An adoptive mother has asked to meet with the chiefs at the GMC to talk about the way her case has been handled after making a complaint about a psychiatrist who assessed her traumatised son.
Miranda explains why she feels her case has been unfairly dealt with:
At first when I complained the GMC did not even look at the assessment that I complained about – they told me it was a local issue to be dealt with by the NHS. But I could see it was a fitness to practice issue, and the medic posed a public danger. He did not seem to realise that adoption is permanent and viewed it as a foster care placement that could be terminated. He did not appreciate the rigorous assessment process that adopters must undergo to be approved to adopt and matched with a child. I wasn’t after money or compensation from the NHS – I wanted there to be an appreciation that doctors working with our children and families can lack knowledge and understanding – and do not treat us with respect, especially when we parent from a distance, sharing parental responsibility with the corporate parent, after a Care Order is in place. This lack of understanding of adoption issues can have terrible consequences for our children who lose their right to family life.
The assessment that was done by this psychiatrist, where he refused to meet the child with his adoptive mother, led to so much more professional misunderstanding about the case – instead of putting things right. More importantly it resulted in decisions that led to my child’s attempted suicide on several occasions. Whenever he tried to take his own life however this would be attributed to his early life abuse – not the cruel draconian approach where a psychiatrist’s assessment had played such a pivotal role in it’s justification.
I asked the GMC to reassess the case, which they eventually agreed to do, and provided them with the assessment they had never bothered to look at previously, explaining its flaws. There were so many problems with this assessment it was hard to know where to start. I told them the psychiatrist had not appreciated that adoption was permanent in the UK and began his assessment by telling me, in front of the medical students he had brought in to observe the assessment of me -where we would be discussing matters of utmost sensitivity requiring discretion and kindness, that I had had ‘my go’ and it was time for someone else to take over the parenting of my child.
Adoption is not about ‘having a go’ at being a parent.
The parenting from a distance role is such an important one in modern adoption and professionals like this psychiatrist have not grasped this fact. It absolutely does not help our children at all to be cut off from us after we have sought help for them – especially when they are desperate to come back home! It compounds their trauma.
Another problem was that the psychiatrist accepted at face value the misinformation he had been given about my child and I -by a misguided social work team where no one seemed to have experience of working with adoptive families. I felt the psychiatrist, who was a forensic psychiatrist, treated me as a criminal under investigation – not a help seeking mother of a vulnerable child. My child had suffered the worst abuses imaginable. I had adopted him when he was nine and he was acting out his trauma – clearly needing specialist therapy.
Instead of help when I reported concerns that meant I was at risk from my child, there was the removal of my child, and this awful assessment.
The biggest problem however with the assessment process was the psychiatrist would not let me support my son to be assessed.
This meant the psychiatrist never met the child he was assessing and responsible for making life changing decisions about – and he never saw us together.
My son is nearly 20 now and his anxiety issues mean he still requires my support to go to the hairdressers, never mind medical appointments. I could not have tried harder to get them to meet my son – offering to drive over a hundred miles there and back, to where the psychiatrist was based to bring him. I was informed this meeting would not be possible because of “funding constraints”, which was later denied by the psychiatrist – and I was depicted as being dishonest by the psychiatrist for saying this in his assessment of my child.
No matter how hard I tried, the GMC simply could not see my concerns as being relevant to the psychiatrist’s fitness to practice. They seemed to think the passage of time away from me could have helped my son and done him good! Really? Taking a child away from a loving parent against the child’s wishes has health benefits to heal trauma?
The GMC’s complaints process has been a harrowing ordeal where I have had to relive the trauma of this ghastly experience/assessment to no purpose.
I feel like Alice in Wonderland, fallen down a hole that most people do not know exists, into a dark netherland where powerful organisations don’t seem to care about children’s rights to family life or families at all.
I feel I need to meet the people at the top of the GMC to explain how they allow young lives to be ruined and protect medical experts working without requisite sensitivity, knowledge, understanding or training when they assess children who have suffered abuse and neglect in early life and have been adopted. Never once did this psychiatrist consider the possibility that I might just be a distraught mother trying to correct misunderstandings and get the right help for my child – rather than a ‘difficult’ person for professionals to work with – because I did not agree with their cruel approach. It was my child’s past the psychiatrist should have been worried about not mine (my child eventually received substantial criminal damages for his birth family abuse). I had been assessed to become an adoptive parent in far more depth than his superficial and harmful analysis. Thank goodness we were able to get fair assessments done eventually but this was a David and Goliath battle that took many years.
The GMC CEO has refused to meet with me on the basis that he does not deal with individual cases. I have explained that it is too late for us. The damage and harm is done and the only reason I wish to meet is to prevent further harm to others. I am waiting to see if a meeting can be arranged. I would also like to draw the GMC’s Assistant Registrar’s attention to the NICE guidance on child abuse and neglect