Call for children and young people who have experienced the child protection system

Welcome to another week.

Human rights-focused anti-poverty organisation ATD Fourth World, and the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex are carrying out research about how the child protection system negatively affects children and young people, and their human rights.

As part of this research, it is inviting children and young people to take part in online focus groups.

The researchers would like to speak with children or young people who have experienced poverty and who have had interactions with social services. They would also like to hear from parents with the same kinds of experiences, and social workers who have had first-hand experience of risk-aversion in practice, how social services see families in poverty, and involuntary (forced) closed adoptions.

In the press release, Kaydence Drayak who volunteers for Teen Advocacy and ATD Fourth World and who is co-leading the research, said, “Young people are often completely at the mercy of the decisions made by adults. The ways that child participation is built into the current system in the UK is a one-size-fits-all box ticking exercise. This is often infuriating and damaging to children — to their trust in those who profess to care, to their self-esteem, and to their identity as an individual with rights who is worthy of respect.”

Children and other participants have been invited to select one of four focus groups.

The dates for the focus groups are:

  • Saturday 26 November at 3 pm
  • Tuesday 29 November at 2 pm
  • Friday 2 December at 9:30 am
  • Tuesday 13 December at 2 pm.

If you would like to take part in the resarch, please contact Diana Skelton at skeltond@atd-uk.org, and say which group you would take part in, and which of these dates could work for you.

You can access the press release in full here.

Parliament debate on the removal of parental responsibility for people convicted of serious offences – Transcript

The transcript for a Parliamentary debate exploring the creation of an automatic suspension in law of a parent’s rights in relation to their children if they are found guilty of murdering the other parent, is now available to read.

The House of Commons debate on 12th September took place following the publication of an e-petition, which asked the government to create an automatic suspension in law of a parent’s rights in relation to their children, if they are found guilty of murdering the other parent. Under current government rules a petition which gathers more than 100,000 signatures must be debated in Parliament.

The discussion is very much worth reading, as it offers some interesting and nuanced ideas on how to put a suspension into place, including putting the onus on the convicted parent of showing that his or her parental responsibility (PR) should not be terminated.

Members of Parliament also suggested that a suspension should be an option in cases of domestic violence, including this comment from Kerry McCarthy who said, “Far too many parents have to keep in contact with their abusers for their children’s sake. I say “for their children’s sake”, but that is based on a default presumption that it must always be in the child’s interest for the parent in prison [for domestic violence] to retain contact, and quite often that presumption is wrong.”

The petition was created by Edwin John Robert Duggan and collected more than 129,000 signatures.

Duggan is a law graduate and a close friend of Jade Ward,  a 27-year-old mother-of-four, who was murdered by her estranged husband at her home on August 25, 2021. Russell Marsh was found guilty of murdering Jade this year and received a life sentence. However, he is still legally allowed to receive updates on the children, ask for school reports, and have a say in his children’s upbringing while serving his sentence in prison. Duggan has called the legal proposal “Jade’s Law”.

The government failed to respond to the petition within the accepted timeframe and to address the request directly. These failures were criticised by Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP, in a letter to the Ministry of Justice.

You can read the transcript of the debate here.

Additional links:

UNICEF asks parents to leave Voice Notes for the UK government as access to support services gets worse

UNICEF’s latest campaign draws attention to the lack of help for parents with babies and toddlers in the UK, with their newest piece of research finding that 1 in 3 parents with young children across the country are struggling to access support. 

The research also found that 59% of parents were struggling with their mental health and that almost 2 in 3 parents have received only some or none of their minimum health visits.

UNICEF are calling on the British government to establish a National Baby and Toddler Guarantee. The guarantee would set out the basic services every young child is entitled to, and make sure they get them.

The campaign includes a petition asking Government to create the guarantee, which has been signed by more than 200,000 people.

As part of this campaign, UNICEF are inviting parents to send a Voice Note to them, which they say they will share with the government, to say why this kind of support matters. A couple of examples were included in the email Researching Reform received, which we’re adding here:

“We struggled to access speech therapy. It took 2 years from referral to get our first session and it’s still a fight to keep the sessions going now. These are services we’ve been professionally referred to and are essential for our child’s development.”
VANESSA, NORFOLK
“We’re just wishing our life away until she turns three and we get that free 30 hours, we’re both absolutely exhausted and emotionally drained.”
STACEY, MANCHESTER

UNICEF says this is how the Voice Note works:

“We want to raise the voices of parents and carers across the country. Send us a voice-note on WhatsApp with just your first name, where you’re from, and why this issue matters to you. 

We’ll amplify some of your messages on social media. And we’ll deliver them right to the heart of the UK Government to show that this is something families across the country care about.”

 +44 7341 732 716

The email explains that the Voice Note facility is for over 18s only, but children can get in touch (with the help of a parent or carer where appropriate) via email using the email address: campaigns@unicef.org.uk

Further terms and conditions are included here.

UN Human Rights Office call for submissions: Contact cases, parental alienation, and violence against children and women

In a welcome but very surprising development — and what may be a world first — the United Nations has decided to carry out research on the connection between child contact cases, parental alienation and domestic violence around the world.

The Office is inviting submissions from: civil society actors such as campaigners, bloggers and others with an interest in these issues; international organisations; academics; governments; and national human rights institutions. We have written to the Office to ask whether they are open to receiving submissions from children and families in the UK with lived experience of these issues.

The announcement on the Office’s website has a very good, but very long explanation of why it is carrying out this research, the background to these issues, and what kind of information they need.

In the announcement, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, says she wants to produce a “report on the nexus between custody and guardianship cases, violence against women and violence against children, with a focus on the abuse of the concept of “parental alienation” and related or similar concepts.”

The press release says:

“Despite a strong indication that the parental alienation concept has become a tool for denial of domestic and child abuse, leading to further discrimination and harm to women and children, data on the treatment of the history of intimate partner violence and other forms of domestic violence and abuse when family courts assess custody cases continues to be limited. Data is also limited regarding the degree to which family courts use a gender analysis in their decisions.”

The statement offers nine items the UN is hoping to gather information about:

  1. The different manifestations or specific types of domestic and intimate partner violence experienced by women and children, including the use of “parental alienation” and related concepts in child custody and access cases. Please also include a description of the different forms of violence that may be experienced by the mother and child as well as fundamental human rights violations, where relevant.
  2. The factors behind the increased number of allegations of parental alienation cases in custody battles and/or disputes involving allegations of domestic violence and abuse against women, and its differentiated impact on specific groups of women and children.
  3. The way in which different groups of women and children experience this phenomenon differently based on any intersecting elements such as age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, legal residence, religious or political belief or other considerations and the factors that contribute to these situations.
  4. The role that professionals play, including welfare workers, child protection services, guardian ad-litem, psychologists, psychiatrists, and how they are regulated in any way as expert witnesses.
  5. The consequences of the disregard for the history of domestic violence and abuse and intimate partner violence or the penalising of such allegations in custody cases on the human rights of both the mother and the child, and the interrelationship between these rights.
  6. The challenges in collecting disaggregated data on courts’ practices concerning custody cases, the areas/sectors for which data is particularly lacking and the reasons for such challenges.
  7. The good practices, strategies adopted by different organs of the State or other non-State actors, at local, national, regional, or international level to improve the due consideration of domestic and family violence, including intimate partner violence against women and abuse of children in determining child custody, as well as in providing remedies and redress for victims/survivors.
  8. Recommendations for preventing the inadequate consideration of a history of domestic violence and abuse and gender stereotyping in custody cases to restore the human rights of mothers and their children, as well as ensure that survivors/victims are effectively protected and assisted.
  9. Any other issue of relevance that are vital for consideration but that may not have been mentioned in this call for inputs.

The UN has asked that submissions are no more than 2,000 words and are sent in Word or PDF files. The Office is accepting feedback in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

Submissions are required to be sent via email to hrc-sr-vaw@un.org and with the subject heading: Input for SR VAWG’s report on violence against women and children in custody cases

The deadline for submissions is 15 December, 2022.

We will post an update as soon as we hear back from the UN about child and family submissions.

You can access the press release here.

Today: Children and Families Truth Commission Meet Up – Human Rights Survey

Britain’s first parent-led Truth Commission investigating the state of children’s social care in England and Wales is holding its monthly public Zoom meeting today, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

We will share the Commission’s latest project – a human rights questionnaire for families affected by the child protection system – and ask you for your feedback and suggestions.

The survey asks questions about your experience of child protection investigations and court proceedings. It also asks about how you were treated by people working in child protection and children’s social care services. The questions have been designed to better understand if and how your human rights were affected.

The questionnaire is completely anonymous and no identifying details about families who take part will be published or shared.

Once the Commission has received your thoughts it will add them into the survey, create the final version, and publish it for families to complete.

During the event you can also ask commission lead Michele Simmons, and commission team members Simon Haworth and Natasha Phillips (Researching Reform) questions, and tells us what you think about the commission’s current projects.

We’d really love you to join us.

The Commission is led by parents and children, for parents and children, and we prioritise feedback and advice from these groups. However, we are also very happy to host child welfare academics, practitioners and lawyers who are interested in our work.

The call will take place today, from 5.30pm – 6.30pm on Zoom.

If you would like to attend the event, please email the team at truthcommissionuk@gmail.com. The team will also give you information about how to access the conference.

Please confirm you would like to attend the event in your message, and let us know if you are a care-experienced child or parent, social care stakeholder, government affiliate, academic, journalist or member of the public.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Additional links:

Tomorrow: Children and Families Truth Commission Meet Up – Human Rights Survey

Welcome to another week.

Britain’s first parent-led Truth Commission investigating the state of children’s social care is holding its monthly public Zoom meeting on Tuesday 8th November, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

We will unveil the Commission’s latest project – a human rights questionnaire for families affected by the child protection system – and ask you for your feedback and suggestions.

The survey asks questions about your experience of child protection investigations and court proceedings. It also asks about how you were treated by people working in child protection and children’s social care services. The questions have been designed to better understand if and how your human rights were affected.

The questionnaire is completely anonymous and no identifying details about families who take part will be published or shared.

Once the Commission has received your thoughts it will add them into the survey, create the final version, and publish it for families to complete.

During the event you can also ask commission lead Michele Simmons, and commission team members Simon Haworth and Natasha Phillips (Researching Reform) questions, and tells us what you think about the commission’s current projects.

We’d really love you to join us.

The Commission is led by parents and children, for parents and children, and we prioritise feedback and advice from these groups. However, we are also very happy to host child welfare academics, practitioners and lawyers who are interested in our work.

The call will take place tomorrow, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Zoom.

If you would like to attend the event, please email the team at truthcommissionuk@gmail.com. The team will also give you information about how to access the conference.

Please confirm you would like to attend the event in your message, and let us know if you are a care-experienced child or parent, social care stakeholder, government affiliate, academic, journalist or member of the public.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Additional links:

Reminder: Children and Families Truth Commission Meet Up – Human Rights Survey

Britain’s first parent-led Truth Commission investigating the state of children’s social care is holding its monthly Zoom meeting on Tuesday 8 November from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

We will unveil the Commission’s latest project – a human rights questionnaire for families affected by the child protection system – and ask you for your feedback and suggestions.

The survey asks questions about your experience of child protection investigations and court proceedings, and how you were treated by people working in child protection and children’s social care services.

The questionnaire is completely anonymous and no identifying details about families who take part will be published or shared.

Once the Commission has received your thoughts it will add them into the survey, create the final version, and publish it for families to complete.

During the event you can also ask commission lead Michele Simmons, and commission team members Simon Haworth and Natasha Phillips (Researching Reform) questions, and tells us what you think about the commission’s current projects.

We’d really love you to join us.

The Commission is led by parents and children, for parents and children, and we prioritise feedback and advice from these groups. However, we are also very happy to host child welfare academics, practitioners and lawyers who are interested in our work.

The call will take place on Tuesday 8 November from 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Zoom.

If you would like to attend the event, please email the team at truthcommissionuk@gmail.com. The team will also give you information about how to access the conference.

Please confirm you would like to attend the event in your message, and let us know if you are a care-experienced child or parent, social care stakeholder, government affiliate, academic, journalist or member of the public.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Additional links:

In the news

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

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Image of the month

Our image of the month series feature Paul Brian Tovey, an artist and adult adoptee who was abused by his adoptive parents as a child. Paul is Researching Reform’s Artist In Residence.

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

Paul’s paintings reflect his experiences as an adoptee including the effect of his forced adoption on his mental health.

This month’s painting is titled, “Adoption is Neurosis” and includes a poem from Paul’s Going Home poetry collection, which is meant to be read alongside the art:

Speaking to Researching Reform, Paul said:

“It’s always a great sadness for me to draw the feelings out into form of how sad so many Adoptee’s lives are. It’s a sadness that clings like a form of heavy booted mud and it sucks on the soul with a special heavy grief. Whose grief? All who feel it, I think.

The hopeless truth is so apparent that Adoption creates a neurosis for so many and it’s done by social design. By belief, that children are easily “altered selves,” yet the last 2022 304 respondent survey I and others did,  showed costs on the brains of children were high – children who became adults who often lived inside a socially approved form of dissociation (a frozen up primal core) that takes many years to resolve for far too many.

That survey is so detailed it has yet far more to say over coming months. Reading hundreds of comments of pain is like walking in a lead suit across a weeping radioactive landscape. Atomic hurt. 

On the art-journey of pain and Adoptee truths you have to make markers of experiences. Recognitions other Adoptees will feel and ache with. Maybe it will help them cry and release another increment of loss and grief. That is positive, when truth is accepted as unalterable. As habitable with tears. Tears are the cost of life for many Adoptees severed from origins, kin and even from “Self” finally struggled for, and partly found. We the Adoptees are made neurotic and have unmet needs designed into our lives by Adoption’s alterations of our identities. By policy we are made neurotic all too often. The art I do shows this too. I am compelled to do it.”

We would like to thank Paul for allowing us to showcase his work, and his powerful talent.