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A professional has an opportunity to make a positive difference – or destroy a child’s future – if they do not understand the impact of early life traumas and losses on adoptive and special guardianship family life. Professionals do not make decisions alone – and other professionals may also fall into line, reluctant to challenge, when a professional of high standing, such as a forensic psychiatrist, has been commissioned by a local authority and CAMHS to assess and make recommendations in respect of risk.

So what if the assessment has not been fairly done? What if the psychiatrist has been provided with partial information – given court reports without the permission of the court or the consent or knowledge of the parent(s)? What if the child is too frightened to be assessed without the support of the parent(s) – but the psychiatrist takes a divisive approach to parent(s) and child and as a result never meets with the child to understand the child’s fears? What if the psychiatrist makes erroneous assumptions about the child and parent(s) – because of being misled? What if the psychiatrist does not appear to appreciate that adoption is permanent (according to comments that were made in the assessment interview), and seeks to discredit the parent(s) who sought help for the child, totally ignoring the fact that the parent(s) and child love each other, and the child is securely attached and wishes to go home?

Surely there is a duty of care for the child?

What if the parent(s) eventually return to court, and risks were found to be totally misunderstood and exaggerated by the local authority and CAMHS? Who is responsible for the child becoming trapped in care against their wishes in this closed circle of professionals? Who is responsible when the approach taken has led to a child’s self harm and suicide attempts in care?

Regardless of who is responsible, if harm is done, then unless the psychiatrist is informed they have made an error and understands the reasons and consequences – they will continue to present a risk of harm to others.

Professional misunderstanding in our complex cases is not uncommon and the case above is not a hypothetical one. It was described by a Family Court Judge as an adoption case of national importance. The parent in this case, an SG&AT member, decided to take the matter to the General Medical Council. It is case number SM/1-2323199207.

SG&AT believe the GMC have not acted in the interests of future patient safety in the way this case has been dealt with. A physician has a duty of care.

Having been unable to make progress or speak out, because of a need for privacy, the parent has put the matter in the hands of their MP.

The parent has also lost confidence in the Professional Standards Authority whose directors are not felt to have treated the parent with respect in regards to another related matter, where a need for privacy to protect children was considered important by the parent – causing hurt and offence to the parent and presenting a shut door.