The Child Protection System in England

Supplementary written evidence from Florence Bellone

Thresholds for intervention, for taking children into care and for adoption.

Introduction :

In a Daily Telegraph article, the 23/12/11, we could read :

"At 490, the county has the third highest number of 'looked after' children in the South West of England. Coun McLain said "I suppose it's because our thresholds are quite low, so if we think there's any risk to a child our first instinct is 'let's get them safe'."

This cannot describe best the nature of the threshold. It lies in "If we think" and in this case, it results in "quite low". The threshold is no evidence but opinion. It leads to a flexible standard for deciding of what Martin Narey himself, front of the Education Committee, called a death sentence. Opinion is subjective. Psychiatry and psychology are not exact sciences. When used to support the threshold, psychiatry and psychology loose their medical ambition and become a police tool. Thresholds are never submitted to public and media scrutiny. They are secret and parents cannot submit their own to anybody but a confidential team that they didn't choose. Why such a lack of transparency when it comes to interventions which can affect every family ? I have interviewed several children who have spent some time under threat of being taken away from their families. They are all but naive regarding the arbitrary manners of social services. Two siblings under gagging order, 11 and 13, told me how they just wait for telling the world how social services destroyed their lives and family. Even well aware of their own cases, no one really understood the word "threshold". They said "false allegations".

1° The threshold, an Inquisition value.

When it comes to pregnant women and their babies shamefully named on social services reports "Unborn Smith,mith orlyaylor" on social services reports, th or Taylor and receive guidance on subjects such as pedophily atically submitted Unborn Taylor or whatever", the threshold is built by naming evidence the future. I have seen written : "the evidence shows that she is a certainty to cause emotional harm to her son in the future". This makes pregnant women, especially the ones who are socially disadvantaged, heretics. The threshold is designed to implement a preventive punishment in order to avoid the crime to be committed. The immorality of this cannot serve a balanced society but rather institutionalize the brutality of our society. As for the Migrant Children program, it can last long enough to built several generations of people bearing the burden of a state decided destiny. I have also interviewed adults who have been forcibly adopted. This never left them and some could even not remember why their adoption was not working, as they were too young. The haunting thing was all about the first separation.

2° The abuse of power for obtaining a threshold.

Devious historical situations like Vichy government in France taught us that all sort of staff and professionals, with education or not, might become zealously devoted to the power of ruining the lives of their kind. Do they by cowardice or unsuspected darkness ? The fact is that they do and the fact is that the state is using their fear and negative desire as well for getting what it wants. What do you think is happening when social workers look for a threshold ? To refuse to consider the dark side of the humanity when it comes to social workers would be at least naive. They are in charge of speculating on the dark side of the parents and do it mostly by exercising their own. Several parents quoted me the sudden disappearance of a sensitive and human social worker from their case after he or she wrote a report in favor of keeping the family together. One social worker who had just left his job wrote to me that "he was fed up with taking away children for no reasons". He later came back to social work, I don't know if because short of money and job or for other reason. In the whole police of the families, from school to hospital, sometimes from neighbors to jealous partners, you can also observe the witch hunting spirit at work.
Finally the threshold can barely be challenged in Court, I would say almost never when it is about new born babies. The demonstration of an unfair or wrongly done threshold is often answered by "(but) this is in the best interest of the child to be adopted". There is "some killing in the name of God" in the relationship between threshold and this "best" interest.

3° One County where even first time pregnant mothers reach the threshold by neglecting their child.

The county which is my most regular field of investigation claimed in may 2011 having 780 children in care and a serious shortage of foster carers. When I met "my first mom" there, I knew about 10 others after a month. Yet each one has several friends or neighbors being in the same dreadful situation. When walking in this estate with one of them, we cross others. They enquire on those who have not been seen from their last child protection conference. We also spot frequently social workers on their way to make an assessment. Social workers gather the many hazards of the life of the humblest and make them hard material. They show a particular appetite for everything bad which happened in the childhood of the parents. No therapy is good enough to prevent a victim of being blacklisted on the so-called child protection register. The word "neglect" is the adoption "code" as they don't dare writing neglect in-utero !

Ana - Julie.

There is - I weight my words - a big deal of sickness in the way many social workers grill the parents. They play cat and mouse and seem delighted by their progresses in cornering a mom. When Ana asked several times when she would know about her fate, the social worker could never answer. This is probably due to the many families having escaped abroad. When this happen, social workers could think that the burden is now for their foreign counterparts but they don't and here is a proof of how they are then very far of a real child protection concern : Julie managed to give birth in another country where local social services helped her to sort out herself, despite the difficulties everywhere in term of public funds. The social workers in her home town finally learned of her situation by the police and of the fact that she was receiving social support. 4 months after the birth of her baby, they were still sending threatening letters to the family and asking for the lady's return with her baby to attend a child protection conference ! The mom had left legally and voluntarily. The problem of the LA was now its failure to get her, not its failure to protect a child.

5° Jane

Jane had lost her first baby to adoption because social services refused her 4 years partnership with the father. He was a bad boy during his youth but repented, honestly living and with good report from the probation officer. The social services hit back for Jane second baby. Her partner was this time nowhere to be seen, having opted for saving the chances of Jane's motherhood. The social worker started her threshold on the fact that Jane won't be able anyway to have a non violent partner because she had been a victim of violence herself into care. Jane had effectively one violent partner when becoming an adult and she eventually dumped him. Her following partner that she would describe as the sweetest man even is the one that social services didn't want to be a father.

6° Lara

Lara had difficult teen years hanging around with boys, and pint of beers making her angry. She was convicted for disturbance of the peace and was given courses of anger management. She has no history of drugs or dishonesty but she got pregnant at 15 and lost the custody of her child to the father who is much older than her. She has however a very good relationship with her daughter. The support and love of her own mother has been paramount in her recovery from depression and drinking. At 25 she became pregnant again and asked the social services if she could keep her baby otherwise she would rather opt for a termination. She was fully reassured on this but a couple of weeks before giving birth, they came back to her with other intentions. She spent 4 months with her baby to a residential unit. I have a collection of witnessing by mothers and couples who have been interned in those units and draw the same conclusion : everything is done to break you as a human being, as a partner, as a parent. There, Lara was however reassured by the social worker that she would "pass" and keep her baby. But the day before her departure, she was dragged to court and her baby taken for adoption on the base of learning difficulties and borderline personality disorder. (What I see in Lara is rather no education and a package of traumas). The psychologist said in Court that a year therapy, even 9 months, would make her OK. But a social worker informed the family that the therapy was not available in the NHS, too expensive in private and that "the adoption panel would not accept to wait for it anyway". This conflict of interest is just one of many aberrations on Lara's case. It was several months of struggle to obtain that she would receive her order and judgment, two pages on which is written: "the threshold criteria for making a care or a supervision order was met" and also that this threshold "was agreed by the parties". This was signed by Lara's solicitor but Lara never agreed on it. More than half the document is about the father thought he didn't really seek custody but wanted to save the child from adoption. From Lara, it is said : "We see that mother loves her child and would dearly like to be able to parent him". Which help did she get for it ? And : " Because mother is so desperate to parent her child, she has been les than honest on many occasions and giving evidence to the Court". Who would be honest with an administration trying to take away your new born baby ?? And finally : "the child has not suffered any harm because of the preventative action of the LA" ! Knowing every page of the case and the whole family for one year, I can't believe that the social workers themselves believe it. In one of Lara's attempts to have permission for appeal, the LA solicitor pleaded "the human rights of the future adoptive parents" who had even not met Lara's child. This new trend is supported by the pro-adoption campaign which diabolizes "birth parents ruining the lives of the adoptive parents when looking for their children" ! In the COA, a judge refusing a permission of appeal, said : "the baby has moved on with his life and the adoptive parents to be would be devastated" ! The case was involving a young middle class couple accused of hitting a baby actually suffering bones problems (a classic in child protection history). The judge didn't want an expensive medical countercheck asked by the solicitor to review the dashed off enquiry.

Conclusion :

Last autumn, Lara's 16 years old sister was stabbed by an 18 years old man whom knife came to 1 mm of her windpipe. It took the police 10 minutes to arrest him thanks to several witnesses. Because they couldn't agree on if it was an accident or an attempt of stealing her mobile phone... the police decided to not prosecute him. This is a lesson of moral for Lara and her family. No evidence good enough for punishing a serious crime, no evidence needed for keeping a woman of being a mother.

Prepared 11th June 2012