The Department for Education Improving Permanence for Looked after Children
The Department for Education Improving Permanence for Looked after Children many lords and ladies in parliament and the house of lords was contacted by the charity children screaming to be heard in a child’s best interested we suggested ideas for the new bill but we had no reply and indeed the ideas was ignored.
The Department for Education
Improving Permanence for Looked after Children
The Ministerial and Public Communications Division
Tel: 0370 0002288
7th October 2013
2.2 Looked after Children’s Reviews paragraph 8.7-8.8
“Which clearly states that those caring for children on a day-to-day basis in foster homes or residential homes are generally the people that know the child best”.
Such a sad statement to make, when in actual fact, most children in care have family members who love them but are separated from them and in most cases are not allowed any contact.
Michael Curtis said: “The proposed new legislation does nothing to improve a system which is out of control and which has significantly contributed to the unnecessary splitting up of thousands of families throughout the UK……”
The reforms to the Children’s & Families Bill shows to what extent the Government is set on destroying the ties with the natural family once the child is in care. The new proposed legislation will remove the legal duty of the Local Authority to consider wider family placements and the duty to promote contact.
This letter is a plea to all those who make the decisions to bring about reform that should reflect putting family first. Within the past few years the whole world has seen the shameful nature of our social services and our ‘secret Family courts’ and ‘forced adoption’. It is reckoned that at least two out of six homes in an average street have had, at some time, a social service intervention. This is a measure of scale to which the unmonitored power of social services has grown.
With no disrespect, nothing will change in the care system because to know the truth one has to know it from grassroots. As a voice for justice for 40 years, working with people from the care system en-mass, I know the truth and for this reason I registered the charity, “Children Screaming to be Heard, The Silent Witnesses, Here Lies the Truth”. We believe that many children taken from their homes and placed in foster care don’t need to be there. These children could have been safely kept in their own homes or with extended family.
When a child is first taken into care, they are removed from their home and family, often in tears, begging to stay, but driven away all alone into the unknown with a Social Worker, who in most cases they have never met. Many of these children will never see their family members again. At the same time children lose all of their personal possessions, such as their little teddies or dollies.
Within days of being taken that child is surrounded by strangers consisting of an army of many different experts such as Doctors, Dentists, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Cafcass Guardians and Lawyers. Children in a very short period of time can see up to 10 different social workers! They are generally taken to a house of strangers and told that is where they will live. The children are plunged into an alien environment and initially live in abject fear. Children react differently to fear according to age, temperament, and life circumstances. Some will freeze and be silent and others may become disruptive. Aggressive behavior in children is often a cover-up of intense fears — an impulse to fight in response to a perceived danger, then in steps the Anger Management teams. Many children regress to thumb sucking, or bed-wetting and crying as a response to the trauma they have experienced by being taken from their family. Some cover up their fears with psychosomatic symptoms like stomach aches and headaches. For a child all alone, the child will experience separation anxiety, a reaction of being ripped apart from their family. Sometimes siblings will be separated leading to more traumas. It is so important for the children to be kept together and have contact with their families and have their voices heard, but this is denied.
Once a child has been taken into care it can be many weeks or months before children may be allowed to have contact with their family. Before Contact can take place the child is briefed by the social workers as to what they can and cannot say to their families. Should contact be allowed, it is supervised and often for only one hour in a tiny room and a record of what is said written down.
They are told they are not allowed to show affection. No gifts to the children are allowed in many cases. If family members become upset, contact is cut short.
Many children are not allowed telephone calls, letters or celebration cards from family members. When a letter/card is sent to the child it must first be checked by a social worker before being passed to the child, if accepted. Often families will never know for sure if the child has received the letter as no reciprocal letter is ever returned.
Contact is stopped on the slightest pretext and often social workers say it is not them but the child who says they don’t want contact but as contact is stopped immediately there is, of course, no way of verifying this.
Should a child on a Contact try to report they are being abused in care to a family member then all contacts are stopped immediately with the family.
What urgently needs to be addressed, are the children who themselves report being abused and are then forced to have contact with the abusers. A court will order a child to have weekly Psychiatric treatment until the child agrees to have contact with the abusers. It would seem that contact for abusers is ok but contact is stopped for children on allegations made by the social workers! If an adult reports abuse it is a criminal offence so why should there a different law for a child?
It is common knowledge that children in care are moved several times from foster carer to foster carer. Currently there are 51,000 children living with foster families in England. And more are wanted. One in three adoptions “disrupt” or breakdown and the child is returned to the care system. Parents have not relinquished them; they have been taken from them. This is not stability in a child’s life and so it’s not surprising that the outcomes for children in care are so dire. Latest Statistics on Children in Care, Adoptions and More.
Why do you think so many children from the care system are in detention centres or fill the prisons with hundreds more in psychiatric hospitals? Many survive living on the streets by begging, with many turning to drugs and alcohol trying to forget their fears and loneliness.
“In a child’s best interest” is quoted ad infinitum, ad nauseam, throughout the Children & Families Bill. This is not and never has been “In a child’s best interest!” More than thirty years ago, three scholars, Albert Solnit, Joseph Goldstein and Anna Freud proposed an alternative phrase. They said “best interests of the child” should be replaced with “least detrimental alternative.”
The phrase “least detrimental alternative” is a constant reminder that we must always balance the harm that we may think a family is doing against the harm of intervening. It is exactly the shot of humility that every child welfare system needs.
Social workers seek to divert the blame onto the families for failing the children but the care system is in crisis and cannot continually blame the families and the children.
Of the 200 people I interviewed and filmed living on the streets of London, all said social workers told us our families did not want us and that was the reason we were put into care. Furthermore, they were told their families did not want any contact. For those who found their families after leaving care and learnt of the truth, sadly their childhood days were lost but mourned forever.
A woman working for Cafcass for 30 years told me, “All kids in care are liars and none know what they want!” Attitudes such as this prevail amongst those working with vulnerable children.
Having worked with people who were once in care, it was clear they just wanted to be loved and looked after by their families. Many children in care are crying out to go back home or live with their grandparents, but their wants are disregarded in favour of parenting by committee with no plans to return the children to their natural or extended families. Foster care is supposed to be temporary but becomes permanent. Returning home should always be a consideration in reviews.
In 2007 shocking figures show that only 0.27 care applications were rejected! That is 27 children out of 10,000 in care were allowed to return to their parents, or to their extended family or the case was dropped! That is less than 3 in a thousand!
Birth and extended families stand no chance against the Local Authorities social services teams, their so called expert witnesses who routinely roll out their cut and pasted reports, financially unlimited legal departments playing out their inexorable processes routinely based on pure conjecture and crystal ball gazing. Under the cloak of secret family courts there is no burden of proof! The family law system and its obvious and predictable outcomes are unfair, biased, and unstoppable; it is a farce and is nothing short of legalised kidnapping.
How can this broken system even be regarded as legal when current statistics show that 99.97% of all children’s cases result in children being torn from and deprived of their families, often damaged and never to return. There are thousands of children taken on allegations or whimsically framed probabilities of risk that never see their families again. Numbers in 2013 are running at one thousand children every month!
Grandparents, the natural extended family have no legal rights. Grandparents are often defrauded into spending their own retirement nest eggs, often tens of thousands of pounds, sometimes hundreds of thousands when re-mortgaging their own homes in the forlorn hope that their own legal team will make a difference and keep their grandchildren out of the care system. I wonder how many would attempt to stop their children from being stolen by the state if they knew at the outset that it’s not possible to win.
Social workers level accusations against grandparents to prevent them from caring for their grandchildren. If they apply for a residence order or guardianship they are rejected. Social workers often denounced them as unfit as carers, because of misdemeanours perpetrated by their siblings. Social workers and Cafcass often don’t even speak to them or assess their capabilities.
Before the Tory Election I wrote to Mr Cameron to say give Grandparents Rights and I promise that all grandparents will vote for you. This made the mainstream news. David Cameron broke his promise, sending many Grandparents to their deaths, never to see the seeds of love they planted for the next generations.
It is rare that any child in care sees any extended family and great grandparents often die without seeing their loved ones again.
You may not be aware that Children and families are not allowed to celebrate Birthdays or Christmas together as they are considered to be emotive times! If a gift is allowed at these times, only one gift is generally accepted and is passed to the social worker to hand to the child as it is not permitted to give a gift to the child directly.
When on a contact, families are not allowed to take photographs or to video their children. When contact is suspended, photographs and information about the welfare of the children are refused unless a caveat is signed.
Families who contact the Screaming to be heard Help Line on a daily basis are from all parts of the country. From here we are able to collate all the evidence of the children’s social services of which there are no set rules, with social workers making up their own rules in different parts of the country.
Many parents and grandparents are told by the Social Workers, “Your children do not want to see you anymore!” There is not one door open to help a child to stay in contact with their families! Until children and families, including grandparents, aunts and uncles are allowed their Human Rights then the children will remain the silent witnesses.
As we know, Jack Straw in 2009 gagged all children in care from speaking out. Any child who is abused, in anyway, while in the system are alone and unheard until they leave care and the damage has been done. Many children have been sexually abused in care and often have to live with the trauma and sometimes with HIV as a direct result.
The people affected by this broken system look to you to bring about a change in the rules and let the children be heard whilst they are still within the care system, while the perpetrators can still be held to account. It’s too late once they have left care only to be told, “It was a long time ago and there is now no evidence” or they are simply not believed, all because of the lapse of time in making such claims.
Recent reports to the Help Line: Children now aged 16 are being diagnosed with ADHD. This diagnosis had not been mentioned before despite them being in care. Their families are being informed their child will now have to stay in adult care. Recently Dr Leon Eisenberg, a psychiatrist, who on his deathbed reported ADHD was a fictitious disorder that he himself invented!
Many reports from parents who say their children in care are currently and historically wrongly diagnosed with ADHD and Autism are being prescribed many different drugs, with Ritalin being in the fore front. Ritalin is commonly known as a chemical cosh and is being used more frequently to control children affected by the care system that are regarded as disruptive. Currently prescriptions for Ritalin are running at 12,000 per month.
The FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administer in America have under schedule 11 stated that Ritalin is very similar in its makeup to cocaine and is known as a gateway drug often leading to addiction and harder drugs such as amphetamines, morphine and heroin. It is hard not to see the correlation between this trending prescription practice and the damaged adults, once children subjected to the care system, who are now drug dependant. http://www.justice.gov/dea/druginfo/ds.shtml
Other reports coming in state girls are getting married at 16 just to be free of the care system!
When a child is first taken into care it is important, that within days, mediation is arranged with social workers, families and experts along with an independent legal body set up by the Governments to discuss the case. Until such time as the child’s future has been decided by the courts, contact for the child/children and families should be agreed.
All meetings to be recorded, to be used as evidence, along with all further meetings of experts, social workers & families to continue with mediations with the legal teams throughout the case and all meetings to be recorded as opposed to the hear say, conjecture, supposition and unfounded opinion which is currently practiced and admitted to in the family courts. These recordings should be used as evidence in the court rather than reliance on hearsay or conjecture or opinion.
There should be an independent body of legal teams put into place to work with the social services, experts & families from the outset, using legal teams who are highly qualified in family law. This should be funded by the Government.
All children who are Gillick Competent should be allowed to speak independently to the legal teams informally and to speak of their wishes and feelings and these should be recorded for the court.
Children in care are intimidated and afraid to speak in the presence of a social worker or experts. With care proceedings speeded up to 26 weeks it is even more important to hear the child’s voice at an early stage and mediation attempted, perhaps before care proceedings are issued.
First and foremost for the Government to support children and families. It is important that the government remove powers given to social workers and to make one law throughout the country equal for all social workers to abide by. It is known there are social workers who make up allegations against family members, which have caused internal family feuds, resulting in the destruction of whole families, with the social workers then denying them contact with the children.
There are too many experts in one child’s life who all write up reports for the courts with many inaccuracies and hearsay only, with some experts who write reports, without ever having met the family and child therefore it may be difficult for a judge to know which report to take into consideration before committing a child to the care system.
Foster carers and families need to have some form of contact to enable the families to stay closer to the child. It is very important that should a child become ill during the night and details are needed of the child and family medical history a telephone number should be available.
All children in care are covered by a local authority insurance policy. As many children in care are abused, murdered, trafficked or injured it is important to know who is claiming the insurance money as it is not the families or the child.
Many children in care are told from an early age by the social workers that when they leave care they will be re-housed by the council. This does not always happen. Children are put into bed and breakfast or hostels. Others have to live and beg on the streets. It is of the utmost importance, social workers with families and the legal team as mediator should discuss the child’s future long before the child leaves care. Again all need to hear the children, they are screaming to be heard.
As written in paragraph 2.2 the foster and residential homes caring for the children on a day to day basis know the children best. It is time to give children their voices, with a road back to their families who know better, what is really “In their own child’s best interest”
The charity Children Screaming to be Heard was registered with the intention of being the voice for the silent witnesses and although I cannot write all that happens to a child within this letter, I do hope that I have shown you a little of the effect and the consequences thereafter of that child’s life once taken into care. Being taken from everything loving and familiar, causes a primal wound and is among the worst emotional blow that any child can suffer. It can leave lifelong scars. In addition, there is far more abuse in foster care than is generally realized. Wrongfully removing a child from their parents can actually place that child at a greater risk of child abuse and neglect, possibly more than they would have experienced at home.
We trust you will consider all our proposals for the Government to consider setting up an independent legal team for mediation within days of a child taken from their family.
Please keep in mind the considerable financial savings these reforms would mean.
Maggie Tuttle. Founder.
The silent witnesses
Here lies the truth