Social services – The mere mention of those words strike fear into some parents. Not because those people are bad parents, or because they have done anything worthy of intervention, but merely because of the rising number of cases where children have been taken from their parents without due cause, more often than not, being placed with other families, or adopted.
The most prominent case being that of Mark and Nicola Webster, in 2006. Norfolk Social Services decided to place their 3 children into care, after one of their children broke his leg. The parents said the injury was a result either of brittle bone disease or their son’s soya milk diet, given to him because he was intolerant to lactose.
However, Doctors determined they could only have been caused by physical abuse, a claim that has only been verified by said Doctors.
The Webster’s eventually went on to win the fight to keep their fourth child, born after their first three children were taken into care, and eventually adopted, clearing their name of the abuse of their children. However, as adoption cannot be reversed, you cannot help but wonder how many other families have been split up wrongly.
Child Protective Services, have of late, been under much criticism, rightly so in my opinion, after hearing and reading stories from parents who have been wrongly accused, had their children removed from their care, and even adopted and had their visits withdrawn.
Mrs. A, from Merseyside, was a successful mother of five, working as well in the research and development labs of a large local pharmaceutical company. Mrs. A is well-educated, to the standard of a Master’s degree. Social services became involved with her and her family after her youngest two children were diagnosed with severe Autism, and she herself, was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.
A good mother, she was keen on getting as much help and support as possible, following all the recommendations and guidelines social services would offer, which included a double buggy as a comfort zone for her two Autistic children, a lockable door for the evenings (her son, was at risk of wandering off and hurting himself as he had no spatial awareness due to the severity of his Autism) all at the advice of the agency.
She was prosecuted for false imprisonment because of this course of action, a course which the support services had ADVISED her and even helped her to follow.
She was now on the radar of child protective services (CPS), and her two youngest were placed on the “At Risk” register. Her other three children, who were then at the time at high school, were not. The seed was already being planted, for her youngest two to be removed from her care.
After having to give up her job, to look after the needs of her Autistic children, she was hounded by child protective services, and judged, not only on the colour of clothes she wore, but also the music she listened to, one quote from her records saying “Mrs. A must be feeling better today, she is wearing pink instead of black”
The first time her eldest Autistic child was removed into care, the school reported a 4mm bruise on his ear, to the social services disability team, who in turn phoned Mrs. A to talk about their concerns, asking if anyone else had access to her children. The Mrs. A then took him to hospital, to have him assessed for child abuse at the request of CPS, where the doctor who had seen him, could not definitively answer if it was accidental or non-accidental, and stated she would not comment either way. He was then seen by a consultant paediatrician who specialised in children with learning difficulties, and was the doctor who had diagnosed both children with Autism. She also worked for the CPS as a consultant in child abuse cases, who stated in her opinion, it was a non-accidental injury, and stated also, that it was hard to attain a bruise on that part of the ear. When asked numerous times if she could rule out it being an accidental injury, she replied with “No, I can’t rule it out being an accidental injury”. She then left.
The social worker, then reported having to ring her manager, and whilst being stood in plain view, made a phone call that could not be heard. She then said that she would have to take him and his Autistic sister, into care, and Mrs. A would have to follow them, when Mrs. A asked if she could take him, she was told that if she tried, Police intervention would be sought.
It transpired later that the social worker in question, had told the manager that the bruise was four INCHES long, that she had an extensive consultation with the doctor in the corridor, and apparently the consultant had said that he was definitely being physically abused. Upon hearing this, Mrs. A and her mother raised the concern that this could not have happened, and indeed even got a letter from the consultant SAYING that the conversation never took place. upon being confronted with this, the social worker then sent an email to the doctor, telling her the conversation DID take place and calling her a liar. Immediately after this, the social worker in question went off work on long-term sick leave.
It is worth mentioning that the child in question, is bottom end, Active Autistic. His day-to-day activities are generally quite aggressive towards both himself, and others, and it was also recommended that he wear a skull-cap, similar to a rugby players scrum cap to prevent himself from self-injury, by the occupational therapy team, and indeed, Mrs. A was awaiting the arrival of said skull-cap when the above incident took place.
Mrs. A was then prevented from seeing her children, even though, Mrs. A’s mother had admitted that the bruise could have happened under HER care, but her mother was still allowed to pick up the other child. Mrs. A was then told she had to sign a voluntary care order, and if she failed to sign it, a court order would be attained and that it would then not be a voluntary order. Mrs. A made sure though that on the bottom of the form, it was noted that she did not agree with these orders, that she was forced to sign them, and that two doctors had stated that this injury could have been accidental. The children were then placed with foster parents who obviously had no experience of children with special needs, as the youngest was bitten by the eldest whilst they had both been left alone in a room together, unattended.
It was to be 8 months until the children were returned to her care, but Mrs. A was soon to be falsely prosecuted again, this time for neglect, her crime? not being able to get her children to school on time. Her Autistic children, were in a specialist school, across the other side of town, to where her other three children attended. Having traced the route myself, it is almost impossible, keeping within the law, to make the journey from one, to the other, in time. Now, we are not talking hours late, we are talking a matter of minutes each day. For this she was convicted of neglect.
Family support was offered to her, and indeed, were at the time acting more in the interests of the family than CPS, one worker in particular, who put their job on the line to divulge helpful information, was quoted as saying “If this goes the way I think it will, they will have split this family up by Christmas, and all because it’s cheaper to adopt them, than it is to provide the proper support for you all” adding “They are failing ‘child C’ because he is becoming frustrated due to the fact he is the middle child, the younger ones are Autistic, and the older ones don’t want to play anymore” – A very telling story…
The Family support worker also spoke directly about a white paper, a doctrine used by CPS to systematically and very deliberately, groom parents into “Coming into line” in which they are taught to “Break you down” in order to get you to come into their way of thinking, by demoralization. Cancelling contacts without notice, false accusations, along with unwillingness to show notes, case files etc. as well as creating situations where the parent looks bad, for example, making an appointment to see the parent, not turning up, then claiming they came, knocked and got no reply, all being standard practices encouraged within this paper. Indeed, even while in the process of writing this article, I have been at Mrs. A’s house when Social Services have called, claiming they have called an hour earlier, and criticising Mrs. A for not picking up, when in actuality, her phone was sat on the table in front of us and DID NOT RING. Quotes from her children and herself were twisted and used against them, one such comment being along the lines of “Mum sometimes doesn’t have any snacks in the cupboard” being twisted to read “Mum sometimes doesn’t have an FOOD in the cupboards”.
I have seen and heard very many stories that tally with this and corroborate it. One person I spoke to, who wished to remain anonymous said “Basically, what they do, is grind you down so you feel that YOUR a bad parent, and it would be better if the children weren’t in your care anymore. They do it by saying its temporary, but they know different”
Judging from what I have seen, and from what I know of Mrs. A’s story, it works.
Things went EXACTLY the way the family support worker then said it would, the case was mishandled, by foreign employees, with little or no grasp of either spoken or written English, Mrs. A was subjected to impromptu visits in which wrong information was recorded, and a child protection conference review, including all agencies associated with CPS, Family Support, etc. where the outcome was “likely” to be decided that the youngest, Autistic children were to be taken into care and adopted, was pre-decided before Mrs. A OR any of her children were allowed to speak. Three Family Support workers had already stated that they disagreed with the children being on the “At Risk” register, and that they disagreed with the appraisal that there was significant risk to the children. These three Family Support workers were subsequently disciplined for going against the Child Protection workers, it was later revealed.
I think you have probably already guessed, that what happened next was the two Autistic children were taken into care, the eldest (of all five) child (who was already living with her grand-mother) was allowed to reside with her grand-mother, whilst the other two children, were given to their father, who had been AWOL for 4 years, without so much as a birthday card or a phone call. Indeed, as I have read the documents, and heard the story, it is of my opinion that those children would have been significantly better off with their mother, who by all accounts, was hounded and persecuted by CPS for no reason other than she has Bipolar disorder, likes to listen to rock music and dress in an alternative way.
She was denied witnesses in court, she was denied the doctors to submit statements, and she was denied character witnesses in court. Why? I suspect because Wirral CPS knew it was a wrong decision, but it had gone too far now for them to escape without losing face, so obviously, that, and not the children became the priority, rather than keeping a family, in which neither the children, nor the mother had done anything wrong, together, and in this instance, it was cheaper to tear the family apart, rather than put into place the proper support network and necessary care.
Adding insult to injury, Mrs A was then messed about further by CPS when her regular contact sessions with her children, as laid down by law, were first of all disrupted, then stopped. The CPS claim this was due to Mrs. A not turning up, but unbeknownst to them, in research of this story, I myself was present when she did turn up the last few times, something which Wirral CPS deny.
The impact from this case alone, isn’t only limited to the children, Mrs. A has herself suffered tremendously at the hands of social services, and throughout the course of writing this story I have known Mrs. A to be not only extremely open and frank, but also very genuine.
She now suffers from not only Bipolar disorder, but emotionally unstable disorder and extreme anxiety, the latter two, several doctors have concurred, being a direct result of the aftermath of this mishandled case. Mrs. A genuinely feels now that her life isn’t worth living, and has made repeated suicide attempts, her last being just before Christmas last year. She now lives away from the Merseyside area, and is attempting to re-build what is left of her life, with the almost certain knowledge that she will never see her two Autistic children again, children, whom it is clear from speaking to her, that she adored. “The worst thing” she says “Is that my children will never remember me”.
All of these, are only a few stories from her case, I could tell you more of the harassment she has received, but I feel what is already written is adequate to highlight the point. It is an interesting note that this year, Wirral Council have announced that they are cutting the Social Care budget by £12 million.
And hers isn’t the only story like it either. Scan any of the mental health forums, or childcare related forums, and you see many, many stories about how parents (mostly single parents, or low-income families) have had their child/children removed from their care because of mental illness.
Mental illnesses, do not make you a bad, or even an incapable parent, but that doesn’t suit social services budget plans. In more cases than not, parents with any form of mental illness, have their children removed into care, rather than given the proper help and support needed to continue a normal life with their family, often with devastating consequences. Even in the Webster case, Social Services have never apologised, or even admitted they were wrong, even though it has been proven in a court of law, that they were both wrong and negligent, and while they shouldn’t apologise for being concerned for children’s welfare, they SHOULD apologise for tearing a family apart. How do they think that Mrs. A or the Webster’s feel about not being able to see their children again? I for one can tell you how Mrs. A feels, it has destroyed her. She is now left with a shattered life, with no purpose. After being falsely accused and convicted of neglect, she has little chance of ever working again, as the law states that you must divulge any criminal convictions. A feeling I’m sure the Webster’s and every other family who have had children removed from their care wrongly, echo. All social services have achieved in these instances, is to label innocent people as child abusers, and ruin their lives.
It isn’t just resigned to mental illness though, a friend of mine, a very successful businessman who owns his own company and 5 bedroom house, had his six children forcibly removed for six weeks. The reason? he was wallpapering his house. His wife was, at the time, post-natal, devastating her, and denying both parents the chance to bond with their new-born child at a critical time. Imagine it if you will, you’re redecorating your house, and social services and the Police turn up and take away your children. Drug addicts and alcoholics receive support with getting their children to school, because they are wasted on the floor in a mess of needles or empty spirit bottles, but wallpapering your walls constitutes a crime of the highest order towards children so it would seem. Yet there is STILL no accountability, apologies, or admission of mistakes made.
They are now getting involved for ridiculous reasons, I read recently, how one woman who missed her scan near the end of her pregnancy, and was threatened with social services involvement.
There is no doubt about it, CPS needs a radical overhaul, as it “Protects” the children that don’t need it, and misses the ones who do, as in the Baby “P” case. Social services haven’t changed since the fifties, it’s just become better at hiding its mistakes, or keeping them from the public eye. It has ceased to be about family welfare, and more about budgets, and accounting.
With the possible introduction of the “Exercise Of Reasonable Discretion” bill, a bill which makes it almost impossible for any public sector worker to be prosecuted during the course of their work duties, as long as common sense is applied, it would create a hiding place for the wrongs that social services have created. It almost guarantees that there will be no culpability for any situation where wrong is done to the family, whether by negligence or any other means. This bill is a bad idea, as if passed, then it will, without doubt, tear families apart, and without recourse.
The long and the short of it is this :- Social services need to be held accountable, and individuals need to be accountable, so this NEVER happens again, as one family torn apart wrongly, is one too many. Protecting them from legal action only serves to consolidate their mistakes, instead of eradicate them.