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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

March 22nd, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
When governments tell us they’re acting on behalf of children, look out.  There’s a very real possibility that what they’re really doing is expanding their power over our hitherto private lives and using the supposed welfare of children as cover.  Even casual scrutiny of the black comedy called Child Protective Services reveals a large number of state agencies that make a habit of ignoring children at risk until they’re seriously injured or dead while simultaneously shanghaiing children in no danger from perfectly fit parents.

The reason CPS exists at all of course is “for the children” and it’s a sadly necessary institution.  All too many children desperately need their protection.  But while that is unquestionably true, what’s also true is that the power vested in CPS is in no way used only against unfit or dangerous parents.  The state has entered our homes and made camp.  It’s there to stay.

And what about that old shibboleth “the best interests of the child” as used in child custody cases.  Who could argue with a judge acting in “the best interests of the child?”  Well, for one thing, judges in every state and in every English-speaking jurisdiction are charged by law to act in the best interests of the child when making child custody orders.  And, in all those jurisdictions, mothers get sole or primary custody in something like 90% of cases.  (In the U.S, it’s about 84%; in Canada and England it’s about 90% and close to that in Australia; New Zealand, I don’t have figures for.)  Ergo, sole or primary maternal custody must be in children’s best interests.  But of course it’s not.  Reams of social science show beyond serious question that what’s in children’s interest is to keep close, complete, healthy relationships with both their parents post-divorce.  That is, equally shared parenting is what’s in their interests.

So what do courts do?  The exact opposite of what’s good for kids.  They shove the father out of the child’s life often resulting in long-term emotional, psychological, educational and relational detriments to the child.  So what happened to “the child’s best interests?”  They were sacrificed by the judge on the altar of maternal hegemony.  Again, the state arrogates to itself the power to decide that which it is in no way qualified to decide, i.e. a child’s best interests, and predictably, it blows it.  It steps inside the family and damages everyone, all in the interests of the child, of course.

In this country, most of that is done right out in the open in the clear light of day.  Oh, child welfare agencies do their best to hide from public scrutiny, but even they have some accountability.

But in England, it’s a different story.  There, pretty much any legal proceeding related to children is kept absolutely secret from the public.  Why?  You know the answer; to protect the children, what else?  But of course there as here, “the children” are just a screen to hide the actions of governmental officials.  The entirely predictable result is that courts and local councils are freed to commit the most outrageous misdeeds against parents.  Those misdeeds aren’t scrutinized by the press and therefore by the British people, because the press and the people are forbidden by law from knowing about them.

Two years ago, the reins were loosened ever so slightly.  Now reporters may sit in on custody cases, adoption cases and the like, but what they can report is extremely limited.  For example, they’re prohibited from inspecting any documents in the courts’ files.

In short, British courts acting in cases involving children do so with an utter absence of accountability to anyone.  And guess what.  Hidden away from public scrutiny, they abuse their power.  But it’s not just courts that do that, local councils do too.  They and child “welfare” workers seem to have developed an unwholesome taste for taking children from parents and forcing them to be adopted, much as CPS agencies do in this country.  And when reporters have the temerity to question their outrageous conduct, they don’t like it a bit.

And so it was that an unnamed mother gave birth to a daughter whom she dearly loved.  From all appearances, the mother seems to have been at least a good enough parent, although, given the cloud of secrecy surrounding all such cases, who can be certain.  But Mom made a mistake.  She apparently managed to fall from a first-story window temporarily paralyzing herself.  She recovered from that alright, but not before social services workers had descended on her and her daughter and concluded that she was a drug addict, an alcoholic and an attempted suicide.

Now, all of those claims were proven in court to be untrue, but social services and the Sutton council that employs them had the bit in their teeth.  They’d decided the little girl should be adopted and that’s all their was to it.

Enter Christopher Booker reporter for The Telegraph who duly wrote about the woman’s plight.  Booker wrote accurately and he wrote within the astonishingly restrictive bounds of the rules about reporting on child welfare cases.  But he made one grave error; he criticized the Sutton council and social services workers precipitating a storm of protest.  They dug in their heels.  Here’s one article (The Telegraph, 3/16/13).

So quickly did the social workers move to take her baby into care that they had  soon assembled a string of damning accusations against her: that she was a drug  addict and alcoholic whose fall had been a suicide bid. All these claims were, I gather, shown by the evidence, including that of drug and alcohol tests, to be completely spurious. But, as so often happens, the social workers, instead of admitting their initial mistake, stuck to their guns, within weeks making the first moves needed to have her baby adopted. Despite recognition from contact supervisors and the baby’s official “guardian” over the next two years that mother and child continued to have a touchingly close emotional bond, the social workers eventually got their way, persuading a judge to have the little girl sent for adoption.

In perhaps the most Orwellian aspect of the entire sorry affair, the mother’s last chance to get her baby back was to appeal the court’s order.  Needless to say, she did so on the only basis available to her, that of changed circumstances.  That is, her message to the appellate court was that she should regain custody of her daughter because she as a mother had cleaned up her act.  (Warning!  Those with a propensity for screaming and slamming their fist into their computer monitor are advised to stop reading here.)

Mom lost her appeal.  Why?  Because she failed to prove that she’d become a good mother?  No, indeed.  She failed to prove a change in circumstances because she’d always been a good mother.  She’d never used illicit drugs, drunk to excess, been depressed, behaved badly as a mother, so she couldn’t prove she’d improved.  There was nothing from which to improve.  So her circumstances hadn’t changed.  Because she’d always been a good mother, she lost her child and her child lost her.

I told you it was Orwellian.

The judge, Justice Mostyn, was none too pleased to have a reporter actually informing the public of what its servants were up to.  After all, when the country’s system of child “welfare” is as dangerously dysfunctional as England’s is, and you’re part of that system, you don’t want the world to know.

So Mostyn issued a gag order on Booker.  In doing so, he criticized the journalist for not telling both sides of the story, i.e. not consulting the Sutton council or social services.  It’s a fine theory, but it comes up  short for one simple reason – they refused to answer Booker’s questions.  Hey, they like the dark.

Finally, Booker’s lawyer convinced the judge that Booker had actually done nothing wrong and couldn’t be ordered not to do his job.  So Mostyn relented to the extent of allowing Booker to speak to the Sutton council and social services and report on what they said about the case, while still prohibiting him from reporting the mother’s side of the story.

But we can all guess what happened when he sent his questions to the council.  Of course, they refused to answer them.  They had no intention of trying to explain away their outrageous conduct in the case.

When the state veils itself in secrecy, we see as through a glass darkly, but some things are clear.  One is that all this colossal blundering was made possible because it was done in secret.  Indeed, I’d say that secrecy makes such behavior inevitable; everyone relaxes when they know they’re not being watched and so it was here.  So Lesson No. 1 is that secrecy begets error.  It’s a lesson the British legal system needs to learn, and soon.

Lesson No. 2 is that, in the name of the best interests of the child, a child was abused by the very people appointed to protect it.  As I said earlier, we see it in the States all the time.  But at least we see it.

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