Family court chief bans live tweeting, discussion about “transparency meetings”

Members of the Family Division’s Transparency Implementation Group (TIG) were banned from tweeting during group meetings or discussing the meetings with others, at the TIG’s first conference on 15 December, 2021.

President of the Family Division Andrew McFarlane who chairs the group, said real-time tweets about the meetings and any conversations outside of the gatherings would be “unhelpful”, in minutes published on 5 January, 2022. The statement appears to be an attempt to stem public discussions about goings-on at the meetings.

In a section titled “Etiquette” members were told: “Live tweeting, or the discussion of specific details from meetings would be unhelpful as this could occur before firm conclusions had been reached, and could therefore impact on the group’s ability to have open, candid discussions or result in mixed
messaging.”

The minutes also outlined a proposal for four new sub-groups: press attendance and reporting; data collection; media engagement; and the anonymisation and publication of judgments.

However the minutes did not mention the judiciary’s publication of a controversial family court transcript in November which was taken down following concerns about the graphic nature of the document.

No explanation has yet been given about how the judgment was approved, whether its publication was discussed with the parents and other family members in the case, and if anyone from the President’s office has spoken to the judge who approved the transcript for publication.

The minutes included several additional suggestions including the involvement of people with lived experience in each sub-group, and that “the impact of the group’s work on families and children would be integral to the work of all the sub-groups and would be evaluated on an ongoing basis.”

Terms of reference for the group and each sub-group have not been finalised, however the group hopes to complete its work by the end of the year. The next meeting for the group has been scheduled for March, 2022.

The minutes of TIG’s meeting can be accessed here.

Protest highlights ‘poverty bias’ in children’s social work

A demonstration taking place today outside the London Family Court in High Holborn hopes to raise awareness about the way mothers experiencing poverty are discriminated against inside Britain’s family courts.

The demo, which has been launched by Support Not Separation (SNS), a movement created by support service Legal Action for Women (LAW), takes place on the first Wednesday of every month.

LAW says women living under the poverty line are targeted by social services who remove a disproportionate number of children from their care, on grounds which are often questionable. The organisation says the incidence of removal increases when a mother experiences intimate partner violence (domestic abuse).

LAW has found that children in these cases are frequently placed with the abusive parent, against the wishes of the child who is either fearful for their own safety or the safety of the non-abusive parent.

The press release for the demonstration notes that 290,000 children in England and Wales will fall below the poverty line, adding to the 4.3m already living in poverty.

The release adds that children placed on child protection plans are rarely those suffering from abuse, but rather neglect, which encompasses poverty-related problems rather than concerns about a parent’s fitness to care for their child.

LAW says families who reach out to their local authorities for help to tackle poverty-created deficits lose their children to care rather than receive the support they have asked for, and need.

The demonstration takes place today from 12.30pm – 1.30pm, outside the London Family Court: First Ave House, 42-49 High Holborn, WC1V 6NP. Twitter users can engage with the demonstration by following and tweeting @NotSeparation.

Best Interests of the Child Review: Call for support

As part of its next phase, the Best Interests of the Child Review (BIC) is inviting services and organisations who are willing to assist families going through child protection proceedings to join the review as support partners.

The review, which was launched on World Children’s Day (20 November) last year, is parent-led and focuses on children’s social care through the eyes of the children going through the system.

The review will provide recommendations for proper evidence-based social work practice, within the framework of compassionate social work held to the highest standards, and delivered in a humane and supportive way, with its primary aim of keeping families together wherever possible.

The launch included the publication of a rights booklet, which offers families a point of reference for all the rights they and their children have going through the process, which they can enforce in law.

The booklet also includes links to relevant documents, files and legislation, as well as a glossary of terms and links to websites of organisations who offer help and advice for free.

The review team also offers support to parents and children through signposting assistance so that families can access the help they need.

As part of our promise to provide immediate help to families, we are launching a support service partnership with organisations offering free support and advice.

Organisations will be reviewed by the team to ensure that they meet our criteria: initiatives must offer a compassionate and professional service, offered free of charge to families.

Several organisations have already very kindly agreed to work alongside the review to support children and their families in this way, but demand for help is high and we would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to help.

Approved organisations will be featured on BIC’s My Support page. We also understand that some organisations led by parents may not wish to be featured on the site and we are more than happy to pass on your details discreetly.

The review would love to hear from you if you offer the following support or advice free of charge:

  • Family law and legal aid guidance/ signposting/ legal advice (registered law firms, charities and pro bono units only for the last item)
  • Advocates for children
  • Support for SEND children
  • Support for victims of Domestic Violence
  • Support for parents going through family law proceedings
  • Support for families experiencing homelessness/ the threat of homelessness
  • Support for families in need for food, clothing, school uniform

If you would like to apply to be a support partner, we would love to hear from you. Please email the team at contactbicreview@gmail.com

Thank you from all of us at BIC.

The Latest

Welcome to another week.

These are the latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Image of the month

Welcome to another year.

The featured image for January on our banner is by Paul Brian Tovey, an adult adoptee who was abused by his adoptive parents as a child.

Paul now campaigns for adoptees to have the legal right to revert back to their birth identities.

This painting is called The Wig Of Fates and sheds light on how adoptions, which are approved and signed off by family court judges, can make a child feel.

With our deepest thanks to Paul for allowing us to continue featuring his work and his enormous talent on Researching Reform.

Merry Christmas, from Researching Reform

Researching Reform wishes children and their parents a happy and hopeful holiday, in what has been an exceptionally difficult year for families going through the child protection system in Britain.

Lockdowns and failures to apply government policies enabling contact with children in care during the pandemic left many children and their parents deeply upset and anxious.

Revelations about the way survivors of domestic abuse and their children were treated in court also caused concern.

And as we looked through the data on Researching Reform’s website, we were able to see what really mattered to families the most in 2021.

By far the largest search term used was “who does the local authority owe a duty of care to?”, while our post outlining a worrying trend in which mothers who alleged abuse increasingly had their children removed from their care was one of the most read stories this year.

As always, our readers offered thought provoking comment and insight on Britain’s family courts and children’s social care. We would like to thank these children, parents and grandparents, many of whom have been a part of the Researching Reform community since we launched more than a decade ago.

This project could not exist without you or your support, and we remain humbled and deeply grateful for your engagement and wisdom.

We know this is a painful and challenging time for parents who have lost a child to the care system, or through other forms of loss, and although we realise our words of comfort may not offer comfort at all, Researching Reform is with you, and thinking of you at this time of the year, and all the year round.

We started this project for you, and it will always be for you.

We wish you strength and the possibility of a better year ahead, and we send our love to every child in care this Christmas,

Natasha, Researching Reform xxx

Are family courts breaching children’s and parents’ human rights?

A mother with lived experience of Britain’s child protection system is calling for a government inquiry into whether family court decisions are breaching children’s and parents’ right to family life.

A sharp increase in recent years in the number of children being removed from parents and placed in state care in England and Wales in the wake of government figures showing that maltreatment and abuse have plateaued for decades has caused concern among human rights experts.

The Human Rights Act, ratified by the UK, includes Article 8 which protects a person’s right to and respect for their private life and family life, and their ability to live their life privately without government interference.

Victoria Hudson, who campaigns to raise awareness about the way women and children who suffer domestic violence are treated in the family courts, asked the Joint Committee on Human Rights to launch an inquiry into current-day family court decisions to investigate whether the judgments and orders are breaching families’ human rights.

The call includes a request to the committee to look at current forced adoption practices in Britain, alongside its recently launched review into forced adoptions which took place between 1949 and 1976.

Victoria is also asking the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to review her own family law case.

The call has been published on FiLiA’s website, a charity which promotes the women’s liberation movement. The web page invites readers to support Victoria’s campaign by emailing Harriet Harman MP, chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and requesting that she undertakes a review of recent family court decisions and their impact on the rights of children and birth mothers to family life.

Additionally, supporters have been invited to email Lord David Wolfson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the MOJ, to ask for Victoria’s case to be reviewed.

The page offers lots of useful links, and includes letter templates for readers who want to support one or more of the calls to action, which you can access here.

Tesco’s “adoption celebration” card leaves parents fuming on Facebook

A greeting card congratulating people for adopting children has sparked a furious backlash on Facebook.

The card, which is being sold in Tesco supermarkets in the UK, says: “Congratulations on your adoption. You don’t have to be born into a family to be a big part of one.”

The card was posted in a closed Facebook group with more than 1,500 members on Tuesday by one of the group’s admin staff after it was spotted in a Tesco’s branch.

The group, which supports parents who have lost their children to forced adoption in England and Wales, was flooded with comments shortly after the card was posted on their Facebook page.

One of the admin members for the group wrote: “Tesco selling adoption cards celebrating a FORCED Adoption – whatever next – well done TESCO 👏🏽🤷🏽🧸They don’t realise we are dealing with 3 parent suicides in the last 2 to 3 weeks as their children were FORCED Adopted never for the parents to see them again.”

Another poster said: “Some people do it for the right reasons but it is a kick in the teeth for those whom have had their child forcibly removed x”

Parents in the group offered suggestions such as: placing “forced adoption” stickers on the cards to raise public awareness about adoption practices in Britain; writing to the customer complaints department at Tesco; and holding protests outside the stores demanding the cards are removed from the shelves.

Several parents reacted strongly to the image of the card. One mother simply posted, “F***ing sick!” While another parent wrote, “Wtf can’t believe that. It’s depressing knowing that our children are not gonna be with us and now this. Sick c**ts whatever next 😡🤬.”

One father added, “Anywhere that supports adoption will not be getting my money. I will not be shopping in Tesco’s any longer. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

While there is still very little research about how child removals affect fathers, emerging research about mothers who lose their children to foster care confirms that they are more likely to commit suicide than mothers whose children are not fostered.

In one study, the researchers discovered that suicide rates among women who lost their children to foster care was almost three times higher and the death rate almost four times higher than those mothers whose children had not gone into foster care.

A second study held that mothers whose children were placed in care were almost five times more likely to die from avoidable causes such as unintentional injury and suicide, and almost three times more like to die from unavoidable causes, including car accidents and heart disease.

And a third study found that when a mother lost her child to the care system, her physical and mental health became significantly worse.

The UK is one of only a small number of countries implementing forced adoption policies which allow the state to remove children from parents without their consent. Parents whose children are placed for adoption often spend several years inside the legal system fighting to get their children back.

Forced, non consensual or involuntary adoption is viewed by most countries as an outdated and harmful practice, which has been overtaken by consensual and open adoptions in the majority of countries around the world.

Many thanks to Tum Mum for alerting us to this development.

The latest

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar: