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

Former president of the family division to speak at child protection event

A free online seminar about child protection and the family justice system being held today will feature former President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby.

The open event, organised by Royal Holloway university and entitled, “Inequality & Rights: Child Protection & the Family Justice System”, will include a presentation by James on the social work sector’s treatment of vulnerable families and children, and experiences of parents inside the child protection system during the pandemic.

The symposium will be opened by Robert Jago, Head of Law and Criminology, & Social Work at Royal Holloway.

The Parent, Family and Allies Network, Professor Brid Featherstone and Professor Anna Gupta at Royal Holloway, will also be speaking at the event.

The Eventbrite page for the symposium includes a statement which says the conference has been launched so that child welfare professionals can, “reflect on the important concerns facing children and families and professions who work with them in these challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities facing marginalised groups. The rights of individuals, and groups in such a context present a keen challenge for professionals working in the child protection and family justice systems.”

The statement adds, “This symposium, organised jointly by the Departments of Law and Criminology, & Social Work, brings together important debates to discuss key issues of concern. Located within a framework of human rights and social justice, the symposium seeks to contribute to scholarly, and policy and practice understandings.”

You can register for the event here.

New film: The Celtic Boys Club Scandal

Welcome to another week.

Survivors of sexual abuse at the Celtic Boys Club in Glasgow, Scotland — now called St Patrick’s Sports Academy — have released a film about the abuse they suffered as children while playing for the football club.

The film, entitled, “The Celtic Boys Club Scandal”, was made with money raised by the survivors and their family members through a crowdfunding platform. Hundreds of people donated to the project, which was aired for the first time on 13 March. The film, which is 45 minutes long, has already been watched more than 18,000 times since its YouTube launch on Saturday.

Individuals who contributed to the documentary include Michelle Gray, whose brother Andrew was abused by the club’s founder Jim Torbett, and died in a pool accident in 2017; Helene Gray, Andrew’s mother; abuse survivor Gordon Woods and; Dr John Marshall, a psychologist based in Scotland whose work focuses on addressing trauma stemming from child abuse.

Tweeting about the short film on Saturday, Dr. Marshall said, “The Celtic boys club sexual abuse scandal documentary just released. Crowdfunded too! Thinking of the boys who were abused and their families. You are an inspiration. Amazing work by @GoldbergRadio and co.”

You can watch the film here.

Child protection referrals up 125% and more, on The Latest

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

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

In The News

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

Many thanks to TumTum for the first two items.

Government funded body may be pushing for return to adoption as the ‘gold standard’ in children’s social care

The Family Justice Council (FJC) hosted a series of conferences last week which appeared to lean in favour of returning to adoptions as the first choice for placements in child protection cases.

The four-day event, entitled “Adoption in the 21st Century”, hosted by the Family Justice Council — an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice — was described in the invitation as a series of seminars that “explore adoption, not only in England and Wales but across Europe and wider.”

The seminars included a review of Special Guardianship Orders; adoption trends; tracing family members and contact with birth parents; a discussion of the Wales Adoption Cohort Study on early placement success and; testimony from one adoptive parent and one adopted child about their adoption experience.

The conference featured a presentation from Judge Anni Højmark on non-consensual adoption in Denmark, whose government recently announced that it would be prioritising adoption in the country, and that children should be placed in care at an earlier age. As part of that policy, Denmark is now actively trying to increase the number of adoptions within the country.

No standalone presentation looking at consensual adoption, fully open adoption practices or holistic alternatives to adoption implemented in other European states or countries worldwide was offered during the conference, though these issues were touched upon by some panellists who also discussed the tensions between forced and consensual adoptions as part of broader topics involving human rights and adoption trends.

Non consensual adoptions, or forced adoptions are only used by a small minority of countries, while the majority of states implement open or consensual adoptions, and some countries even offer several adoption pathways for families to choose from.

A growing body of research has begun to shed light on the negative long term effects of forced adoptions, and consensual adoptions, on children, their birth families and adoptive families. That understanding led to a gradual shift away from adoption as a perceived ‘gold standard’ in child protection cases in the UK, after landmark judgments and case precedent made in part by Lady Hale clarified that adoption orders in law were a ‘draconian’ measure which should always be a last resort.

If the FJC is pushing for a return to adoptions as the ‘norm’ in child welfare cases, it would make sense.

The conference coincides with ongoing budget cuts to the sector, and a long-established awareness among local authority bosses that children’s services within councils are expensive. Fostering services, in-home support and state-run care homes, while offering children very little in terms of support and protection (another story for another day), have cost the government billions, and councils are now looking for ways to cut back on their outgoings.

Enter adoption.

With minimal costs attached in relative terms, adoption provides the government with the most cost-effective solution, as the ‘burden’ of looking after a child is placed on the shoulders of adopters.

This is of course, a short sighted view. Adoption placements very rarely work for children, and we also know that adoptions break down too. All of this creates a long-term problem for the government, which will then have to pay for life-long medical and psychiatric support for a significant portion of the population who went through Britain’s broken child protection system.

Perhaps the most disappointing feature of the conference was Baroness Hale’s contribution. Hale, whose pioneering Children Act and progressive judgments helped to broaden understanding about how our current child welfare policies often fell dangerously short, was widely admired for her outspoken views and evidence-based approach to child welfare.

But Hale’s speech, dedicated to Bridget Lindley — a groundbreaking family lawyer who believed strongly that the law was a tool for social change — was uncharacteristically weak, only offering a summary of how family has been perceived inside the child welfare sector, and did not once, mention forced adoption and the very real damage it has done, and will continue to do, if the government does push ahead with a drive to adopt.

Links:

The Buzz

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

Children’s Commissioner flooded with emails after call to report child welfare concerns

The Children’s Commissioner has been inundated with emails days after making a call to get in touch with the Office.

Rachel de Souza, who took up the role of Children’s Commissioner on 1 March, asked members of the public to email or call her if, “you can think of an unmet need for a child you know about”, and added, “If you are a child, and you are thinking about writing to us, don’t hesitate.”

Researching Reform shared de Souza’s invitation in a post published last week and included a link to the contact form on the Children’s Commissioner’s website.

The link in the post for the contact form was accessed several thousand times shortly after the post went live, but within 48 hours a growing number of individuals, many of whom were concerned parents with children in care, had begun to complain that they could no longer submit messages to the Commissioner.

Parents reported seeing a “processing” message appear after clicking “submit”, but no ensuing message to say the email had been sent, or any change in the page to suggest the email had gone through.

The Children’s Commissioner promised to look into the glitch on 5 March, after this site posted a tweet explaining what had happened. Following a tweet on 8 March to ask de Souza for an update, the Commissioner confirmed the issue had been resolved.

However in an apparent change to the contact form, a new notice had been added, which can be seen once an email is sent.

The message says, “Thank you for contacting the Children’s Commissioner for England.”

“While we appreciate you getting in touch, we are unable to respond to all correspondence due to the very high volume of emails we receive and limited staff capacity. We will always respond to emails directly from children.”

“All correspondence is read by a member of the Commissioner’s Policy Team. We will be in touch if we need more information from you.”

The notice poses several problems. Many children will be unable to send emails themselves because they will either be too young, unable to access the internet, or too frightened to reach out.

A significant number of parents with children in care are deeply concerned by the way in which their children are being looked after, and are often the only voice their children have. That is because children in care can be wary of raising concerns about the people who are currently caring for them, or the harm they may be experiencing.

And given that the Children’s Commissioner has little to no experience of the care system, reading all of the emails she receives would be an invaluable introduction into the serious problems inside the child welfare sector. These emails are priceless.

The Court of Appeal is live streaming family cases

The Court of Appeal live streamed a hearing for a case called M(A child) today, which looked specifically at what kind of access journalists can have to family law cases.

This is what the Judiciary page said about the case:

4 March 2021

NOTE:  THIS IS A LIVE STREAM OF A FULLY REMOTE HEARING BEING HEARD ON MICROSOFT TEAMS

Re: M (a child)

By Appellant’s Notice filed on 21 August 2020, Melanie Newman, in her capacity as a public interest journalist, applies for permission to appeal the order of Mrs Justice Roberts sitting at the Family Division at the Royal Courts of Justice dated 31 July 2020 whereby she refused her application to be provided with permission to access court documents in relation to public law proceedings concerning a child which concluded in October 2018 save for a limited number of documents.

Background:

The child was made the subject of a placement order by HHJ Hess when she was 4 years old. The Court of Appeal quashed the order on 20 February 2018 with the judgment of the Court holding that the judge had failed adequately to engage with the central allegation advanced by the local authority namely that the child was at risk of physical or emotional harm in her mother’s care. The matter was remitted to the Family Court but no retrial took place. Instead, the local authority no longer sought orders separating the child from her mother and with the result that the child  returned to live with her mother where she remains to date.

The Appellant is seeking to investigate the case and in particular to look at how events unfolded which led to a local authority seeking permanently to separate a young child from her mother by way of a placement order, but who, a year later following the quashing of the placement order by the Court of Appeal, withdrew its application for a placement order and allowed the child to return  to the care of her mother where she remains.

The hearing was streamed here.

You can see the list of cases being live streamed by the Court of Appeal, here.

You can also look at data on the Court of Appeal’s Civil Division, here.

We are aware of the notice not to screenshot the proceedings, however there are no children or family members in the footage or any elements in the hearing which could reasonably lead to the prohibition of taking screen shots of this hearing, so we are adding a screen shot below. If the judiciary takes issue with it, we’ll respond swiftly.