Mary and her husband are decent loving parents striving to do their best for their two adopted children – but when they asked for help, and for respite, they were viewed and treated as part of the problem, not part of the solution.
“Over a year ago, after respite had not been forthcoming, we had to ask for our son to be accommodated voluntarily under a Section 20 Voluntary Care Order because life had become impossible at home. We had reached a point of utter desperation and felt that there was no choice but to accommodate him elsewhere. Six months before this, both our son and daughter, had been placed on the Child Protection Register because of our daughter’s disclosures – about our son’s behaviour – to CAMHS. It was having a terrible impact on her, and on us, although our well-being, as parents, was not ever considered.
We could not achieve respite when it was needed, and there seemed to be very little understanding of our situation from Social Care.
Instead of help, our son and daughter were put on the Child Protection Register after a Section 47 investigation – this was some four months prior to our son being accommodated under a Section 20, and more than six months after we asked for respite – because of our son’s challenging behavior.
We found ourselves being discredited by Social Care and eventually we were threatened with legal action when we didn’t conform to their demands.
The Child Protection Investigation meant we received visits from Child Protection Social Workers at least every 10 days and sometimes more frequently. Our daughter was interviewed once a week. There were CP Core Meetings and CP Conferences, and visits by other ‘professionals’.
It was an incredibly harrowing experience – we were confronted by inaccurate assessments of us, which were presented at meetings. Facts were presented in a way that seemed totally distorted. It felt everything went on behind closed doors.
It appeared that the aim of Children’s Services was to solely to apportion blame on us.
Not only was the approach blaming and adversarial – it was ineffective. 19 months in and none of the action plans Social Care had put in place for us had worked. Our daughter had not responded to any of the ‘support’ offered.
Things finally turned around for us after frank exchanges in a meeting with Social Care, and in the end Social Care began to agree with our perspective, and eventually praised us for our ‘high level’ parenting skills.
We believe that it is down to our continued commitment against what felt like overwhelming odds; our support of each other and belief in ourselves, and the strength to fight a system that seems as if it is all too ready to ‘demonise’ the parents, that we are beginning to see our daughter start to benefit at last.
It has been a very damaging process for us, however, after putting our faith in a system that is meant to be there to ‘help’ families in crisis, and it is a process that needs to change.”
Culture and attitudes towards help seeking parents and carers need to change. We badly need to create a more effective, kinder, more holistic, family centred system.
We have put forward a petition to amend the legislation that shapes the care system. Please sign and circulate! 10k signatures needed!
Changes to Children Act 1989
Urgent action is required to give more rights & protection to parents/carers & also vulnerable children in care
Sections 20 & 31 of Children Act are currently unworkable, resulting in a care crisis. We call on government to take urgent action to make changes to legislation & guidance to protect the parenting/caring role from a distance by:
A more humane ethical family centred approach where birth & adoptive parents & special guardians can be seen as part of the solution & not part of the problem, in striving to do their best caring for their children.
Safeguarding vulnerable children with new legislation & legal frameworks that also supports parents/carers when children are ‘beyond parental control’ which may be related to poor mental health, disabilities, early life trauma, abuse or neglect.