, after they left unrelated comments on the company’s Facebook page.
One family video-recorded the process and sent it to this site. The video confirms that a generic comment posted on FLA’s page triggers a private message about the company’s training programme.
The first message recipients receive says the company is looking for ‘graduates’ to join their team in 2021, and invites the recipient to click on a link if they want to know more. The cost of the training is not revealed until much later.
Once the user clicks on the link, a series of messages follow which mention the company’s drive to find new graduates for their programme and new consultants for their business, while asking the recipient if they would like to earn an income doing work that makes a difference to people’s lives.
The messages offer further encouragement by telling recipients that if they are interested in a career move and passionate about helping others, then “you are the kind of person we are looking for.”
After a recipient registers their interest, FLA’s team ask for their email and phone details and then move the conversation away from Facebook and onto email.
It is in these emails that more details about the scheme emerge, including the cost of the training.
The email implies the training is offered to anyone who would like it, but it becomes apparent that not everyone who pays the £10,000 fee and takes the course is automatically invited to join the company.
The email says, “if you’re successful in this training you’ll be set to become a franchisee for Family Law Assistance,” but gives no indication of how that success is measured.
Wade told Researching Reform that the offer of a franchise was “dependent on [the graduate’s] suitability and background.”
The email goes on to say that successful candidates become franchisees, and for £1,000 a year the franchisee joins FLA’s team, is added to the company’s website, receives training on how to run their franchise and is able to access clients.
The last section of the email says that interested recipients can then join a Zoom call to ask further questions, which the team then offer to arrange.
FLA’s messages and emails have confused parents, some of whom are considered to be vulnerable because of mental health conditions and special needs. Several parents reported that the wording gave them the impression they would be paid for work, while others thought the invitation was a firm offer to join the company’s team after completing the training.
Shortly after Researching Reform reached out to Wade to ask about FLA’s recruitment process, the private messages appeared to have stopped. One mother who posted on FLA’s page on Thursday said she had not received the same message as previous posters.
Concerns about McKenzie friends charging for their support have been raised by family lawyers who have commented that individuals without legal training offering advice and assistance in court could be detrimental to clients, and their cases. The concerns were followed by a set of guidelines issued in 2010 by the Family Division, which allowed lay advisors to represent parties and charge for their services.
Dwindling legal aid and the rising cost of conventional legal representation has created a gap in the market for family court assistance. This gap has been taken advantage of by lawyers (who can also act as McKenzie friends under the current rules, and use this loophole to offer limited services at a reduced rate) and non-lawyers alike.
The question over how much a McKenzie Friend can and should charge, without any legal qualifications, has been a source of heated debate within the family justice system.
Several lay advisors have been commended by family court judges for their ability to represent clients professionally and to the same standard as traditional lawyers and are often noted by families to be empathetic, because of extensive personal experience going through the family courts with their own cases.
Despite being able to charge for services, the McKenzie Friend sector remains divided about costs.
The first wave of McKenzie friends in Britain entered the sector with a sense of responsibility to assist those in need, and remain sensitive to families’ often difficult financial situations. These Original McKenzies, as they’re known, tend only to charge for their expenses – a train fare and a packed lunch.
Others, like FLA, see a business opportunity. FLA, which also offers assistance to litigants in person going through private family law proceedings, says its training course takes place over a 12 week period, and includes Zoom sessions, homework, feedback and communication from FLA co-founder and Steven’s partner, Michaela.
FLA’s course covers a range of topics and skills.
“We cover family law – child matters, finance and divorce in training. As well as providing training on the law itself we also deal with the practicalities of it, coaching clients to get them into the right mindset (being child focused, positive, reframing), how to market yourself, how to run the business, the implications of what we do, and so on,” Wade said.
Commenting on FLA’s training programme, one high profile McKenzie Friend said, “What the actual “F”, nothing surprises me in the dark world of MKF’s. Many have become part of the problem because they can see a way of making money.”
Another McKenzie Friend said, “I don’t know what on earth could cost £10k to be a McKenzie friend. If that’s true its baffling to me. I’ve done this job for a very long time but at the end of the day it’s a supporting role,” adding, “I don’t know what degree tuition fees are like these days but that seems like a comparable amount so I am truly shocked.”
An announcement by the government to offer people free college courses has given parents without funds for courses like Wade’s, who want to help others going through family court proceedings hope that they can get the skills they need.