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.
Nanny State Has No Breasts
July 4, 2010 permalink
Commentator Christopher Booker writes on forced adoption using four examples. In the last British Keystone Kops ripped a newborn from his mother's breast then, when they realized they did not have a breast of their own, reunited the mother with the baby in intensive care.
Forced adoption is a truly dreadful scandal
Social workers are removing children from loving families without proper justification, says Christopher Booker
In recent months, I have been reporting on what is one of the most alarming scandals in Britain today – the secretive system that allows social workers to remove children from loving families without any proper justification, and to send them for adoption or fostering with no apparent concern for their interests.
Four more examples have come to light in the past week. The first came to my attention via Lynn Boleyn, a former councillor from Dudley, who first became concerned about "forced adoption" when she sat on various committees concerned with child care. Last week, she was in court with a mother of five girls, whose family tragedy began when her partner was sentenced to 14 years for abusing the eldest girl, who was sent to live with a relative. Although there was no evidence of their mother harming them in any way, the other four girls were seized by Dudley social services and placed in foster care. Three were kept together, separated from their two-year-old sister whom the council now wants to put out for adoption.
The three girls, aged 11, 10 and 7, are desperately unhappy, constantly asking to be reunited with their mother. But on Friday, a judge said he had no power to stop social services summarily withdrawing them from their local school to be sent to a new home. The 11-year-old was looking forward to being in the school play and the end of term Leavers' Service. She has now been torn away from friends she has known since she was four, the nearest thing to stability left in her life. The children's wishes were not taken into account.
A second case concerns another woman, for 20 years an NHS nurse who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in the first Gulf War. Until recently, she was a semi-professional dog breeder, living happily at home with her eight-year-old son (his father having walked out when she was pregnant).
In March, their home was raided by two RSPCA officials and five policemen, complaining she had too many dogs in the house. Her home was untidy because she was clearing an attic, but the seizing of the dogs (breaking the leg of one of them) left it a befouled mess.
Acting on a tip-off from the RSPCA, Leeds social workers then intervened, and expressed surprise that the house was tidier than they expected. Nevertheless, they told the mother to bring her son's clothes to school, from where he was taken into foster care.
After three months, during which he has only been allowed short supervised "contact" with his mother, the boy is miserable, constantly asking when he can return home. His mother has repeatedly had to draw the social workers' attention to various conditions, such as head lice and threadworm, which indicated that he was not being properly cared for. Last week they announced that they were moving him to another foster home.
Although there was no evidence that she was anything other than an admirable mother, apart from the temporary mess made of the house in March, the social workers say her son cannot be allowed home until they have both undergone "psychiatric assessments". These cannot be arranged until October. Nor has the boy yet been given a guardian to represent him, as the law lays down.
My other two cases come from Ian Josephs, the former county councillor and businessman who runs the Forced Adoption website and has helped hundreds of families in a similar plight. When, in January, a couple brought their newborn son to hospital with a fractured arm, Coventry social services were called in on suspicion that the child might have been injured by his parents. After the mother had been arrested, handcuffed and held by the police for nine hours, the couple were terrified that their baby would be taken from them. Although not charged with any offence, they are on police bail, which prevents them from leaving the country.
The child's Irish grandmother took the baby to Ireland, where he is now surrounded by a large, supportive family. Social services are attempting to get an order through the courts for the grandmother to return to England with the baby.
My last case is so shocking that I will return to it in more detail at a later date. It centres on a London couple who, earlier this year, had their six children seized by social workers on what appears to be flimsy hearsay evidence (I have seen the court papers).
The mother was pregnant again. Last month, after the boy was born, three social workers and five policemen entered the hospital ward where she was breastfeeding at 3am, wresting the baby from her by force. They then discovered that they had nowhere to keep him. The boy was put into intensive care, where his mother was taken to breastfeed him for four days, until she was fit to leave the hospital. She saw her baby for the last time two weeks ago.
I will return to this story when I have had some explanation from the council responsible.
Source: Daily Telegraph
Addendum: A follow-up by the same author.
It's time to bring family law to book
Families are being torn apart by a system veiled in secrecy, says Christopher Booker
I have never, in all my years as a journalist, felt so frustrated as I do over two deeply disturbing stories of apparent injustice that cry out to be reported but which, for legal reasons, I can refer to only in the vaguest terms. To cover them as they deserve, and as the victims so desperately wish, would challenge a part of our legal system shrouded in an almost impenetrable veil of secrecy.
Two weeks ago I recounted four examples of what I described as one of the greatest scandals in Britain today – the seizing of children by social workers from loving families, on what appears to be the flimsiest and most questionable grounds. The children may then be handed on to foster carers, who can receive up to £400 a week for each child, or are put out for adoption, in a way which too often leads to intense distress for both the parents and the children involved.
One case I referred to concerns a north London couple whose five children were seized in April by social workers from Haringey council and sent into foster care. The mother was then pregnant, and her baby was born last month. Shortly afterwards, according to her account, nine police officers and social workers burst into her hospital room at 3am and, as she lay breastfeeding, wrested her baby from her arms with considerable force. Discovering they had nowhere to put the baby, the authorities took it to another part of the hospital, where the mother was escorted four times a day to feed her child, until she was discharged four days later.
Having talked at length to the mother, I found this story so shocking that I put a series of questions to the council, to get their side of the story. The response of Haringey (which, since the national furore over its failure to prevent the battering to death of Baby P, has been somewhat sensitive on these issues) was to ask the High Court to rule that I should not be allowed to write about the case at all. In the end, the court did not go that far, but The Sunday Telegraph was reminded of the comprehensive restrictions on reporting such stories.
After spending several hours with the parents, looking at their neat home, the little beds where their children used to sleep and the cot prepared for the baby, I came away more convinced than ever that something was seriously amiss. I found the wife impressive in her detailed account of the events, clearly a devoted mother who feels herself and her children to have been the victims of an extraordinary error – the nature of which, alas, I cannot reveal.
This week, two days have been set aside for the mother to put her case to a judge. Despite the tragedy that has torn their family apart, the parents have never previously had an opportunity to challenge Haringey council's version of the story. I only hope the court takes particular care to check out the evidence put before it, and that in due course I can fully report a case that sheds a revealing light on a system supposedly devised to protect the interests of the children but which too often seems to result in the very opposite.
Also this week, the fate of another family hangs on another court hearing. This is the story of a couple who last January were rejoicing at the birth of their first child. Some weeks later, concerned that the baby's arm seemed floppy, they took it back to the hospital to seek medical advice. An X-ray confirmed a minor fracture. This proved to be the start of a nightmare, which led to them being arrested, handcuffed and driven off separately to a police station, where the mother was held for nine hours without food. The father was imprisoned overnight.
It emerged that the doctor they saw had reported her suspicion about the child's fracture to Coventry social workers. The couple were put on police bail, ordering them to surrender their passports, forbidding them to be unsupervised in the presence of anyone under 16, and only allowing them to sleep in one of two named houses (the other being the father's family home). But because no charges had been brought, the social workers allowed the baby into the care of its Irish grandmother, a respected primary school headmistress. To avoid the baby being seized, she took it to her family home in Dublin, where it has been supported by a band of relatives.
Determined not to be thwarted, Coventry's social workers then asked the Irish courts to rule – in a case to be heard this week – that the baby must be sent back to them in England. The hospital doctor has meanwhile contacted the Irish medical authorities demanding that in no way must they carry out specific medical tests on the baby which might account for its injury.
On Thursday I spoke again with the mother, who reported that her own bail had been lifted. She was therefore about to join her baby in Ireland. But the child's father has been told that he may face charges for harming his son, a possibility they find incredible. This will be reported to the Irish court, prompting the fear that the child may be taken from his mother and grandmother, neither of them under any suspicion, and deported to England to be placed in foster care.
In the House of Commons last week I met the one politician who has done more than any other – as this kind of story grows disturbingly frequent – to expose what is going on. John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP for Yardley, Birmingham, not only set up the Justice for Families website, which contains details of many similar cases, but recently assembled an official all-party group of concerned MPs to campaign for the radical overhaul of a system which seems so horribly off the rails, and too often to be betraying the very principles it was intended to uphold.
Not the least startling feature of this system is the secrecy with which it has managed to hide away from the world almost all it gets up to. As is confirmed by Ian Josephs, a remarkable businessman who runs the Forced Adoption website and has helped hundreds of families in similar plight, one of its most glaring flaws is the extent to which aggrieved parents are deprived of any right to put their case, not just to the courts but to anyone who might be able to help them.
It is a system hermetically sealed off, in which the fate of parents and children can be decided by an incestuously closed community of social workers, police, lawyers, doctors and other professional "experts", who all too often seem to work together in an alliance which is ruthlessly oblivious to the interests of the families who fall into its clutches. Again and again I have heard of the misery of children torn from their distraught parents, forced to live unhappily in the hands of inadequate foster carers, and whose only wish is to be returned to those they know and love.
The more I learn about this scandal, the more I understand why, in April, an Appeal Court judge, Lord Aikens, savaged the actions of Devon county council social workers in a forced adoption case as having been "more like Stalin's Russia or Mao's China than the west of England". The council's lawyers were told to read a judgment by Lord Justice Wall, now head of the High Court's Family Division, which condemned Greenwich social workers as "enthusiastic removers of children".
It is high time the veils of secrecy were ripped from this national outrage; that politicians intervened to call the system to order; and that the press was free to bring properly to light family tragedies such as those I have only been allowed to hint at above.
Source: Daily Telegraph