Please see below our briefing sent to members of the House of Lords who are discussing the Children & Social Work Bill today.
You might like to sign this petition objecting to the parts of the Bill which would allow children’s services to be privatised:
Protect the rights of vulnerable children and care leavers
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CHILDREN AND SOCIAL WORK BILL – REPORT STAGE 18 OCTOBER 2016
Legal Action for Women (LAW) and Single Mothers’ Self-Defence (SMSD)
As you may know, we have written previously to express our strong opposition to this Bill. We are glad that serious concerns were raised during Second Reading and Committee Stage, which are reflected in some of the amendments coming up today. We hope you will particularly support the amendments overleaf:
Our primary concerns are:
· The government push for adoption as the “gold standard” puts pressure on social workers to prioritise it over enabling children to stay with mothers and birth families, especially grandparents. (See attached testimony from mothers and grandmothers.) Social workers who disagree that this is in the interest of the child face dismissal.
· Disregard for children’s views, wishes and feelings about the people they love and want to live and/or have contact with, including parents, grandparents and siblings.
· Lack of support for mothers and kinship carers (family and friends) while prospective adoptive and foster parents are given help.
· Discrimination against low income families whose children are more likely to be taken into care given the lack of financial support and increased levels of poverty.
· Children in care are four times more likely to experience mental health difficulties.
· Privatisation of children’s services. Many oppose as dangerous the dropping of local authorities’ statutory duties and the shifting of power from parliament to the executive.
The Bill comes at a time when:
· Adoptions are higher than in any other European country, with 96% of adoptions in England taking place without parental consent.
· More and more children taken into care – the number of “looked after” children in England is the highest since 1985. 1 in 5 children under five are referred to children’s services; 1 in 19 investigated – even higher if over 5s are included.
· In 78% of cases we have been dealing with, children were removed or were under threat of being removed after the mother suffered domestic violence.
· 40% of mothers who come to us are women of colour and/or immigrant women, suggesting racism and other discrimination by social services and courts.
Our Suffer the little children Dossier of 40 cases documents the life-long traumatic impact of separation on children and their mothers (invariably their primary carer), whether through adoption, being taken into care or given to violent fathers. We are calling for financial and other resources to enable children to stay with loving parents and grandparents. As distinguished campaigning journalist Richard Wexler from the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform in the US, warned: “There is no understanding of the harm of removal. For a young child, it can be an experience akin to kidnapping.”
We would welcome the opportunity of discussing this further with you at your convenience.
Please support the following amendments to the Children & Social Work Bill
AMDT 2 Page 2, line 6, at end insert— “() to nurture, protect and maintain relationships with families and carers with whom they have lived previously and with whom they wish to remain in contact.”
AMDT 3 * Page 2, line 6, at end insert— “() to promote access to legal advice and representation for children and young people, including independent advice and representation where appropriate.”
After Clause 1, AMDT 8, New Clause: Duty to promote physical and mental health and emotional well-being
AMDT 29* Page 8,line 35, after“orders”, insert“— (a) after subsection (2)(b)(ii) insert— “(iii) there being no person who has parental responsibility for the child.” (b) ”
AMDT 30 Page 8, line 42, leave out from “child’s” to end of line 2 on page 9 and insert “or a person with parental responsibility for the child; (ii) long-term foster care, with a connected person, existing foster carer or other person; (iii) adoption, with an existing foster carer, foster to adopt carer or other person; (iv) long-term care not within sub-paragraph (i), (ii) or(iii);”
AMDT 31 Page 9, line 9,at end insert— “(iv) the child’s wishes and feelings.”
After CL 9, AMDT 33, New Clause: Profit-making and children’s social services functions
After CL 9 AMDT 35, New Clause: Duty to report on outcomes
After CL 28, AMDT 52, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to looked after children and children at risk
After CL 28, AMDT 53, New Clause: Public interest disclosure in relation to looked after children and children at risk
AMDT 57, leave out CL 29
AMDT 58, leave out CL 30
AMDT 64, leave out CL 31
AMDT 66, leave out CL 32
AMDT 68, leave out CL 33
After CL 33: AMDT 69, New Clause: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
After CL 33: AMDT 70, New Clause: Safeguarding Unaccompanied Refugee Children
After CL 40: AMDT 72, New Clause: Whistleblowing arrangement in relation to social workers
After CL 40: AMDT 73, New Clause: Public interest disclosure by social workers
Mothers and grandmothers – the reality of adoption
“My grand-daughter was forcibly adopted from her loving and supportive, vulnerable and poor family in the name of child protection, using the spurious charge of her being “at risk of significant harm”.
They wanted my grand-daughter adopted at birth and took her mum to court just days after giving birth by caesarean. The judge didn’t agree and said she could go to a Mother & Baby unit. But it was a horrible place where she was totally isolated: she was not allowed to see her family or me or my son; she wasn’t allowed to go out with the baby, and everything she did was monitored, but even so the baby was doing fine and developing normally and was a happy contented child. She suffered serious trauma by being removed at five months from her birth mother to whom she was securely attached and in whose care she was thriving. Amazingly she managed to form a secure attachment to the foster mother who asked to be her special guardian and to bring her up maintaining direct contact with her birth family.
But if the foster mum had adopted she would have had to stop fostering for a year which she couldn’t afford and social services wouldn’t put out any money to help her. So once again my grand-daughter suffered enormous trauma by being removed at 18 months and given to adoptive parents. She was not protected and instead suffered emotional harm at the hands of the social services.
Over 90% of children forcibly adopted come from families that are below the poverty line who are then placed in middle class families despite counter arguments that child abuse and neglect is not a class issue. But taking our children is a form of social cleansing.
Both my son and the baby’s mum have gone on to have other children who they are caring for successfully, after social services could find no reason to intervene. But it’s my grand-daughter who is growing up not knowing what a loving and caring family she was taken from – we are not allowed any contact with her.”
I have two young children. Their father was violent, prone to drinking and angry outbursts. Once when he was attempting to rape me, I stabbed him with a pen in self defence. Another time I ran out of the house to call 999 and left the children inside. The final straw came when he raped me and I reported it to the police. I took out a non-molestation order which he contested. The family court directed me to remain on good terms with the father in relation to his contact with the children, despite the seriousness of the situation. I tried to do as the court directed.
During the rape investigation, I took the children abroad to keep them safe but returned with them after social services pursued me via the high court. The children were then taken into care, and I was allowed supervised visits observed by social services. The rape investigation continued during this time and social services began proceedings to take the children away permanently, claiming that I was aggressive (because I had stabbed him with a pen), that I shouldn’t have left the children in the house with him while I called the police and that I was “emotionally unstable” (at the same time as I was going through a rape investigation and trial). I was accused of being “un co-operative” when I disagreed with social work reports.
My ex-partner was tried and convicted of rape and serious sexual assault in 2013 and sentenced to five years. My parents trained to be the children’s long-term foster carers and passed with flying colours, but a family court judge ruled in favour of adoption by strangers because the grandparents ‘wouldn’t be strong enough to cope with [my] demands’. The grounds for removing the children from me permanently included: “failing to protect” my children from witnessing violence; anger issues, mostly based on my behaviour as a teenager many years before, and a personality disorder (which had been mis-diagnosed 17 years previously, again, when I was a teenager); lies by social workers observing my visits.
I was recently diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, but I couldn’t find a lawyer to put this to the family court as new evidence, along with evidence about how much my circumstances have changed as a result of being free from the violent relationship. I feel that being on the autistic spectrum has left me at a significant disadvantage in navigating my way through social services and the family court system where my character and capabilities were completely misjudged and misunderstood. As a result, two much loved children are growing up with no contact with their mother or their grandparents, who had always been a big part of their lives.
I am a Black British woman of African descent. When I got pregnant, social services already knew about me because I had been a victim of rape when I was younger. I was diagnosed as having learning difficulties but I was given no support; I had no help from my family and the rapist was not pursued. The day after the baby was born, social services applied for a Care Order claiming the ”child [was] not receiving care that would be reasonably expected from a parent’‘, citing my ”unidentified mental health” and ”minor learning difficulties”.
I had three independent reports contradicting the diagnosis of “global learning difficulties” which social services were using to put my baby up for adoption. The woman judge dismissed these and all the evidence I had showing I had successfully finished two parenting courses and was about to attend another two, including one on child protection awareness. I showed I was really determined to do everything social services asked me to do, but they had already decided that I was an “unfit” mother even though I never had the chance of looking after my baby on my own.
I eventually contacted Black Women’s Rape Action Project and they found me a new solicitor. But social services had built an overwhelming case against me with hostile psychiatric reports and the child’s Guardian was also against me. The judge said I had “poor parenting skills,” which I would not be able to overcome so my baby should be adopted. I was allowed an appeal, but it was unsuccessful. I have never had the opportunity of looking after my baby and I am not allowed any contact with her. All this has made me severely depressed and I can’t carry on fighting. I lost my flat and now live with my family.
Legal Action for Women firstname.lastname@example.org
Single Mothers Self Defence email@example.com