Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
November 29, 2009 permalink
A British MP is calling child removal by social services "kidnapping". That is more severe language than Chris Carter used to get him, and Dufferin VOCA, sued for libel.
Furious MP uses Parliamentary privilege to accuse council of 'kidnapping' nine-week-old baby from parents
By Andrew Levy, Last updated at 1:21 AM on 27th November 2009
Social workers who forced a couple to give up their 11-week-old baby for adoption have been accused of 'child kidnap' by an MP.
Staff waited until the girl's father was out before launching a raid with police at the family home to 'snatch the baby from the arms of her mother'.
Tory MP Tim Yeo used Parliamentary privilege to make the allegations in the Commons, saying Suffolk County Council had declared the couple to be unfit parents despite having no evidence of physical or emotional abuse.
'This council actively seeks opportunities to remove babies from their mothers,' he added.
'Its social work staff do so in a manner which in my view is sometimes tantamount to child kidnapping.'
In a further claim, Mr Yeo told the Daily Mail that social services became involved only because the woman's former husband had successfully sought custody of their son previously.
He alleged the ex-husband's girlfriend, who works for Essex social services, had contacted a friend at Suffolk social services and a ' spurious' concern over the mother's parenting skills was concocted around an occasion when she refused to send her son to school.
The parents, who can see their daughter only once a month on a supervised visit, now plan to flee abroad because the mother is pregnant again and is terrified the new child will also be taken away.
Using fake names to protect the family's identities, Mr Yeo said: 'Carissa and Jim have not managed their lives particularly well but that does not disqualify them from being good parents.
'The council could have provided help which would have allowed them to keep their daughter, Poppy.'
Staff started monitoring Poppy after her birth in August last year.
Mr Yeo told MPs: 'The fact that no fault could be found in the physical and emotional care provided by her parents did not deter the council from destroying this fragile family.
'On October 27 last year, council staff - having ensured that Jim would be away from home - accompanied by police, arrived unannounced and snatched Poppy from the arms of her distraught mother.'
A legal battle was raging over her removal, he added, and throughout the process the council had repeatedly changed its grounds for intervening, alternating between blaming one parent and then the other.
'The first doctor's psychological assessment of Carissa declared she qualified for a diagnosis of factitious disorder [formerly known as Munchausen's by proxy],' he said.
'Then a consultant forensic psychiatrist, after the briefest of assessments, decided that she fulfilled the criteria for the much more catch-all narcissistic personality disorder.
'The first doctor assessed that Jim was 'a pathological liar' but later a consultant clinical psychologist 'would not endorse the expression'.
'The final favoured rationale given by social services for Poppy's adoption order was based on nothing more than the possibility of future emotional abuse.'
Simon White, director of children and young people's services, said: 'It is the welfare of the child which must be safeguarded - we reject any accusation otherwise'.
Source: Daily Mail
Addendum: A reader who has to remain under deep cover inspires a thought on the renaming of Munchausen's by proxy as factitious disorder. In the words of Shakespeare:
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
That which we call Munchausen's by any other name would smell as junk science.
Addendum: The couple mentioned in Tim Yeo's remarks to parliament is fleeing Britain to protect their unborn son.
Couple flee Britain amid fears social services will 'kidnap' their unborn son
A couple who claim social services “kidnapped” their baby daughter for adoption are due to flee Britain today to prevent their unborn child being taken into care.
By Murray Wardrop, Published: 7:30AM GMT 09 Dec 2009
The pair, who cannot be named for legal reasons, intend to travel to Spain because they fear social workers will try to adopt their son, who is due in February.
Their daughter was taken into care in October last year when she was nine weeks old after Suffolk County Council raised concerns that they were unfit to bring her up.
The couple allege that police and council staff forced their way into their home and snatched the girl despite no allegation made against them ever having been proven.
The 32-year-old woman and 41-year-old man said they felt they had been "driven from their own country" in order to ensure they can bring up their own child.
The father, a lorry driver, told the Daily Telegraph: “We are absolutely terrified that social services will do exactly the same thing with our baby boy as they did with our daughter.
“They have already requested that we attend meetings for a pre-birth risk assessment but we are not taking any chances, so we’re leaving immediately.
“We feel like refugees, being driven from our own country just so we can have the right, like any other parent, to bring up our own son.
“We have had to drop our entire lives and flee but we cannot take the risk of losing our baby, it would destroy us.”
The pair intend to start a new life abroad and have arranged to move into a flat in Algorfa, a small town on the Costa Blanca in Alicante.
Last month in the Commons Tim Yeo, the couple’s local MP, accused council officials of "kidnapping" the child solely to boost their adoption figures.
"This council actively seeks opportunities to remove babies from their mothers. Its social work staff do so in a manner which in my view is sometimes tantamount to child kidnapping,” he told MPs.
The mother came to the attention of social services in 2006 when she was married.
As her marriage disintegrated and a custody battle ensued, allegations were made to social services about her ability to be a good mother.
It was claimed that she had factitious disorder – a condition in which sufferers are said to feign illness or exaggerate symptoms. It was also alleged that she had falsely claimed her son suffered from various illnesses. She denies both claims.
She gave birth to her daughter in August last year and she and her new partner were allowed to take the baby home following advice from doctors.
The couple said they were continually “hounded” by social services until October 27, when council staff and police banged on their door, moved in and removed the girl.
They were not allowed to cuddle their daughter or see before she was taken, they said.
Since then, the couple have only been allowed to see their daughter at supervised visits to a children’s centre 15 miles away.
Adoption proceedings were finalised in September and the baby is due to be transferred to adoptive parents in January.
Suffolk County Council has denied it wanted to take the baby to boost targets. A spokesman said Suffolk did not have targets and followed national guidance and legislation on providing an adoption service.
Source: Daily Telegraph
Addendum: The child is born in a safe refuge.
Pregnant Briton who fled to Spain to prevent social services taking child gives birth to son
By Andrew Levy, Last updated at 2:06 AM on 18th February 2010
A pregnant British woman who fled abroad to avoid her child being taken into care by social services was recovering last night after giving birth to a son.
The woman and her fiance secretly moved to Spain in December after their first child, a daughter, was taken away by social workers and put up for adoption.
Their case has been taken up by Tory MP Tim Yeo who accused Suffolk County Council of 'child kidnap' because the couple were declared unfit parents despite no evidence they would cause the girl physical or emotional abuse.
The mother originally came to the attention of social workers after her former husband successfully fought for custody of a son they had together. Mr Yeo said 'spurious' concerns had been concocted about her parenting skills.
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail yesterday the couple - who cannot be identified for legal reasons but are referred to as Carissa and Jim - said their happiness at the birth in a hospital on the Costa Brava was tinged with sadness by being separated from their daughter.
Lorry driver Jim, 41, said: 'We are over the moon about our son but it's impossible to forget how these people have ruined our lives.
'Throughout this process we have been thinking about how our daughter should have been with us to share our joy. Instead, we lost her and then had to escape here with hardly any money in our pockets.'
Mr Yeo used Parliamentary privilege in November to raise the issue at the House of Commons and accuse the council of 'actively seeking opportunities to remove babies from their mothers'.
Carissa's first child, he said, was taken away after her ex-husband's girlfriend, who works for Essex Social Services, contacted a friend in Suffolk Social Services.
She allegedly mentioned an occasion when Carissa refused to send her son to school to raise doubts about her ability as a parent.
When Carissa, 32, gave birth to her daughter, referred to as Poppy, in August 2008 social workers started monitoring the family.
They waited until Jim was out at work one day 11 weeks later to swoop on the couple's home with police and 'snatch the baby from the arms of her mother'.
Mr Yeo said that in the ensuing legal battle, the council repeatedly changed its grounds for intervening, alternating between blaming one parent and then the other.
'The first doctor's psychological assessment of Carissa declared she qualified for diagnosis of factitious disorder [formerly known as Munchausen's by Proxy, where someone invents or exaggerates an illness of someone in their care],' he said.
'Then a consultant forensic psychiatrist, after the briefest of assessments, decided that she fulfilled the criteria for the much more catch-all narcissistic personality disorder [characterised by a need for admiration and showing a lack of empathy].'
The first doctor also assessed Jim to be a 'pathological liar' but another expert later refused to endorse the opinion.
Mr Yeo added: 'The final, favoured rationale given by social services for Poppy's adoption order was based on nothing more than the possibility of future emotional abuse.'
Carissa and Jim, who were only able to see their daughter once a month in supervised visits before leaving the UK, are now hoping to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights to get their daughter back.
Jim said: 'We will never stop fighting for our family to be reunited.'
Graham Newman, the Suffolk county councillor responsible for children, schools and young people's services, last night said he was checking the council's legal position on pursuing the couple abroad.
He added: 'Obviously we are extremely distressed about the situation and would need to do something if they ever returned to the UK. There's no question about that at all.'
Source: Daily Mail
Addendum: Spanish police pick up the baby at age three weeks.
Spanish authorities seize British boy from parents
A British couple who fled to Spain to prevent their baby being taken into care by social services have had the child removed by the Spanish authorities.
The boy, who was born three weeks ago, was taken from his parents yesterday after Spanish social workers were passed information by Suffolk County Council.
Tim Yeo, the MP for South Suffolk, said that there was “no justification” for the council’s intervention in this case because the baby was being “perfectly cared for” and breastfed by the mother.
“Both parents are upset that the county council still seem to be trying to intervene in their situation in what I feel is a vindictive way,” he said. “It is a tragedy their situation being threatened by an authority 1,000 miles away.”
Jim and Carissa Smith, whose real names cannot be used for legal reasons, moved to the Costa Brava in December from their home in Sudbury beset by fears that their baby would be taken from them as soon as it was born.
Their first child, given the false name Poppy, was seized by Suffolk social services in October 2008 when she was just 11-weeks-old and remains in foster care in England.
The father said they were optimistic that the situation would be resolved and the baby would soon be returned to their care.
“This is a very sad thing for us but is not something we cannot get past,” he said. “We intend to work with the Spanish authorities and they are fantastic. They, I know, are honest and trustworthy.”
He claimed that that the information supplied by the council to the Spanish authorities had changed from alleged concerns about emotional harm to the possibility of physical harm, which has greater standing in the Spanish legal system.
Jim, 41, a former lorry driver, said: “The social services in Spain here are fantastic. They are working with us. We have a solicitor, and they are not involving the courts. Hopefully, all is going to be well.
“They only put a child to adoption if the parents request and there is no way our son is going back to Suffolk.
“They always work with families to keep families together — which is the opposite of what happens in the UK. It is a shame. This should be a precious time when we are bringing our child home.”
The couple’s first daughter was taken after Carissa, 32, was given a diagnosis of factitious illness, which used to be known as Münchausen’s syndrome by proxy, in 2008.
The same psychologist later changed the diagnosis to narcissistic personality disorder, but their daughter was already in care. Although experts said that there was no immediate risk to the child, social services said that she could face emotional abuse in future. When Carissa became pregnant again, the Smiths decided to move abroad.
Mr Yeo, their constituency MP, used his Parliamentary privilege to denounce Suffolk County Council’s approach last November.
He accused the council of having a group of “excessively zealous professionals” with an apparent agenda to separate very young children from their natural parents. He said that in the Smith case the officials had acted in a manner “sometimes tantamount to child kidnapping”.
He said that the council had alternated between having concerns about one parent and then the other before finally ruling that Poppy should be adopted because of “the possibility of future emotional abuse”.
Simon White, Suffolk's director of children and young people’s services, said that the council had not been involved in the decision of the Spanish courts to take the child from his parents.
He said: “Suffolk County Council has no jurisdiction in this case. We had no prior knowledge that this action was being contemplated by the Spanish authorities, nor do we yet know the basis on which they took their decision. When we became aware that the family had gone to Spain we gave the Spanish Authorities information about the recent child protection case concerning their older child.
"That case eventually led to a decision by the court that it would be in the best interests of the child that she should be adopted. Clearly we are under a legal and moral obligation to let the relevant authorities know these circumstances, but it would then be a matter for them to decide what appropriate action to take. “
Megan Coote is another British woman who escaped to the Costa Brava after threats by Suffolk social services to remove her baby.
The 21-year-old woman from Kesgrave, near Ipswich, has mild learning difficulties and gave birth to her daughter Olivia last month.
She is now living in Spain with her mother Lorraine while her father Dale, a businessman, has returned to Suffolk.
Source: London Times
Addendum: Mother and son are reunited.
Couple who fled UK after social workers took their child are declared fit parents by Spanish officials and reunited with baby No2
A baby boy who was snatched from his parents on the authority of social workers has been returned after tests showed the couple are perfectly capable of caring for him.
Ten-month-old Daniel was back home with his parents last night after spending most of his young life in an orphanage.
The smiling boy was cuddled by his father and mother, Jim and Carissa, whose names we have changed for legal reasons.
The couple had fled to Spain, where Daniel was born in February, after their other child, Poppy, now two, was seized by Suffolk social services and put up for adoption.
They had deemed the couple ‘unfit’ parents who might emotionally harm their daughter in the future.
This decision was roundly criticised in the Commons by local MP Tim Yeo as ‘tantamount to child kidnap’.
Daniel was still being breast-fed by Carissa in hospital when Spanish social workers, acting on a tip-off from Suffolk, took him and placed him in an orphanage in Valencia.
Now, in a snub to their UK counterparts, Spanish social workers say Jim and Carissa are no danger to Daniel.
Jim, a 42-year-old legal adviser, and Carissa, 32, plan to sue Suffolk social services for breaking up their family.
They are also taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights claiming their family life has been destroyed, as they prepare to fight a High Court legal battle to get Poppy back next month.
Last night Jim said at their home in Spain: ‘The Spanish social services say we meet all their criteria for being good parents and we’re delighted.
The authorities here did extensive psychological tests on both of us and found we are normal, and capable of caring for our children. We passed the six tests with flying colours.
‘We hope this will lead to our family being reunited with Poppy at last, and the four of us being left to get on with our lives together.’
His parents had moved to Spain when Carissa became pregnant with Daniel and received warnings from Suffolk Council that he might be taken away when he was born.
Their daughter had been torn from Carissa’s arms at 12 weeks old in October 2008 when social workers and police arrived at the couple’s home in East Anglia.
They were acting on unproven allegations about Carissa from her ex-husband after a difficult divorce.
They refused to believe evidence to the contrary provided by the couple. But the brutality of the snatch led to the intervention by Mr Yeo. He said: ‘Suffolk Council actively seeks opportunities to remove babies from their mothers.’
Meanwhile, Poppy is living with foster parents who hope to adopt her.
Suffolk social workers are not allowed to rubber stamp the adoption while Jim and Carissa fight the plan in the High Court.
The crucial test results on Jim and Carissa have been examined by the Daily Mail. We have changed their names and Daniel’s because, under British laws, the identity of the family cannot be publicised while Poppy is up for adoption.
The return of Daniel is a breakthrough for scores of families who have fled overseas to escape the clutches of British social workers.
In a separate move, Jim and Carissa, along with 35 families, have launched unprecedented legal action against UK family courts which have taken 50 of their children for forced adoption. All were deemed at risk of ‘future emotional harm’ from their parents, a condition unproven in science and often used as the premise to remove children from families by social workers.
Jim said: ‘To find our son had gone as she lay in the hospital was cruelty beyond belief.
‘She could not bear to face the heartbreak again of having yet another child snatched from her. So she decided to be sterilised there and then.’
They saw Daniel on nine occasions after he was taken to the Spanish orphanage 10 months ago. ‘He recognised us every visit and since he arrived home he has never stopped smiling at us,’ added Jim.
Source: Daily Mail
Addendum: Megan Coote, mentioned in an earlier addendum, is able to return to England after a year's exile in Spain.
EADT/STAR HOLLIE-RAE MERRICK; Megan Coote who has been allowed to keep her child Olivia: Contributed 1/3/10; EADT 2.3.10; ES 2.3.10; ES 3.3.10
New beginning for little Olivia
Kesgrave: Mother allowed to keep her child
A heavily pregnant Megan Coote fled to Spain on February 7 last year when she was told that her baby would be taken into care by social services as soon as it was born.
Megan, who has mild learning difficulties, gave birth to Olivia a week later and only returned to her home in Kesgrave in May after her father Dale had worked tirelessly to have her case reviewed.
And on Wednesday the family had the best possible kick-start to 2011 after being handed a residence order by a family court judge.
The order means Megan and Olivia, who will be one on February 15, can now live at home with Megan’s parents with no fear that they are being watched by the council.
Megan’s mother Lorraine said she was so relieved to have been granted the order and that the whole family could put the troubles of the past year behind them
She said: “We are very happy now because everything is in order and we can be left alone. It’s been over a year now because Olivia is nearly a year old and it started when Megan fell pregnant.
“We’re just a normal family and it’s just because she has a learning disability they seemed to think she was easy picking. She is absolutely ecstatic. It’s very clear that Olivia is just a very happy, contented baby and has been that way since the day she was born.”
Megan said she was “happy and excited” to be granted the residence order.
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “When local authority children’s services work with children and families they strive to work closely in partnership to achieve the best possible outcome for children.
“This is achieved by identifying a secure and permanent placement that is in the child’s best long term interests. There are a number of ways to achieve this and a residence order is one of these.”
Source: EADT Suffolk Magazine