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Upscale Baby Snatched
February 25, 2014 permalink
In Britain Wendy Ticker and her daughter Charlotte lost their four-year-old grandson/son. This upscale family had a five-bedroom house, a career as a management accountant, two BMWs, a Mercedes and three acres of land filled with a menagerie of animals. The lad loved running around the grounds, feeding the ducks and chickens and helping granny walk her German Shepherd whenever he visited. One day the boy reported "willy sore" (pain in his penis). When doctors could not find a cause, they suggested child abuse. The police refused to lay charges, but social workers stepped in and took the boy. He was placed for adoption.
Did social workers take this middle class family's adored child to meet adoption targets? Four-year-old boy was torn from loving mother at hospital even though no one had hurt him
- Management Consultant Wendy Tricker insists her family are victims
- Daughter Charlotte, 21, watched as her four-year-old son was taken away
- She took her child to a GP after he complained he was 'sore'
- Doctors questioned whether injury was natural or inflicted deliberately
- Police say there was no crime, but parents were told to go home without him
You could be forgiven for thinking Wendy Tricker has the perfect life. A five-bedroom house in Shropshire; a good career as a management accountant; a supportive and successful husband; two BMWs, a Mercedes and three acres of land filled with a menagerie of animals.
It’s a lifestyle their little grandson adored; running around the grounds, feeding the ducks and chickens, helping Granny walk her beloved eight-year-old German Shepherd, Rupert, whenever he visited.
But the four-year-old boy hasn’t been to see her for nearly 18 months. And Wendy hasn’t seen him at all since last May. Nor has her daughter Charlotte, 21, the youngster’s mother.
There’s been no family rift. Instead, the Trickers insist they are the victims of a social services department hell-bent on taking a child away from his perfectly safe, loving home.
And, short of a miracle tomorrow — when the young boy’s adoption case will be finally rubber-stamped by the courts — those social services will be successful.
It’s impossible to overstate the heartache wreaked on this respectable family. ‘It mostly hits me in supermarkets,’ says Wendy, 52. ‘Charlotte and I were walking down the aisle of one recently and saw a display of nappies. We just held each other, and cried and cried.
‘Once, Charlotte saw a pushchair from behind, with a child’s foot sticking out. It was the same shoe as his. She raced round to see. But, of course, it wasn’t him. I’ve done the same. You find yourself staring at children. But he could be anywhere.’
Wendy is among a growing number of grandparents who maintain their families are being taken from them for the most insubstantial of reasons.
Last month, this paper reported on the case of Graham and Gail Curlew, from Sheringham, Norfolk, whose grandchildren were removed from them with no reason ever given.
Then there were Lee and Katrina Parker, from Colchester, Essex, who very nearly lost their grand-daughter simply because social services thought their family, with seven children, was too large.
It is hard to think of a worse wrong the state could sanction. And yet, partly because of the ongoing privacy of the family courts, the outcry doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.
Maybe it’s because most of us simply don’t believe it could happen to us; that only dysfunctional, neglectful families have children who are taken into care.
It’s obvious when I meet them that Wendy and Charlotte Tricker are both capable, hard-working and loving. And as Wendy warns: ‘We loved him so much and cared for him so well. It’s proof that if it can happen to us, it really can happen to absolutely anyone.
Distraught, he begged: 'Don't go Mummy, don't go'
‘How many more grandparents like me have to lose their beloved grandchildren before someone stands up to the family courts?’
Their problems began in 2007 when Wendy, who was divorced from Charlotte’s father, remarried and moved the family from Norfolk to Shropshire.
Charlotte, then 14, started at a new school. However, she was soon targeted by a 31-year-old man who police and social services suspected of being a paedophile. He and Charlotte began a relationship without her parents’ knowledge and she fell pregnant soon after turning 16.
‘Of course, I was disappointed,’ says Wendy. ‘I wanted her to have a career first and children later, when she was in a settled relationship.
‘As she was barely two weeks into the pregnancy when I found out, I admit that, yes, we did talk about abortion, but Charlotte was very committed to having the baby.’
Besides, Shropshire Social Services, who were involved because of their fears about the father, insisted Charlotte had ‘a human right’ to have her baby. How ironic, given what later happened.
Charlotte was provided with a flat and benefits by the state, and Wendy and her husband furnished it for her.
In February 2010, just short of her 17th birthday, Charlotte went into labour. Wendy was her birthing partner. ‘I will remember it till the day I die. The moment I saw my grandson, it changed everything — I was elated beyond words.’
In the weeks that followed, Charlotte proved to be a good mother, making ends meet and keeping her adored and thriving son clean and well-fed.
'I would give my life to hold him one more time'
A year later, having split from the boy’s father during her pregnancy, Charlotte met a new boyfriend. Nearly ten years older and a bit of a drifter, he was far from the partner Wendy had dreamed of for her daughter — but he adored Charlotte. He regularly showered her with flowers and was devoted to her son, and the three were happy together. All seemed calm.
Then came the events of September 19, 2012. Wendy and her husband were in Madeira to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Charlotte’s boyfriend and her son were having a bath together, as they often did, while Charlotte caught up with bills and paperwork in the next room. The toddler had recently started potty training, so after his bath he was allowed to play naked from the waist down.
It was then he went up to his mother and said: ‘Mummy, willy sore.’ Charlotte examined him and noticed some discolouration and swelling. After texting her mum for advice, she decided to see if it was better the next day.
It wasn’t. Fatefully, Wendy suggested Charlotte take him to her GP — advice she says she will regret giving till her dying day.
Despite examining the boy, the doctor was baffled and so sent the family to the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.
Several junior doctors looked at the child, and all were puzzled. Eventually, a consultant paediatrician examined him. In his notes, he put forward two hypotheses: that the penis was swollen due to a naturally occurring condition, or that it could have been caused by a wound deliberately inflicted. Both comments were accompanied by question marks. In other words, he didn’t know either.
Police were called to the hospital, where they interviewed Charlotte, her partner and the paediatrician. There was, they said, no case to answer: as far as the police were concerned, no crime had been committed.
The hospital decided to keep her son in overnight, so Charlotte and her boyfriend slept in chairs near his bed. The next day, however, they were told to go home without him.
'How do you say goodbye to someone you love? You can’t. It’s like murder'
They were distressed beyond measure, says Wendy, and Charlotte ‘went berserk’ with worry and anger.
When they arrived home, the couple started a desperate hunt for clues, photographing anything in the flat on which the boy could have hurt himself.
But knowing they had done nothing wrong, they reassured themselves that the matter would be cleared up within days.
Instead, to their shock, they were told there would be a hearing at Telford County Court on September 25 to decide what action to take.
Wendy and her husband found an expert in family law to represent Charlotte and her partner.
It was only after a meeting with him that they discovered what a serious predicament they were in. When they asked if they’d be able to take the little boy home, the solicitor replied: ‘I don’t think so.’
‘We were in shock,’ Wendy explains. ‘If you are innocent, you assume everything will be all right. I believed in British justice. Even at this stage we all thought it was just a matter of time before he would be home.’
At the hearing, it was decided that the boy would be placed with foster parents, who turned out to be older than his grandparents. Charlotte was allowed just an hour-and-a-half of supervised contact, eventually with her mother in attendance, twice a week.
‘He was distraught,’ says Wendy. ‘Every time he saw Charlotte, he ran to her, threw his arms around her and said: “Don’t go, Mummy; don’t go!”
‘Putting him in the car and seeing him sobbing as he waved goodbye was awful every time. And Charlotte wasn’t allowed to tell him that the separation was involuntary, so what was going through his little mind? I dread to think of the long-term effects.’
Charlotte launched her own legal battle but when her solicitor suggested she blame her boyfriend for the injury as it was her best chance of recovering her son, she refused point blank — after all, he hadn’t done anything.
Eventually, though, despite believing in his innocence, she ended the relationship and broke off all contact with him in a bid to get her son back. The endless stress took a toll on Charlotte’s health: her weight plummeted from ten to just six-and-a-half stone — dangerous for her 5ft 9in height — and she stopped sleeping.
A further court date for February 2013 was set and the family held their breath, praying that their beloved boy would be returned to them.
‘Because we all knew no one had hurt him, we had every confidence the expert witnesses would exonerate the family,’ says Wendy. ‘Sooner or later, everyone would see sense.’
Despite their hopes, the boy was taken away from them, even though no definitive medical diagnosis had been made of his condition and its cause.
Then, on May 17 last year, another court ratified his adoption.
The next day, Charlotte received an official letter saying her contact with her son was at an end. She would have to say goodbye to her little boy for ever on May 24, 2013.
‘How do you say goodbye to someone you love?’ asks Wendy, sobbing so much she can barely speak. ‘You can’t. It’s like murder.
‘As we left him, I told him that Charlotte was his mummy. I said: “Never forget that: she’s your real, your only mummy.”
‘And then [the social worker] lied to him: they told him he just needed to go to the toilet . . . but instead they took him away for ever.
‘What happened next is a bit of a blur. We were screaming, hysterical with grief. I told a social worker: “If you hadn’t lied in court, this would never have happened.” We were beside ourselves.
The foster mother even asked us for some mementos, his first rattle for example. It was as though they wanted to take everything — it was sick.’
In October 2013, Wendy went to court herself to request contact with her grandson. Social Services opposed her application, saying she was unstable and citing her grief-stricken reaction as her grandson was torn from their arms. The court found against her.
Tomorrow, the adoption will be final. After that, no court in the land can give him back to his family. ‘One day,’ Wendy says, ‘we hope that he will go on the internet, read stories about us, and learn that we fought tooth and nail for him, and we love him to bits. Perhaps his adoptive family will read our story, know we love him, and be kind and take pity on us.’
They cling desperately to the last straw of hope: that the adoptive parents may allow some meagre contact.
‘They decided to take him from us the moment we set foot in the hospital,’ Charlotte says. ‘They didn’t want me to be a good mum: they wanted adoption. Lovely children are in demand for adoption. He’s been so loved, he’ll be easy to love. If he’d really been abused, he’d be difficult, and who wants “damaged goods”?’
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,’ says John Hemming MP, chairman of Families for Justice which fights for those who suffer at the courts’ hands.
‘I expect in years to come the then government will apologise to the children for what has been done to them today. What matters now, however, is to change the system so the needs of children come to the fore rather than government policy.
‘In particular, the system ignores grandparents. For children to be taken into care is often a traumatic step, whereas staying with grandparents is normal life and a far better option than foster care. However, grandparents, uncles and aunts have no right to be heard by the court.’
Wendy agrees: ‘The impact this has had on my grandson will never heal. Any physical trauma he suffered was gone within days. Losing his birth family will haunt him for ever.
‘And that’s not even thinking of the rest of us. I’ll be 65 before I see him again [when he turns 18 and is allowed to search for his biological family], if I ever do. He gave my 82-year-old mother reason to go on living after she suffered a stroke. Yesterday, she pointed at his toy in her house — she won’t let us remove it — and the tears were streaming down her face. She will never see him again.’
And what of Charlotte, who’s been warned by her barrister that if she has any other children, they will be taken into care, too?
‘If I could just hold him one more time,’ she says, ‘I think I would give my life.’
We gave Shropshire Social Services the right to reply but they said they could not comment on the case.
Source: Daily Mail