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.



Future Emotional Abuse

July 21, 2012 permalink

British TV reports on parents fleeing through underground channels to save their children from social services. Parents remaining at home are faced with the impossible chore of proving they are not at risk for causing future emotional abuse. Ian Josephs is at the centre of a network providing transportation to safe havens abroad.



Revealed: the networks helping families flee social services

An exclusive investigation by Channel 4 News gains unprecedented access to underground networks which help families flee from social services in the UK.

The families say they are forced to flee because they will not get a fair hearing in the UK in the family courts. They turn to shadowy networks, often based online, and run by other parents, many of whom have already lost their children to the care system.

The scale and sophistication of the networks is extraordinary. We were told of safe houses across the UK where parents and their children could lie low before heading overseas, of fake birth certificates and of keys for rented homes in foreign countries that are exchanged in the middle of the night by strangers connected only by the networks.

As to the numbers involved it is impossible to verify, but we were told by one woman central to several groups that help parents get out of the country, that there has been "anything [from] 300 to 600 families in the past year that have left [the UK] from the involvement of social care".

The most popular destination is the Republic of Ireland, but the networks extend across Europe, Mediterranean countries being the other main destinations for families on the run.

From UK foster care to Cavan

We went to Cavan, a small town in the Republic of Ireland and one of the hubs for the network. There we met a mother who described a meticulously-planned snatch operation to steal her four-year-old son from foster care in the UK. At an organised contact session, she arranged an untraceable car, fake ID papers and even had a wig waiting in the car. "I knew I had to get him and get to the boat straight away. I knew that if I got caught, I would be done for kidnap," she says.

Her son had originally been put into voluntary care after she had a breakdown. She insists she got better but they refused to return him - leaving her, she says, with no choice but to run.

Having made it to Ireland she turned herself in to the authorities in the belief – shared by many in these networks – that she would get a fairer hearing from Irish social services. "They are not idiots over here but it's the way they act [and] work completely differently," she says. "They took him, completed the assessment and decided what was in my son's best interests."

For this mother that decision turned out to be that she could keep her son. Having been helped by the network herself, she in turn began to help others. This is how the networks regenerate themselves and grow.

Revealed: the networks helping families flee social services

'Punished for something that we hadn't done'

The charge levelled against the parents we spoke to was not physical or sexual abuse but emotional abuse or the risk of future emotional neglect or abuse. They say it is a charge that they cannot defend themselves against.

We met one British couple, Julie and Andy (not their real names), hiding out in a southern European country [pictured above]. The network helped them flee from the UK earlier this year when they discovered she was pregnant. They are now a couple in hiding.

Like many parents we met, their argument was that they were not given a fair hearing by a system that was too quick to remove children. Their child was removed at birth because the mother, who suffered pre-natal depression during her pregnancy, and the father, were assessed as posing a risk of future emotional neglect.

According to the couple, the local authority "just pressed the nuclear button". Talking about their daughter being placed in care they told Channel 4 News: "We hadn't hurt her. We were punished for something that we hadn't done."

While they accept the need for action in some cases they insist that parents can be accused of something that it is impossible to defend themselves against: "We recognise that that the child protection system is important but you can be convicted of the potentiality of causing harm or neglect."

They are now in hiding. "Once you've lost one you have no chance at all...after our experiences of our first child we have absolutely no confidence at all in the system."

Ian Josephs

Social services vs parents

Channel 4 News discovered an unlikely figure in an unlikely location, who is a central character in these networks. He has taken it upon himself to assist in the flight of many of these families. Sitting in Monaco, Ian Josephs [pictured left], an 80-year-old British businessman, puts it bluntly. "It's war," he says, "between parents who've had their children taken and the social workers who've taken them."

Having first come across what he sees as family courts' injustice some 30 years ago, he now helps hundreds of families each year as they fight the system to keep their children. "I get two or three new calls every single day practically," he says. "That doesn’t sound too many, but if you multiply it by 365 it comes to quite a lot."

But it is more than advice: "I'm no Bill Gates, but I do pay for pregnant women to escape the country."

He is motivated by an unshakeable belief that the system and the family courts have the wrong approach and that other countries will treat parents fighting charges of emotional neglect in an entirely different manner. "If you saw the women that I have seen whose babies have been snatched from them by truly heartless social workers who've shown no compassion, no sorrow, no pity, no words of consolation, you would think that somebody should do something about it," he says.

"Why is it happening so much in England and not in France, for example, where I live, or Monaco where I live, and not in Spain and not in Italy? It's a very British phenomena."

Who are the networks helping?

Mr Josephs and the other networks say they screen parents and do background checks into their histories before offering help. But how much can they really know about the parents and children they help flee the UK and the safeguards of the child protection system?

It all poses profound questions about who these networks are helping and whether they are not in fact putting some children in further danger. It is a view shared by Professor Corinne May-Chahal, the co-chair of the College of Social Work. "It is clearly saying that there is something very wrong with the system, if the only option people have is to run then there has to be something that needs to be looked at," she told Channel 4 News.

She adds that the potential risk to some of the children involved is of serious concern: "There are probably some very vulnerable children and how can we know they are getting the right help? It is really very worrying. If what's happening within the system is forcing parents or encouraging parents to leave then that could well be putting them in more danger."

And she says that this points to a wider issue in the system designed to protect children. "We all know the system has to change. And it’s not just social workers that need to improve - that is the key. Social work has to work within the system and it is the system that needs to change, not just one person or professional body within it."

Source: Channel 4 (UK)

Note: Our video capture software failed on this program. Viewers with better capture technology are invited to forward a copy to fixcas.

Addendum: John Hemming posted a link to the YouTube program (local copy mp4), along with some user comments below.



Channel 4 piece on refugees

Thanks to "liarpolicians" for the youtube recording.


if the emotional damage that is done to the child by seperating them from their family is worse than the damage that WILL be experianced by leaving them as they be, then the child should NOT BE REMOVED.

The Risk of emotional damage law they act upon is a mockary to emotional damage in itself. The law creates emotional damage and it is an insult to the complete concept and idea behind emotional damage.

Since we cannot predict other peoples future and as we see everyday, it does always suprise us of the horrors and the blessings that occur in our world. The suprisers and the predictions.

With the unpredictability of human nature, nature itself and our complete life and existance. We cannot base such a drastic decission as to seperate a child from their family with the "Risk" of emotional damage. Only if this is a probable risk proven by facts. Not just a feared one by unpredictable/emotional/individual humans.

We do not understand everyones lives and it is impossible to assume that the small amount of time spent with families can determine the potential emotional risk that could occur. Unless there are clear facts.

Keeping the child with the family is +90% of the time going to cause the least emotional damage. This really does need to be understood and for people to make choices based on their hearts.

Also peoples different ideas and personal preference in bringing up their child needs to be valued and respected.

If the social services does fear risk of emotional damage then they should watch the family closely and give them much "help and support". to illiminate all risks and to give best advice.

Everyone has there bad times in life and we cannot seperate a child from their families everytime there is problems within the families.

The wise will just stay away frrom the system and the naive will get affected.

The naive should be educated and the real bad parents should be seaked out and looked for, while the good and morral families should be given much help and support, some trust and the basic benefit of the doubt. Given some respect that they have happy, healthy children now and there is no reason that this will not continue as it is .. unless worste case scenario does occur . however this scenario may never occur and could just be the fear of the social worker.

Different personalities and people will view every event from their own unique stand point. Alot of these people may not understand them selves what a real loving family is.

Respect should be given to law abiding people and help and support should be offered and maybe insisted upon if necessary. but children should not be seperated unless their is evidence that any damage will deffinetly occur if the child is left with its family. Not that there is a risk it will occur. There is always going to be a risk of emotional damage within every family. As life is unpredictable to the naked eye.

A Government cannot expect a rational and humane society when it is not a rational and humane government. The Government sets the example of what is sociably accepted, and within my situation I have experienced first hand for a year and a half the lack of love and care for the children by the social services. They are robotic and it is not realistic human behaviour. They are a unique group and they are mostly very disturbed people!!! Yet these disturbed people get to make huge choices on our families... it is true that I can see a lot of these social services are very egotistical. They have little experiance in life and with family... their family was not particularly loving. I can see they must not of recieved much love themselves or they would value that love and value it within the families they deal with.

Source: John Hemming blog

Underground Railroad
Underground Railroad by Kolongi