Phone company Giff Gaff have just pulled a rather misguided advertisement using adoption of an older girl by do gooders as a way to demonstrate they don’t tie people into contracts if they don’t want to be in them. Our grim tale will try and provide a more accurate and truthful picture of modern UK adoption, where its permanency is really not respected by our government, where regardless of child’s wishes and feelings adopters may be replaced by foster carers when they ask for help, and where the voices of adopted children cannot be heard – not even by the Local Government Ombudsman – for case number 18008425 is a complaint they refuse to investigate.
So many things went wrong for this little family it is difficult to know where to start. The child did not speak of the crimes commited against him in foster care, and only when he was finally given therapy, once placed for adoption, did the past begin to be explored – although it was too hard for him to talk about. It was explained to the mother that when unspeakable things happen to a child they cannot talk of them, especially when they were pre-verbal – when the abuse was perpetrated. It was explained by his therapist that there may be an ‘acting out’ of the trauma.
Specialist therapy providers were funded for the child by the placing authority. None of the statutory agencies in the local authority where the family lived seemed to have personal experience of working with a child who had suffered this level of abuse and neglect, and perhaps because they found it hard to think of, they didn’t mention it in their assessment when the needs of the family were thought about afresh three years after the Adoption Order was made – at the ‘transition of responsibility’ to the local authority where the family lives. They also did not mention the child’s medical diagnoses. It was as if the past had been wiped clean by not being mentioned. Airbrushed out. There were just a few issues to do with parenting – the mother had not informed the child of stranger danger in a way that satisfied the social worker, and she seemed to be a bit anxious, along with the child’s therapist to see help provided – but otherwise fine. But of course it wasn’t fine and this denial of the past put tremendous pressure on the family, who then found they could not access respite, unless the child went back into care under a Section 20 Care Order. The mother knew this would be awful for her child, whose trauma would be triggered and had severe abandonement issues. She refused this Order. Her child was on Disability Living Allowance, and she was a Carer, unable to work because of his needs – why were the families needs not considered properly by the disabilities team? Why was her child not considered a ‘Child in Need’? A complaint was made.
The refusal of the Section 20 Care Order triggered Care Proceedings, which were instigated by the police, on the basis of false information provided by the senior managers adjudicating about the formal complaint, now passed to the LGO for investigation at the same time as the case went to court. The mother had pleaded with these senior managers for a psychological or psychiatric assessment for her child. Once in court, due to the EPO’s allegations of mental abuse of her child, the local authorities legal professionals told the court it was the mother who suffered with mental illness – a personality disorder was postulated at one point by the local authority – with mental illness on the part of the mother having to be assessed by the court before her distraught child could come home. This took five months. The court appointed expert took 10 minutes to decide that the mother, who had no record of mental illness, was not mentally ill. A Care Order was made when the mother refused a Supervision Order, fearing the worst with the lack of integrity shown by those with a duty of care, under this Order. They had even entertained the idea that a suicide attempt of the child in foster care was due to his much longed for reunification.
It took 3.5 years to get all public law orders discharged and for her child to come home free of the authorities and agencies who had blighted his teenage years. During this time he was accomodated in a children’s home when no foster carers could be found for him – he refused foster care in favour of the home after the experiences he had in the initial care proceedings. He was quite clear about what would happen if he was put in foster care again – he would take his own life. This was nevertheless the care plan for him for almost a year. With the allegations of mental illness against the mother disproved the local authority set about finding other reasons that the child should not come home. They controlled the assessment process totally under a Section 31 Care Order. Who would assess the child. What assessors would be told. When these assessments would be done. It is not hard to find fault with a parent when they are completely traumatised. They become ‘difficult’ to deal with for the authority, and a court can only persuade – it cannot order the authority and tell them to do the right thing. The authority also turned on the child. He was viewed and depicted as a danger to society and to his mother, who had diligently reported and asked for help for him. The boy lived as a figure of fear. Lonely and depressed he self harmed continually and tried on more than one occasion to take his own life.
Now, several years have passed since the ordeal of removal and endless court proceedings – there were four separate proceedings in all. There has been some healing time and the child has reached a point where he feels he would like to make a complaint about what happened and wishes to do so. It is still very hard for him to think about and he has asked that his mother make the complaint on his behalf. But the Local Government Ombudsman will not investigate the case because as far as they are concerned the mother, who tried to explain about the impact of the boys anxieties and lack of trust in terms of making a complaint hard for him, had not evidenced that the boy really wanted to make a complaint to the satisfaction of the LGO. These were the reasons given to the mother as to why there could be no investigation of what had gone wrong:
- The substantive issue was previously considered and decided. We do not reconsider previously decided complaints. I know that you feel there is information that we did not consider at the time, but we do not consider police investigations, and your view that the police were misled would be unlikely to cause us to revise our decision. Therefore there is no justification for us to re-visit the matter.
- We cannot look at anything relating to, flowing to or from court proceedings or that you wanted the court to consider. All such matters, not just the court decisions, are out of our jurisdiction.
- The law says that we cannot investigate matters known to the complainant more than 12 months previously, unless there are exceptional reasons to exercise discretion. I appreciate you feel that we should not be stopped from investigating by the time barrier, but this is a legal requirement.
- Although you feel that the LGSCO has looked at a case regarded as similar, and you would like us to provide scrutiny of the Council’s actions in all comparable cases, this is not our role. We are not a regulator, but take each case on its own merits. In deciding whether we could or should investigate, we have to consider our jurisdiction, and whether we are likely to find fault causing individual injustice that we can remedy.
The Judge considered this case to be an extremely important adoption case and had never wished for the Care Order to be used as a means of control as it inevitably was. But no Judgments could be published when the other parties agreed with the discharge of the public law orders – as there were no Judgments necessary. The remit of court was far too narrow to consider many of the violations of the ‘Rights of the Child’ that took place when he was under a Section 31 Care Order.
We are publishing this as a cautionary tale about the dangers of adopters participating in assessments with professionals who are not sufficiently well qualified or experienced, then making formal complaints and also refusing a Section 20 Care Order for reasons they believe to be in their child’s ‘best interests’. The ‘best interests’ principle is the most abused of all the Rights of a Child by its member states, and it was used in this case as justification to destroy a family who had been created by the state. It is only because of the mother’s tenacity, courage and fortitude, her determination to expose the truth, that the family survived.
The family are left devastated about the LGO’s decision, lack of concern, empathy and understanding.