Question It!

Welcome to another week.

Simple adoption is a form of adoption used in France, which does not sever family ties between the child and their biological parents.

While the terms of a simple adoption may vary within the countries that implement the policy, in France a child can keep their biological parents’ last name, and retains their inheritance rights.

Under simple adoptions, adopted children effectively have two families and contact is encouraged with both biological and adoptive parents.

The UK currently implements a full adoption policy, which sever a child’s ties with its biological parents and very rarely allows for regular and meaningful post adoption contact. Instances where post-adoption contact do occur, are often referred to as open adoptions.

Our question this week, then, is just this: do you think the UK should remove its full adoption policy and replace it with simple adoptions? 

We are running polls on Facebook and Twitter asking the same question, so please do choose one of these platforms and have your say.

If you don’t use Twitter or Facebook, please leave a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as a comment on this post, and feel free to add any further thoughts you like.

Twitter Poll

Facebook Poll

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Interesting Things

Interesting and important items on child welfare we found this week:

Review of Parent and Family Engagement in Child Protection

“While social work practices emphasise people’s self-determination as fundamental to evoking change in parents when care falters, there is global acknowledgment of the struggle child protection authorities have to meaningfully engage parents and families.”

This research paper from 2013, written by Mary Ivec, a researcher at the Australian National University is a must-read for anyone engaged with or working in child welfare.

The paper offers powerful insights into national and international models of engagement with parents going through child protection proceedings and makes a strong case for why, and how, these models need to change.

The summary offers six key recommendations for making child protection processes inclusive and effective:

  1. Think in context (be it the family, the community or the wider system) and do not impose a preconceived theory;
  2. Listen actively by engaging all stakeholders; be clear on what is to be expected; be outcome focused and problem-solving; build commitment by having families find their own motivations to improve; communicate staying power and belief that change is possible;
  3. Engage fairly and respectfully including with dissenting voices, whose experiences can often lead to improved ways of operating;
  4. Embrace systemic approaches — multiple decision-makers and problem-solvers (networked governance) make better decisions than sole decision-makers removed from the front lines. Community collaborations with a coalition of key and diverse partners can assist at a family or a systems level;
  5. Be collaborative in capacity building — shared responsibility requires shared decision-making. The key to the success of many of the models of engagement is to think through all major decisions and to bring the authority for decision-making as close to the family as possible; and
  6. Learn, evaluate and share what is learnt.

You can read the paper here. 

Court orders change in living arrangements for child following parental alienation

A robust summary of this case (Re H (parental alienation) PA v TT and H [2019] EWHC 2723 (Fam)) has been published on Lexis Nexis, which has been produced by solicitor Jenny Bowden.

The case involves a 12 year old boy whose parents were embroiled in a custody battle, which included domestic violence allegations made by the mother, and parental alienation allegations by the father.

This is a complex case, both for the lines being crossed by both parents and the impact of the court’s decision on the child.

You can read the summary here.

Conference on organised sexual abuse 

A one day conference being held in London in March, will look at organised sexual abuse, including ritual abuse, prolonged incest and the intergenerational transmission of sexual violence.

The session is being led by Dr Michael Salter, who we consider to be an excellent academic in this field, and is being co-hosted by the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation.

Additional speakers and participants include Margot Sunderland, Adah Sachs, Kathryn Livingston, Mark Linington, Sue Richardson, Valerie Sinason, and Nancy Borrett.

While this conference is geared at child welfare professionals (and cannot be attended without paying a registration fee), we are adding it here as it may be of interest to our readers. A discounted fee is being offered to students.

The conference takes place on 5 March 2020, at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London, from 10am-5pm.

Michael and other attendees may also tweet during the conference, for anyone who might like to know more about this subject but cannot get to the meeting. You can tweet with Michael at @Mike_Salter. 

You can access the conference schedule and registration page here.

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Welsh Councillor Who Claimed To Have Child Protection Qualifications Fails To Offer Proof

A Welsh councillor being investigated over his handling of a child protection case has failed to offer evidence that he has child protection qualifications, after claiming he had been trained in the field.

Neil McEvoy contacted Researching Reform after reading a piece we wrote on a child protection case he had taken on, claiming that the report contained several factual inaccuracies.

This site offered to amend its original report upon Mr McEvoy furnishing the site with evidence.

Mr McEvoy told this site in a message exchange on Facebook that we were wrong in suggesting that he had no child protection training, and that he had not offered evidence of Welsh Women’s Aid encouraging women to breach court orders involving contact with fathers, or other women’s groups who he claimed had done the same.

He also said that he had not been removed from the party for bullying members as both this site and the BBC reported, but was expelled “for not discouraging people clapping me into a conference.”

Mr McEvoy did not send any evidence to this site about his claims in relation to Welsh Women’s Aid, or other women’s groups, and failed to offer any documentary evidence to confirm his alleged child protection qualifications.

We also asked McEvoy to explain his opposition to a Welsh Bill banning all forms of corporal punishment against children. McEvoy declined to comment.

While the site has received an expulsion letter written to Mr McEvoy by the Welsh Party Hearing Panel, the letter does not say that the Assembly Member was expelled for preventing people from clapping for him. There is no mention of clapping in the letter.

The letter says that McEvoy was expelled for “actions or statements, damaging or potentially damaging the public reputation of the party”, breaches of confidentiality and a series of tweets which Mr McEvoy posted after being found guilty of bullying by a disciplinary panel at the Local Government Ombudsman.

According to a report by the BBC in March 2018, the Welsh Party Panel also issued a statement about the councillor’s hearing, which said that the Panel “found him guilty of conduct in party meetings or against party members during party-organised events, or in correspondence dealing with party business, that was intimidating, harassing or that caused distress or disillusionment among party members and/or staff.”

The Assembly Member is now being investigated by the Standards & Ethics Committee at Cardiff Council, where he is a councillor, amid claims that he bullied care home staff while woking on a child protection case. McEvoy denies the allegations.

In 2011, Neil McEvoy accused Welsh Women’s Aid of “publicly funded child abuse”, claiming the group helped women break court orders involving fathers’ access to children, in a series of tweets he sent out on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

McEvoy apologised  for his outburst shortly before he was suspended from the party saying:

“I apologise for any offence caused and accept I should have used less emotional language than the words I used.”

“I regret letting my emotional baggage of being a father who has experienced what, I believe, are the inadequacies of the family law system to guide my political actions.”

He added, “I particularly regret that the tweeting of comments – originally made 18 months ago – on this sensitive day have allowed the matter to become more about me than the issue itself.”

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In The News

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

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Politician Expelled From The Welsh Party Takes Up Child Protection Case

A Welsh politician who was expelled from Plaid Cymru in 2017 for bullying and harassing party members has taken on a child protection case.

Neil McEvoy made headlines in 2011 for accusing Welsh Women’s Aid of “publicly funded child abuse”, claiming the group helped women break court orders involving fathers’ access to children, in a series of tweets he sent out on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. McEvoy has so far not produced any evidence to justify the claim.

McEvoy apologised  for his outburst shortly before he was suspended from the party saying:

“I apologise for any offence caused and accept I should have used less emotional language than the words I used.”

“I regret letting my emotional baggage of being a father who has experienced what, I believe, are the inadequacies of the family law system to guide my political actions.”

He added, “I particularly regret that the tweeting of comments – originally made 18 months ago – on this sensitive day have allowed the matter to become more about me than the issue itself.”

McEvoy also opposed the Welsh Government’s “Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill, which makes all forms of corporal punishment against children illegal. The politician’s tweet opposing the bill has since been deleted from Twitter.

Now McEvoy, who is running as an independent councillor for Cardiff West, has raised concerns about a child who may have been abused in a care home.

McEvoy, who does not have a background in child protection, tried to engage with the care home and the police, leading to contact between the child and their parents being stopped.

Complaints that the councillor had tried to “ambush” a therapy session involving the child, and had bullied staff responsible for the child were then raised.

McEvoy said that he had been invited to attend the meeting by the child and their parents.

Additional complaints suggested that the Assembly Member had been too ‘demanding’ in the way in which he had approached the care home, and had called the police to request a welfare check on the child.

McEvoy is now being investigated by the Standards & Ethics Committee at Cardiff Council, where he is a councillor, over breaches of the council’s code of conduct.

After the investigation was announced, McEvoy called out his council’s Committee in a series of Facebook posts, calling it “not fit for purpose”, and a Kangaroo Court.

Despite the red flags in this case, which include the social work staff stopping contact between the child and their parents apparently out of spite, and cancelling the therapy session because the father intended to record the meeting, which is allowed, these developments have now been overshadowed by McEvoy’s disciplinary hearing.

Many thanks to Nicky for alerting us to this case.

UPDATE 8 January, 2020: Neil McEvoy contacted this site after reading our post and asked us to amend the piece on the ground that it was factually incorrect.

Among the factual inaccuracies we understand McEvoy has pointed to, are the views that he does not have any child protection qualifications, that he was unable to provide evidence of the allegations he made against Welsh Women’s Aid and that he was expelled from Plaid Cymru for bullying and harassing members of the party during a meeting.

Mr McEvoy told this site in a message exchange that he has child protection training, that he has evidence of Welsh Women’s Aid encouraging women to breach court orders involving contact with non-violent and non-abusive fathers, and knew of other women’s groups who had done the same, and that he was expelled from the party for not preventing members from cheering for him as he entered a meeting. 

We are giving Mr McEvoy the right of reply, which is the fair thing to do, and have asked him to provide the following evidence to allow us to review the piece and make any changes required:

  • Evidence that Mr McEvoy has child protection training
  • Evidence of the allegations he has made against Welsh Women’s Aid and other Women’s groups he claims are enabling mothers to breach court orders against innocent fathers 
  • A copy of his expulsion letter, in full 
  • An answer to our question in correspondence over why he chose to oppose the Welsh Bill banning corporal punishment of children

Mr McEvoy has confirmed that he will send this evidence and responses to our questions, tomorrow. 

We have decided to remove our view about Mr McEvoy’s political agenda in this post as the above issues have become magnified in our correspondence with Neil and are far more important than our own views about his assistance in these cases. 

Finally, for added transparency, we are including the links to all the content we accessed to write this article, which confirms the various facts we have included in the piece, as well as additional information about Mr McEvoy. 

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Child Protection Experienced Families Invited To Launch Event For “Parent Partnership” Scheme

A government-funded social work teaching body is launching an initiative to improve child protection in England and Wales, by including parents with experience of the child protection system.

The project will hold its official launch in Birmingham next month, at an event which it hopes will attract families who have been, or are currently inside the care system.

 The Social Work Teaching Partnership West Midlands (SWTP) has created what it calls a “Parent Partnership Programme” which aims to develop “a more supportive, collective and compassionate approach to child protection”, according to the event’s invitation page.

The event will act as the official launch for the scheme, and will feature the experiences of professionals working with parents who have been in the care system in the United States, information on how parent partnership can reduce the need for children to be in care, as well as develop better support for families, and how to foster better cooperation between parents and social workers.

The invitation says that some of the speakers at the event will include parents who have experienced the child protection system. Additional speakers confirmed are Professor Andy Bilson, a spokesperson from ATD Fourth World, and members of the Camden Family Group Conferencing and Southwark Parents Panel.

The event will feature speeches, interactive workshops and a decision making panel.

The organisers are actively encouraging families to attend this event, as well as social work managers and practitioners, with a view to developing the parent partnership scheme further once the launch has been held.

The Social Work Teaching Partnership West Midlands is one of 23 accredited social work teaching bodies funded by the Department for Education to raise the level of education and training for social work students.

The 23 partnerships incorporate 113 councils, 54 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and 32 private, voluntary and independent (PVI) partners.

SWTP West Midlands is made up of local authorities, children’s trusts, NHS trusts and universities.

The Partnership also has a newsletter it sends out, which can be subscribed to through Coventry City Council’s E Mail Alerts Service.

Teaching Partnerships were set up in 2014 to improve social work education, and an evaluation of their impact is set to be published by the Department of Education in March 2020.

An interim report was published in July 2019, which found that while cooperation between social workers and academics had improved in some cases, the sector continued to face ongoing challenges.

The scheme’s launch takes place on Tuesday, February 25 in Birmingham’s Old Library, from 10am – 4pm.

You can access the invitation and register to attend here. 

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The Buzz

Welcome to another year.

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

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Leading Child Welfare Experts Call For an Independent Review of the Care System

High profile child welfare professionals in Britain have called on Education Minister Gavin Williamson, to launch a government review into the children’s care system in England and Wales.

The review would be the widest in scope that England and Wales have ever seen, and would allow for an investigation into the use of forced, or non-consensual adoption, which is currently only used by a small number of countries around the world.

The inquiry also hopes to emphasise the voices of children and families who have experienced the care system.

The call comes after the Conservatives promised to review the care system in its election manifesto this year.

The letter, which was authored by John Radoux, a child psychotherapeutic counsellor, has already been signed by 60 people, including the CEO of Children England Kathy Evans, Article 39’s Director Carolyn Willow, the Chair of Nagalro  Sukhchandan P Kaur, and Brigid Featherstone, and asks the government to ensure that the review meets six targets:

  1. Creating a fully independent review, commissioned by central government but separate from the state;
  2. Ensuring the review is non-partisan and looks at long-term reforms supported by every party, now and in the future;
  3. Implementing broad frames of reference which are able to consider all aspects of children’s social care;
  4. Resourcing the review properly, with as much time as is needed to gather evidence and draw up reports with recommendations;
  5. Engaging as many voices as possible, with an emphasis on input from people who have been in care or are currently experiencing care and;
  6. Meeting the UK’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and existing research and good practice.

The letter outlines the current problems inside children’s social care, acknowledges past reviews, as well as arguing for the need to investigate the challenges in a more comprehensive way, and asks the government to help reform the system so that it works in the best interests of the children it is meant to support.

Here is an extract from the letter:

“The signatories of this letter are individuals with personal or professional experience of children’s social care – some of us have both.  We are writing because we fully support the need for such a review, and want to urge you to be ambitious regarding its scope. As ambitious as we should be for every child in care today, and long into the future. 

When the state decides to look after a child, because he or she cannot live with family, it takes on an exceptional responsibility for that child in the most formative years of life.  Unfortunately, we have been failing in this responsibility with too many children for too long. Significant concerns that have been highlighted through research, the courts and in the media over recent months, include:

Insufficient, and geographically incoherent, capacity in foster care and children’s homes to meet the needs of increasing numbers of children; rising numbers of children being moved too far from their local areas; children and young people living in unregulated homes; rising care bills contributing to ubiquitous council ‘overspends’ alongside concerns about profit-extraction by private equity companies; insufficient specialist therapeutic care (including secure provision) for very traumatised and/or vulnerable children; disproportionate numbers of children in care and care leavers in custody; children being moved chaotically to different foster and children’s homes multiple times – too often in double digits.  These problems, and there are many more in children’s social care, have been known to most of us for years – indeed, experienced as a painful reality by some of us as children. 

The unpalatable truth is this: many thousands of children are being harmed by a system intended to protect, nurture and care for them.  Harmed by inadequate or inconsistent care, harmed by the lack of stable, ongoing relationships as they are moved around the care system and into adulthood, harmed by the abuse and exploitation they are made vulnerable to. This has to change – we, as a society, must do better.”

You can read, and sign, the letter, here. 

Tweet with John Radoux at @JohnRadoux.

 

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