July 3, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
It’s another case of “believe the woman.” (Community Care, 6/28/16) This time it’s in the United Kingdom and involves a mother’s abduction and alienation of children.
It seems she and the father, TH, had a child. TH had another child prior to his relationship with the mother. They lived in Scotland, but she began a relationship with a man in England. When both children were with her, she refused to return to Scotland or to return either child to its father. So TH filed suit in Scotland to assert his parental rights.
As night follows day, the mother alleged emotional, physical and sexual abuse by the TH and British social workers and police assigned to the case swung into action. By that I mean, they believed every allegation Mom made and actively went about corroborating her claims and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. The judge in the case was not amused.
A judge has criticised “patent deficiencies” in a social worker’s assessment of child abuse claims against a father that were later found to be false.
In his judgment, Justice MacDonald said the social worker’s child protection investigation showed a “complete disregard” of good practice guidance when examining a mother’s claims that the man, TH, had subject her, the man’s son and another of the woman’s children to serious emotional, physical and sexual abuse…
The social worker’s “unquestioning acceptance” of the mother’s account meant she failed to make basic enquiries to the father, extended families or the children’s former schools or local authorities, MacDonald said. The mother had told the social worker it would be “too dangerous” to make the enquiries as TH could track down the family and kidnap the children.
The judge said “such enquiries would have revealed a fundamentally different picture to that being painted by the mother”. He found all of the allegations made by the mother were false and concluded she had placed “unwarranted pressure” on the children by actively coaching them to back up the allegations.
“[The social worker’s] failure to challenge the mother’s account and accept it at face value meant that she permitted the mother to dictate completely the frame of reference for the actions of the local authority and other agencies and meant that the mother succeeded in portraying herself and the children as victims of serious physical and sexual abuse when in fact they were not,” MacDonald said.
As is usual in such cases, the actions and inactions by the social worker did more than simply deny parental rights to a father and thwart the children’s right to see their dad. It actively harmed the children by abetting the mother’s alienation of them. Plus, it subjected them to astonishing levels of police intervention into their lives.
MacDonald found that failures in the way professionals had handled the case had contributed to the difficulties assessing evidence, “materially prejudiced the welfare of both children” and contributed to their emotional harm. In addition to the social work assessment he pointed to:…
The “poor quality” of assessing best evidence interviews, including the repeated use of leading questions and questioning one child when the other was present.
For decades now, we’ve had protocols for questioning children when allegations of abuse have been leveled at a caregiver. Needless to say, leading questions are verboten because they inevitably place words in children’s mouths that the interrogator wants. It’s the classic method by which ideologues get children to agree with their version of events rather than simply obtaining the children’s version. So what the social worker in this case did violated perhaps the most basic rule about obtaining accurate information from kids. She did that because she believed a woman whose claims were false.
Her failure also led to professionals adding to Mom’s abuse of the children. Justice MacDonald noted,
A failure to coordinate interventions that led the children to be questioned by 19 professionals. One child was questioned on 20 occasions and the other on 44 occasions. The boys were interviewed by five different police officers.
By any stretch of the imagination, that much harassment by social workers and police qualifies as child abuse. A balanced inquiry into the actual facts of the case, i.e. not just Mom’s version, would have obviated the need for all those interviews.
“By reason of the failure of the relevant agencies to follow the clear and well established guidance and procedure the children were not only left in a situation where a parent was permitted to persist in conduct that was harmful to their emotional welfare but, by their omissions, those agencies actively contributed to that harm.”
Meanwhile, the court-appointed Children’s Guardian told the court that “it is as if a sort of hysteria took over and prevented people from asking certain questions.” She added that she found the conduct of the social worker to be “quite extraordinary.”
If only it were. In fact, those familiar with British courts know all too well that what happened in TH’s case is anything but rare. Last November, I posted a piece quoting Karen Woodall, who’s an expert in family separation in the U.K. Her description of social workers there is utterly at odds with the sunny sentiment of the Children’s Guardian in TH’s case. Here are a few of Woodall’s thoughts on the frank anti-father bias on the part of social workers there:
Obstacles in the shape of Family Court Practitioners whose own belief system does not allow them to conceive of a father wanting to care for his children and obstacles in the shape of other people who believe that when it comes to post separation care for children, mum knows best…
Dads after separation were once described by the CEO of Gingerbread (the single parenting charity) as 'secondary resources, most effective when strategically employed.' Translated this means, dads are useful to mums after separation because they can babysit and be included on the rota for the school run. Dads as helpers, are acceptable so long as they are doing as they are told. Dads as hands on active parents, sharing the care, the chores, the long nights of tummy aches and sickness are not routinely acceptable. In fact as a practitioner working with dads who have been evicted from their children's lives after separation, I have witnessed dads being told that their desire to care for their children is 'aggressive and upsetting' to their children's mother…
Gaslighted by the system which surrounds the family as it separates, these dads, who were pregnant with their partners (in that most modern approach to sharing all of the experience of bringing forth life), now find themselves routinely cast out of the family after separation. Dads are not welcome in post-separation family life, especially if they are going to cause trouble by wanting to actually parent their children. For those modern men who gave their all to fatherhood, the injustice of such a swift eviction from the lives of their children after separation, is a bewildering attack on their very sense of self.
When I talk about 'the system' I am talking about those family services which are likely to become involved in supporting the family as it separates and adapts to changing times, CAFCASS (the Family Court Practitioners who assess the needs of children in post separated family life and Social Services, who may also be involved). All of these services are routinely delivering their services around mother and children first, with father coming a very poor second. There is no such thing as gender equality in family services it seems, or if there is, it is the commonly held approach of women and children first. Pity those dads who go into the family courts expecting fairness, equality and justice, for what they receive is far less than this.
In short, TH’s story is the rule, not the exception.
Interestingly, the linked-to article omits a couple of important details. First, what did the judge do? We know he criticized the social worker, the police and various others, but what did he do in the end? Did TH get custody? After all, the mother proved herself to be a liar and a child abuser. You’d think TH would have gotten the kids, but I suspect he didn’t.
Was Mom punished in any way, either by the police and criminal courts or by the family law judge? Again, she should have been. She should have seen custody of the children transferred to TH with her granted supervised access. She should have been required to undergo therapy until she could prove her understanding of the father’s importance to his kids. But again, I doubt she was. My guess is that Justice MacDonald left everything in place in the hope that Mom would start playing nicely.
Whatever the case, even after all we know about false allegations of abuse in family courts, social workers are still clinging to their “believe the woman” dogma.
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