Tag Archives: Adoption

Nothing Else Will Do……

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In 2004, Brenda Hale became the first woman to sit in Britain’s Supreme Court and the first family lawyer to have ever been appointed to such heights.

She began her career as a professor of law at Manchester University and was appointed to the Law Commission in 1984 where she spent ten years working in the arena of family law. She was made a Queen`s Counsel in 1989 and a High Court judge in 1994.

Baroness Hale has made herself unpopular in some quarters by criticising judicial appointments`panels.  Her issue is that the panels often appoint mostly white men from similar economic and academic backgrounds, into positions of judiciary power.   The Baroness believes that diversity is not only fair, it is also essential in order to ethically reflect the UK`s diverse communities.

In 2013 while Baroness Hale was overseeing a complicated family law case, she made the following comments which the Court of Appeal has summarised thus:

“The language used by Baroness Hale is striking. Different words and phrases are used, but the message is clear. Orders contemplating non-consensual adoption – care orders with a plan for adoption, placement orders and adoption orders – are  “a very extreme thing, a last resort”,  where  “no other course is possible in the child’s interests”,  they are “the most extreme option”,  a  ” when all else fails”,  to be made,  “only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child’s welfare, in short, where nothing else will do”

Because of her “nothing else will do” comment Baroness Hale has forever changed the way family law is reviewed and reflected upon in the courts and has facilitated much debate amongst lawyers and other practitioners, including children`s social workers involved in family law cases.  Her comments influence the courts massively because now whenever family proceedings go as far as children being placed for (non-consensual or forced) adoption in the UK, professionals must reflect on the good judge`s comments.

Andrew Pack is a care lawyer at Brighton and Hove City Council and their in-house advocate. He has also represented parents in care proceedings. He is the creator and author of the Suesspicious Minds child law blog, which deals with public law, private law, social work, serious case reviews and Court of Protection cases.    In a recent blog he wrote about the “nothing else will do” comment and ponders how it may be interpreted in many ways.  Here are some of his thoughts…..

Nothing else will do if…..

There is genuinely, literally, no other option that could be conceived of.

The other options available are appreciably worse for the child than adoption would be.

There are other options, but they require a degree of intervention by the local authority (LA)  that would in effect be unworkable.

There are other options, but they require a degree of intervention by the LA that the LA says is disproportionate 

There are other options, but in order to make use of them, the court would not be able to make a final decision within the 26-week court timetable.

There are other options, but in order to make use of them, the court would be extending the decision-making process to a point where the delay would be harmful for the child and the harm cannot be justified.

Any of the other options would cause harm to the child or carry with it a significant risk of harm to the child, and weighing up the options, adoption is the least harmful of all of the options available.

I work in the West Midlands borough of Solihull.  This is all very interesting for me in my position as Parents` Advocate to parents who have a learning difficulty.  I am currently working with three families where the LA plan for the children is to put them forward for adoption.  It is also important to note that local authorities have adoption targets to meet each year which places undue pressure on childrens` services to get children adopted quickly, within the fourteen month period designated as time enough by our government.

The well-known Lib-Dem MP John Hemming, who vehemently opposes forced adoption stated in a recent newspaper article,

“The government target is to increase adoptions of children in care. Children who go back to their parents or to loving grandparents do not meet the target. Thus in 1995 the number of children under five adopted in England was a mere 560, while children under five whose care ceased (a term that includes those who go back to live with their families) was double this.

By 2012, the number whose care ceased was much the same, while adoptions had more than quadrupled: of these a staggering 1,100 were ominously described as ‘consent dispensed with’.  The obsession with adoption is splitting up many families merely because of government diktat.”  (John Hemming is chairman of Families for Justice which fights for those who suffer at the courts’ hands.)

Many of my colleagues, including some who work for social services, are concerned about this alarming increase in children being placed for adoption when we already know how damaging to a child both in the near and the long term, adoption can be.  In a recent poll, 69% of social workers did not agree with the government targets.

On 24 December 2013,  the government announced:

£50 million for councils as they prepare to implement reforms and work with voluntary adoption agencies and each other to recruit more adopters for the 6,000 children waiting for a loving home.  This provides a financial incentive for placing children for adoption.

A new Adoption Leadership Board supporting local authorities to drive through the reforms in the Children and Families Bill, and help adoption agencies stay on track recruiting more adoptive parents.

John Hemmings has said,  “I expect in years to come the government will apologise to the children for what is being done to them today. In particular, the system ignores grandparents.  For children to be taken into care is often a traumatic step.  Staying with grandparents can mean a normal life for children who can then remain in touch with their birth parents.  This is a far better option than foster care however, grandparents, uncles and aunts have no right to be heard by the court.”

In my opinion, our children have become a commodity, to satisfy the wants and needs of successive governments who do not wish to put in place services to support parents with life challenges and learning disabilities.  They cost too much however, our precious children are expendable aren`t they?

(The author e mailed Andrew Pack to obtain permission to quote him here but he didn`t get back to me.  Andrew should you read this and if you have any objections, please let me know and I will take down the blog immediately.)

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Why do troubled families keep on having children?

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Many of the parents I support with advocacy have very large families.  As the children are taken one by one or sometimes all at once in to foster care or for adoption, it is difficult to understand why it is that families let further pregnancies happen over and over again.  I have worked with people who have had as many as ten children and have not been allowed to keep any of them.  The suffering and grief that families experience when their children are removed from them is very painful to witness, not just for the families, all of the people working around the family feel the upset and the loss.  Mums and dads usually understand how their decisions can impact on so many people, the ripples go on and on.

So why oh why do mums from troubled families keep on getting pregnant?

I was at a conference some years ago and spoke to a woman who like me, works with parents who have a learning disability.  She was at that time supporting a mother who was expecting her fourteenth child.  This tragic mum whose poor body must have been weary to say the least, told the worker that she would,  “just keep on having babies, until social services let me keep one.”

One of the mothers I used to work with, moved away from Solihull to live in another area.  She`d had six children removed into foster care when I last saw her in 2010.  She`d delivered a seventh baby that year which she had been allowed to keep and when I bumped into her in 2012, she`d had another two.  Miraculously they were all three still living with her but it was hard for me to understand her reasons for having so many more children so quickly and increasing the risk that they too, would go into foster care.

My brother Al` was a team manager in children`s services in Birmingham for around twenty years until his retirement.  I was talking to him recently about this subject and he said that he thought women got pregnant so many times because often it was the only thing they could do that they were good at, especially women who have a learning disability.  For a whole nine months while they are pregnant no-one can touch them.  The baby is safely inside them, warm and nurtured and they are able to relax in the knowledge that until the child is born, no-one can do anything about it.  The mum feels in a sense that she is in control, sometimes for the first time in her life.  I don`t know if my brother is right but if he is, it must be a pretty powerful feeling for those mums who mostly feel invisible, marginalised, put down and disrespected.

Parents often say to me,  “we just want a chance to show that we can do it and be good parents, just one chance.”

I wish that there was more support in place for families who need that help.  I wish that judges would be more compassionate in their summing up in court and offer more parents that one chance.  I wish I had a shed load of money and could open up a home where entire families could come and live with the support already in place – now wouldn`t that be wonderful!

Why I oppose forced adoption.

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As a parents` advocate, I work almost exclusively with families whose child or children have been removed into care by the family courts.  For many of the parents that I work with, after a year or so in temporary foster care the children are either placed for long term fostering or if they are young enough they will be placed for adoption.  I know there are lots of families out there who make very good adoptive parents, however statistically, research suggests that children who are adopted are more vulnerable to a variety of social and psychological problems which emerge as they grow up and begin to properly understand the implications of being adopted.

I am strongly against what here in the UK we call forced adoption that is, taking a child for adoption without parental consent.  The UK is one of only a very few countries who do this, Australia operates under a similar, draconian policy.  America pretends that it has revised its policies, but in reality things haven’t changed at all. Young, single and poor mothers from all of these countries still say that social workers ask them what they have to offer in comparison to the financially better off, married couples who want to adopt their children.  Surely this is a form of social control? 

This is not to say that I oppose adoption per se, I don`t.  If parents are neglecting, physically hurting or sexually abusing their children then of course those children should be removed until we can be certain that the parents will keep them safe.  If parents for whatever reasons wish to consent to their children being adopted, that is an entirely different matter. It is forced and coerced adoption that troubles me because for so many reasons, children need to know who their birth parents are and in the UK, once you are adopted that`s it.  You don`t get to have any further contact with your birth parents except in very rare cases.

Back in 1998, an American researcher called Ginni Snodgrass produced a paper which points out that there are vulnerabilities shared by all adoptees. In those most vulnerable, a distinct pattern of behaviours can be seen. Some have labelled this the “Adopted Child Syndrome.”  She writes that in America mental health professionals are surprised at the alarmingly high number of their patients who are adopted and that studies show an average of 25% to 35% of the young people in residential treatment centres are adoptees. This was 17 times the norm in 1998.

Unsurprisingly, research in the UK also concludes that adoptees are more likely to have difficulties with drug and alcohol abuse as well as eating disorders, attention deficit disorder, infertility, suicidal thoughts and untimely pregnancies and globally, high numbers of adoptees are sent to correctional schools.

If you`d like to read the whole paper, here is a link to it:

Thousands of families in the UK are broken up every year by our closed family courts.  This means that the public do not get to hear what happens to families once the adoption ball is rolling and if families speak out in the press, they are punished, sometimes by being put into prison.  That is awful.  It means that Local Authorities can get away with lying about parents in court and as if this isn`t bad enough, with very poor social work practice.  I thought the UK was a democracy, but I am wrong.  In the UK family courts can and do order newly born babies to be taken from their mothers and given up to be adopted by strangers. Parents are not allowed their democratic right to speak about this even though Article 10 of the Human Rights Act guarantees freedom of speech.  This is why I support a revision of current legislation.  I think that family courts should be open and just as with a criminal case, decisions about parents should be made by a panel of Jo and Josephine public and not by a single judge.

When children are removed into care in the UK, often social workers will arrive at the home with at least 2 police officers and take the children away.  Naturally, the children will be crying and terribly upset and will be able to see that their parents are being physically restrained.  During contact sessions, conversations between relatives and children are strictly censored. No mention of the case or coming home is allowed or contact is stopped.  This can lead children to believe their parents do not want them to come home.  Children in care suffer an awful lot of guilt and while in foster care, children are frequently not allowed a mobile phone or access to a computer which isolates them even further from their birth families.

200 parents in the UK are jailed every year for going to the press about forced adoption.  The UK is the only country in the world that gags parents in this way.  Harriet Harman was questioned about this when she was minister for children, she said that she did not know what the figures were.

The UK is the only country in Europe (except Croatia) to permit forced adoption.

The UK is the only country in Europe to censor conversations between parents and children in care. Parents cannot become emotional or discuss the court case, not even with older children and if they do then contact can be stopped. Our current system is in my view, very cruel and punishes not just the parents but the children too.  Mr Justice Hedley who has presided over countless care and adoption proceedings in this country says the following; 

“Many parents are hypochondriacs, many parents are criminals or benefit cheats, many parents discriminate against ethnic or sexual minorities, many parents support vile political parties or belong to unusual or militant religions. All of these follies are visited upon their children, who may well adopt or ‘model’ them in their own lives but those children could not be removed for those reasons.”

Related article and websites.

My grateful thanks to Ian Joseph for permitting me to print here, some of his views on this subject.

http://www.forced-adoption.com/reforms.asp