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Twice Fleeing Scotland
November 29, 2014 permalink
Five years ago Scottish social workers intervened to prevent the marriage of Mark McDougall and Kerry Robertson, claiming the pregnant Kerry lacked the capacity to understand the marriage declaration. The couple fled to Ireland where they were married and gave birth to two children. This year they moved their family back to their homeland. Notwithstanding the demonstrated capacity of the parents in exile, social workers seized both children. Reunification will depend on the decision of a children's panel. The again-pregnant mother has fled back to Ireland with her husband.
On November 27 John Hemming spoke in the British parliament on the difficulty of investigating wrongdoing within social services and mentioned the McDougall family. Fixcas has earlier articles on the McDougalls:  .
Parents flee again after 'vindictive proceedings’
Fife social workers have torn a family apart and turned loving parents into refugees, says Christopher Booker.
Last week I reported on two 11‑year-old twins who, after nearly three years of hell in “care”, were joyfully reunited with their family after a Dutch judge made clear why the children should never have been removed in the first place.
Less cheering, alas, is the news on another, not dissimilar case, mentioned in Parliament last week, which I was hoping to report had come to a similarly happy ending.
Five years ago, Mark and Kerry McDougall made headlines in Scotland when, two days before their marriage by a bishop in their local cathedral, Fife social workers intervened to halt the wedding – on the grounds that Kerry, who had mild learning difficulties, was “unfit” to be a mother. The couple escaped to Ireland where they married, built a new life and had two sons, fully supported by friendly Irish social workers, who found Kerry to be a perfectly capable mother. This year, however, they wanted to move back to be near their Scottish families.
As John Hemming MP said in Parliament last week, no sooner had they returned than the social workers moved to seize the children, and a lengthy court battle ensued.
Although, as I have reported before, the Fife social workers eventually got their way and took the boys very unhappily into “care”, all the indications were that they would be returned home. But now, to the astonishment of the family’s capable legal team, the boys still remain in care, for their future to be decided by a “children’s panel”.
Also last week came a further twist. Kerry, having discovered that she was again pregnant, went for a medical check. This was immediately reported to the social workers. Terrified that they might then lose their third child, the couple on Wednesday again fled to Ireland. Reporting this in the Commons, Mr Hemming, who has long been following their case with concern, named the parents and regretted that they appeared to have been “on the receiving end of vindictive proceedings”.
The family’s lawyers now plan further action. I hope it may soon be possible to report a happier outcome to a case that many expert observers have found very disturbing.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: A longer article on the family. Before returning to Scotland, Scottish social workers assured the family that there was no plan to seize their children. This incident, and many others, demonstrate that promises by social workers are worthless.
Loving mother forced to flee with unborn child because authorities claim she's 'too dumb to be a mum'
Social workers placed Kerry McDougall and husband Mark's two sons with a foster family and fear their new baby will also be taken from them if they return home
Proud Kerry McDougall is looking forward to the birth of her third son – but fears she may have a tough battle to keep him.
Kerry, 22, deemed by social workers to be “too dumb” to be a mum, has left her home and her two young sons 200 miles away in the hope of preventing her new baby being taken into care at birth.
She and husband Mark say leaving Sean, five and William, three, with the foster family they had been handed to was “the hardest thing”.
But Kerry added: “They’d already been taken from us. The social workers think because I can’t spell long words I’m incapable of love or caring for children.
“I can’t describe how it feels to know your children are somewhere else and are unhappy. I just have to trust one day we’ll get them back.”
The couple fear that if they return home when their son is born they will almost certainly lose him too. Born with a cleft palate, Kerry could not speak properly until she was six.
Her learning difficulties were termed “mild to moderate” by specialists. And she admits her reading and writing are not as good as many adults.
But her difficulties are largely academic. She cooks, and looks after the Belfast terrace house she has now made home – and is determined to have a career.
She is shy and speaks slowly but it’s clear that despite her mild speech problems, Kerry is kind and switched on. She rattles off her sons’ dates of birth and reads, then files the household bills.
The young Scottish mum even used to have a voluntary position as a childcare assistant for Fife council but had to leave when she first fled in 2010, when she was pregnant with Sean.
Kerry claims the couple were “tricked and trapped” by social services into returning to Scotland, where the two boys were taken from them last June.
She said: “It’s been proven time and time again that we’re good parents. Our children were happy and healthy.
“We’d been living happily in southern Ireland for three years and the authorities there thought we were good parents.
"We were led to believe that was proof enough for us to be left alone if we moved back. But Fife social services betrayed us.”
The couple had gathered up a few belongings and left for Ireland after social workers in Fife ordered registrars not to let Kerry’s wedding to Mark go ahead – with 48 hours’ notice – saying she lacked the mental capacity to marry.
And they were told their first child would be taken into care within hours of his birth, and could be put up for adoption.
Instead Sean was born in Waterford in the Irish Republic, followed two years later by brother William.
Social workers there monitored the family and, they say, had declared Kerry and Mark, 31, to be fit parents.
Kerry said: “We moved to Ireland because we knew we’d have a better chance of keeping the boys – they don’t have forced adoption.
“When we got there, the social workers monitoring us couldn’t understand why Fife had such a problem.
“They gradually withdrew their involvement and then left us alone to look after our boys. We were happy and healthy – all of us. Mark had a job and I would take the boys out every day, to the park, swimming, or for walks.
“Come rain or shine, we got our wellies on and went jumping in puddles. Life was everything we wanted, except we weren’t back home.”
Missing their families, the young parents contacted Fife social services and asked if they could go back without fear of losing their family now they had proved themselves. The answer, they claim, was a resounding yes.
And when hard-working Mark was offered a well paid job at Amazon in Fife, they decided to test the water.
But in what they claim was a devastating betrayal they were confronted again the day they moved back and the boys were put on the “at risk” register.
They say social services began to hound the family, in what MP John Hemmings later said had the appearance of a “vindictive settling of scores”.
Social workers claimed Kerry should not be alone with the children for longer than two hours, which she admits she did not adhere to.
And after sending a letter stating the child protection unit was withdrawing involvement last June, the boys were taken away days later.
The authorities maintain their decision was for the safety of the children.
Kerry, who says she watched her boys kick and scream as they were dragged off, said: “I felt I was letting them down because there was nothing I could do.
“I did my best to be a good mum. I never smoked, drank or did drugs. They were always clean, never hungry and were happy, happy boys. It wasn’t enough.
“For weeks before they were taken Sean begged for us to move so the social workers couldn’t take him away. I feel we failed him by not doing so sooner.”
At one meeting, four social workers claimed Mark had intimidated them and he was arrested for a breach of the peace.
He was cleared months later after CCTV footage showed no such incident.
But while on bail, he was under orders to keep away from the social workers in question – yet he claims child services scheduled access visits at the office where they worked. He is still awaiting a court hearing for allegedly breaking bail conditions.
The couple decided their only hope to get Sean and William home was to have a third child, moving back to Ireland to again prove they were capable parents.
Kerry said: “The Irish authorities have promised to help and we have to trust them because we have no one else on our side.”
Mark admitted: “I’ve been low – there have been times I didn’t think I could go on.
“The only thing that keeps me going is being with Kerry, and hoping we’ll get the boys back where they belong.”
As they try to plan their future, the couple can only cherish the hundreds of photos of their times as a happy family.
Kerry said: “Sometimes they’re hard to look at because they make it even harder to understand how this happened.
“But they make me smile, too, and remind me why we can never stop fighting.”
MP John Hemming's view
It’s clear to me that Fife social services have acted vindictively against this young family.
They were living happily in Ireland and Mark and Kerry were considered to be suitable parents.
There has never been an incident to suggest they are not suitable parents.
Taking any child into care is extremely disruptive and traumatic and it should be done only when essential for the safety and well being of the child.
Fife social services' view
We are not legally in a position to give details of individual cases which might help to give a fuller picture of the situation.
However, we do not recognise the description of our involvement as presented by the family.
Social workers do not have the authority to remove children from their parents. This is granted by a court or by the children’s hearing system.
Social work services try to support families to stay together wherever possible.
Belfast social services' view
Due to issues of confidentiality Belfast Health and Social Care Trust cannot comment on individual cases.
We do everything we can to ensure the safety of children and try to keep families together wherever suitable and possible.
The judge's view
Responsibility for the care of the children has been moved by Dunfermline Sheriff Court from Fife to Dundee City Council.
The judge ruled this was, to remove any problems which may arise from social workers being biased against the family due to historical events.
The parents' view
We’ve never done anything to put our children at risk of cruelty or neglect. We love them and have only ever wanted the best for them. That is to be with us.
We have been made to make a decision no parent should have to make – to chose between our two sons and our unborn baby.
We will fight until we are back together as a family.
Source: Daily Mirror (UK)
Addendum: In March 2015 Kerry delivered her son Patrick three months premature by emergency Cesarean section in Belfast.