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September 8, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

A former British MP is criticizing local child welfare authorities for forcing adoption on children who don’t need it in response to policies put in place by those same authorities (Care Appointments, 9/6/16). John Hemming, who used to be a Liberal Democratic MP is now promoting reform in family courts. Very much of what he says about the system of taking children from parents and having them adopted has been said about similar systems in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is an all too common phenomenon.

John Hemming, who campaigns for improvements in the family justice system, said the process of assessment used by judges who make decisions about children's futures was biased towards council management objectives.

He said he believed that ministers would have to apologise for the harm done to children ''wrongly put through forced adoption''.

Although various ministers defended the system, Hemming pointed out one compelling fact.

Mr Hemming says in theory the law is similar throughout Council of Europe member states.

But he says more complaints are made in England and Wales than anywhere else.

"The problem in England and Wales is that there is pressure on children's services authorities - the local councils responsible for child protection - to get a lot of children adopted into new families," he says.

"The objective is laudable - better care for the children, but the outcome is awful."

So, faced with the same problem that European countries have, England and Wales do a worse job than anyone else. That’s telling. Of course, getting “a lot of children adopted into new families,” is anything but a laudable objective. It’s only laudable if the children’s parents are truly unfit to care for them, abusive or dead. Unfortunately, just as in the U.S., child welfare authorities often happily ignore the line between parents who are truly unfit and those who need help being good enough parents. Those authorities seem not to grasp that removing children from their parents is traumatic for them in and of itself. Being removed forever is an extra trauma and, all too often, the families for which they’re destined turn out to be as bad or worse as the ones from which they came.

All of that is well established by reliable research, but child welfare workers often seem not to know it. The unseemly zeal with which they convince themselves and juvenile court judges that parents need to be written out of their children’s lives makes up a large part of the everyday news on children, families and child protective officials.

That’s made all the worse because, in the U.K. the same authorities seeking the removal of children from their parents also provide the “experts” on which courts rely in rendering their judgments about terminating parental rights. That’s a bit too much like the fox and the henhouse for my taste.

"The question, however, is who does the assessment and what pressures there are on them to come out with wrong assessments," he said.

"The expert assessments relied on by the courts in England and Wales are mainly done by employees of the local authority."

He added: "The courts in England and Wales also appoint experts who are in theory independent. Often these experts are on retainers to the local authority and obviously they are not independent."

And he went on: "Hence the whole process of assessment as used by the courts in England and Wales is very bad, biased towards the management objectives of the local authorities and unreliable."

Still worse is the fact that, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Jane Ireland, who published her findings only four years ago, a whopping 40% of those “experts” on whom courts rely to guide them in their deliberations aren’t qualified to render the opinions they do and half of those have no expertise in the matter whatsoever. Here’s my piece on that. No wonder parent are up in arms about the state purloining their kids under suspicious circumstances and often for no discernible reason.

Worse still,

Mr Hemming said councils had worked out that an "effective way of getting children adopted" was to remove them from mothers who were victims of domestic violence.

How’s that for discouraging mothers from reporting domestic violence victimization? Yes, DV is a terrible crisis and we all want mothers to be safe, but let one report being victimized and she discovers she’s just placed her child on the near end of the conveyor belt whose far end is the residence of strangers. Nice.

It’s a common theme throughout the English-speaking world. When the state gets a taste of the money to be made from children’s adoption, it’s hard to get it to behave rationally or fairly. Just what the incentives for doing so in the U.K., I don’t know. But soon enough, I’ll be reporting on Daniel Hatcher’s book entitled The Poverty Industry that’s partly about foster care in the United States. No one of decency can read it and not be outraged.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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