Your Story: Adoption Certificates And Child Identity

Our first story in this series looks at what happens when an adoption is badly filed.

1. Could you give a brief summary of the facts of your case? 

I went through adoption proceedings for one of my children. It was not a voluntary adoption, it was forced. 

2. What went wrong in your  case? 

There were serious administrative failings in our case, including the wrong adoption year and name being written on the adoption certificate as well as queries over the authenticity of the certificate itself, which led me to wonder whether the adoption had gone through at all. I also felt as if the evidence I produced was either ignored or dismissed and all the positive reports about me as an excellent mother were never acknowledged with a view to looking at potential options for support. Instead, adoption seemed like the end goal from the beginning.

3. What happened after you alerted the professionals to the errors?

When I complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office that the wrong adoption year had been applied, they accepted my complaint and wrote to my council. The council gave an unsatisfactory response which included unfounded comments about myself and the nature of the case.

4. How do you feel the errors were dealt with? 

Pretty badly.  Despite the error on the adoption certificate, which was hugely traumatic given that it suggested the adoption had happened years before the event took place, there has been no compensation or no suggestion of compensation. The errors spread across my family court judgments though acknowledged, were never put right, so the documentation is filled with errors making it almost impossible for me to get any kind of legal relief. As a litigant in person I also felt very let down by the court, no one really helped me understand what I needed to submit for hearings or how these things should be done. If I had had some help, maybe a lot of errors could have been avoided and my case would not still be going 10 years on.

5. What do you think could have been done differently? 

I think the professionals in the case should have been more careful about the administration of the adoption process and more mindful of the fact that I did not have legal representation, through no fault of my own. I also felt they did not listen to my son and give his wishes and feelings the weight they deserved or take into account my ability to care for my son.

6. What message would you like to pass on to the child welfare system?

My message to the child welfare system would be to ensure regular checks are done on their written records they hold. In my case, this led to my child’s identity being interfered with, which is a hugely serious thing and definitely not in any child’s best interest.

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Your Story: Share Your Family Court Experience With Researching Reform

The Researching Reform blog often hosts real stories from inside the family justice system, whether they are families’ experiences or child protection professionals’, however we have started to receive an unusually high amount of requests to share stories, so we’re offering families, and anyone else who would like it, an open platform to amplify their voices.

Your Story is a series featuring family court experiences which need to be heard, either due to alleged miscarriages of justice or a desire to alert the public and policy makers to a specific problem inside the courts.

Our first story will be published tomorrow, and is about a forced adoption gone wrong, which features some remarkable errors.

All the stories we add are fact checked by us, and will be published without names and information which could lead to identification of the parties where reporting and legal restrictions apply.

We will ask the same questions for each interview. You can see them below to get a feel for what we will be sharing:

1. Could you give a brief summary of the facts of your case? 

2. What went wrong in your  case? 

3. What happened after you alerted the professionals to the errors?

4. How do you feel the errors were dealt with? 

5. What do you think could have been done differently? 

6. What message would you like to pass on to the child welfare system?

If you would like to share your story, please get in touch by posting below, or email us at contactnphillips at gmail dot com.

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RR For The Times: Child Abuse Inquiry Is Democracy In Motion

Researching Reform was very kindly invited by The Times’ The Brief, to write a piece on why we felt the Child Abuse Inquiry was still a worthwhile project.

The sheer scale of recent and non recent child abuse in the UK is justification enough for an Inquiry of this size, but in our piece we explain why the Inquiry is bigger than the sum of its parts, and why it is already making positive changes within government as we know it.

You can catch our article in full here, under the Comment section.

The Brief is The Times’ daily news roundup and is completely free to read. Subscribe for all the latest, and share your thoughts over at @TimesLaw if you’re a tweeter.

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Social Workers To Use Facebook To Track Down Parents In Care Proceedings

A well meaning judge has given social workers the green light to search for missing parents on Facebook so that they can be alerted to care proceedings, but this could open up a raft of problems around parents’ and children’s right to privacy.

In the case, the court was desperately trying to track down a mother who could not be found. It was claimed that she had either left the country or been removed from the UK once her child had been placed with an adopter. When the judge asked both Cafcass and the council in question whether there was a chance the mother could be found through Facebook, the organisations expressed scepticism. They also told the court that they had tried to find the mother but were unable to. Oddly enough, she was found almost immediately on the social media site.

The judge went on to criticise Cafcass, the council and other professionals in the case for what he felt was a ‘total disregard’ for the rules around birth parents being properly notified.

Nevertheless, this new power could lead to parents being hunted down and their privacy potentially breached on Facebook and other social media sites. And although no official rule appears to exist about contacting parents through sites like Facebook, reaching out to parents in this way is currently frowned upon inside the child protection sector.

The judgment is likely to cause confusion and lead to less than ethical developments in care proceedings unless some form of guidance by The President of the Family Division is issued immediately.

We would welcome Justice Munby publishing some guidelines in this area.

Get Your Stuff For SpankOut Day

SpankOut Day was started in America in 1998, to spread awareness around the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non violent ways of teaching children appropriate behaviour. It is celebrated on 30th April every year and encourages all parents, guardians and caregivers to refrain from hitting children on this day, as well as to find alternative methods of discipline through programs available in each community.

This year, the Gundersen Center for Effective Discipline is offering ‘No Hit Zone’ Resource Kits to 15 organisations who want to become a No Hit Zone.

No Hit Zone Kits include posters, educational brochures, vinyl decals, magnets and stickers. These resources are designed to serve as a visible sign that your organisation is a designated No Hit Zone supporting healthy kids and safer communities.

The Gundersen website tells us that:

“A No Hit Zone is an environment that supports a culture of safety and health where:

  • No adult shall hit another adult.
  • No adult shall hit a child.
  • No child shall hit an adult.
  • No child shall hit another child.”

If you’d like to apply for a kit, you have until Wednesday, March 22, 2017. The following dates may be worth nothing down too:

  • Monday, March 27, 2017—Kit Recipients Announced
  • Friday, May 19, 2017—After Action Report Due

We are not sure if the offer is limited to US organisations but give it a try and see how you go.

Thanks go to Professor Durrant for alerting us to this initiative.

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

The nation’s child abuse inquiry has opened its public hearings with harrowing stories from child migrants who were sent abroad, with many finding themselves being emotionally and sexually abused both before leaving Britain and once reaching their final destinations.

In the wake of these terrible experiences, former child migrants, lawyers and charities have called for the names of alleged abusers to be made public. Currently, the Inquiry is at liberty to redact names in files and documents where it feels this is necessary. The arguments to name alleged abusers are that many are no longer alive, and that simple searches on the internet would likely reveal their names in any event. David Hill, a former child migrant, suggested making the names publicly available once the Inquiry was satisfied that enough proof existed to show alleged abusers’ guilt.

Henrietta Hill QC, a lawyer working for the inquiry, said it had to balance principles of open justice and the wishes of individual survivors with fairness to those who were accused. She went on to explain that the Inquiry’s role does not include determining liability or guilt, but instead must focus on how institutions responded to abuse and allegations of abuse.

Our question this week then, is just this: do you think alleged abusers should be named and shamed? 

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Victims Of Domestic Abuse Will Be Able To Vote Anonymously

As part of a raft of new measures to better protect victims of domestic violence, the government has announced that it will be relaxing rules around voting so that victims of abuse can vote anonymously.

This measure is designed to prevent perpetrators of abuse from being able to track their victims online. At the moment, the law only allows anonymity when a court order is granted or if a senior police officer agrees.

The move could see a large increase in the number of police officers being able to grant anonymity, with social workers also potentially being given this power.

An extract from The Independent outlines potential ways this new measure could work:

“Under the changes, someone could be granted anonymity with documents including evidence of a person having been convicted of domestic abuse, or “findings of fact” that abuse took place.

Evidence that someone has been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK as a victim of domestic violence, or granted legal aid on domestic violence grounds, could also be sufficient.”

If you have any views on this proposal, the government is encouraging you to submit your thoughts. You can do this by emailing: anonymous-registration@cabinetoffice.gov.uk 

What do you think? 

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Lords Discuss Children and Social Work Bill In New Series

In a bid to inform and engage the public with the work of the House of Lords and its members, BBC2 have produced a series called Meet The Lords. 

The programme is designed to help the House shed its stuffy and ‘entitled’ image, with a detailed description of the focus of the series over on Parliament’s website which opens with this comment:

“Most members of the House of Lords are appointed for life (‘life peers’), and members no longer inherit their seats. Many members have a political background but many come from other professional backgrounds including medicine, the military, business, science and technology, the creative industries and the law.

Members come from different backgrounds and most faiths and ethnic groups in the UK are represented. Many remain active in their careers and apply their professional experience to the House’s work.”

The first episode is called “Meet The Lords” and invites you to listen to a selection of peers talking about their work and the Bills they’ve helped shape. One of the Bills discussed is the Children and Social Work Bill. Baroness King Of Bow, who was responsible for pushing an amendment through to remove a cap on child benefits for adopted children, talks about her efforts. You can watch the first episode here. 

Some interesting stats are offered too:

During the 2015-16 session, which ran from 27 May 2015 to 12 May 2016:

  • 78 bills were introduced
  • 3,678 changes were considered
  • 1,254 changes were made
  • 27 reports were produced by the main committees
  • 710 members spoke in debates
  • 779 voted in divisions
  • 321 were members of select committees

Having worked extensively with Lords on child welfare issues, Researching Reform is a passionate advocate of the House. Those we know are hard working and deeply committed to social justice, and we admire their courage to push against government policy when it risks harming children and families. A recent example of this can be seen in the way the Lords handled the government’s opt-out plans in the Children and Social Work Bill.

The second episode of Meet The Lords airs on BBC 2 on Monday 6th March, at 9pm.

Follow all the chat on Twitter with #MeetTheLords

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Urgent Call For Evidence: Children In Care And Care Leavers

We tweeted about this call for evidence last week, but it’s too important a request not to share it again here.

The Children’s Commissioner and the National Children’s Bureau are hoping to:

  • Gather information on mechanisms used to seek the views, experiences and perceptions of children in care and care leavers.
  • Identify related sources of evidence produced since April 2015 that relate to the views, experiences and perceptions of children in care and care leavers.

The very good National IRO Managers Partnership website has a useful summary. An extract from their article is added below:

“The aim is to understand the current evidence base on views, experiences and perceptions of children in or leaving care. This will involve exploring methods used to engage with children, as well as the products of such engagement. Analysis will focus on whether it is feasible to describe a national picture by drawing on individual exercises from across England. This will inform the Children’s Commissioner of whether there is sufficient evidence to inform a future “State of the Nation” report on children in care and care leavers….

We therefore ask that IRO Managers respond to this important call for evidence with information on outputs published or unpublished, carried out since April 2015 related to:

  • Activities you undertake, or have undertaken to gather the views, experiences and perceptions of children in or leaving care.
  • Resulting published or unpublished outputs from these activities.”

If you know of anyone who might be interested in this call, please do share this post. This is an excellent example of organisations trying to amplify the voice of the child, which is so rarely done.

The deadline for submissions is 20th March, 2017.

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Government To Scrap Dangerous Opt-Out Clauses From Children’s Bill

After months of campaigning to remove clauses from a Bill which would have placed children’s lives at risk if implemented, it looks as if the government has finally decided to drop the exemption clauses from the Children and Social Work Bill.

Fierce opposition to the clauses came from the child protection, child rights and activist movements within the family justice system, which saw members of the Lords, social workers, pressure groups, politicians and charities join forces to stop these clauses from being passed.

The opt out clauses would have allowed councils to forego legal duties and responsibilities towards children, in order to experiment with child protection schemes.

Researching Reform, along with many, many others, campaigned to highlight the very serious concerns these clauses raised, and we’re beyond delighted that these clauses have been scrapped.

Before we can celebrate though, we’ll have to wait for the government to sign off on amendments tabled to have the clauses removed. It’s hoped that formal removal of these clauses will take place on 7th March, 2017, when the Bill reaches Report Stage in the House of Commons.

All that’s left for us to do is say a big congratulations to everyone who fought hard –  a fantastic result all round.

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