High Court Judge calls for fresh approach to adoption

fostering and adoption

It may no longer be possible to create an “impermeable seal” around adoption, a High Court Judge has suggested.

In a lecture given to the Family Justice Council yesterday, Appeal Court Judge Lord Justice McFarlane said the high rate of adoption in the UK, particularly amongst older children, combined with the pervasive nature of social media posed real challenges to the care system. Older adopted children carried stronger memories of their birth families and were more likely to be traumatised as a result he noted.

“The difficulties facing adopters and adopted children in this regard have been made significantly more difficult … with the ever-increasing facility to trace and make contact, in an uncontrolled way, with individuals over the internet or via social media”.

Facebook and similar sites have caused, the Judge claimed, an “erosion in the hitherto impermeable seal around the adoptive placement”.

As a result, His Lordship suggested, it may be necessary to “raise the question of whether our model of adoption continues to be as valuable to each of the individuals concerned as we have hitherto held that it is”.

The Judge was critical of adoption practices in the UK, which has a high rate of forcible adoption when compared to other countries.

“Magistrates and judges up and down the country on every day of the week are making these highly intrusive draconian orders removing children permanently from their natural families on the basis that to do so is better for the child and that ‘nothing else will do’. But, I ask rhetorically: ‘How do we know this is so?’”

Approximately 20 per cent of all adoptions involve children over the age of four, he noted, and some involve eight year-olds or even older youngsters. Adoptions at an older age leads to a higher rate of placement breakdown and such youngsters are also more likely to spontaneously try and make contact with their birth families via Facebook and similar services, and experience disruption and upset as a result. This, said the Judge:

“…seems a long cry from the sunny upland of a happy, settled, secure future with a ‘forever family’ which has been the traditional goal of those making adoption orders to date”.

His Lordship also cited widespread ignorance about the nature of the family court system, believing this leads “some parents to disengage entirely from the process, refuse to be assessed by independent experts, dispense with the expert lawyers freely provided by the state and, in some extreme cases, flee with their children to Ireland, France or further afield.”

Lord Justice McFarlane’s speech was entitled Holding the risk: the balance between child protection and the right to family life. Read it in full here.

The Family Justice Council is a legal advisory body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice.

Image by Keoni Cabral via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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14 comments

keith - March 10, 2017 at 3:29pm

I’ll make it simple for Justice McFarlane.
Abolish Forced Adoption, as that is the True Draconian nature of child protection in this country and the sooner this happens the better for all involved, including the Tax payers Millions that continues to pour down a bottomless pit!

CB - March 10, 2017 at 5:07pm

How can parents or Grandparents engage, within these courts, when they are not allowed to engage? have no idea what the accusations are, where they came from by whom, initial instructions, JUST ANSWER THE QUESTIONS,, in my grandsons case, QC [name edited], I will do the neglect case later, well there was no later, without any argument in the court, A) the childs name was changed to the name of a child that has never existed, B) Not one ounce of truth that sat within the hospital he had been taken to, for investigation into his many problems since his breech, starved of oxygen birth, (head not growing) stays hidden to date.
Possibility and Probability case of a child falling from his mothers arms onto a tiled kitchen floor, something that had never happened and was never reported to the hospital, how many other cases have been done this way? Lambs led to the slaughter

Sam - June 27, 2017 at 10:50pm

I can totally relate in every way and more, myself a grandmother and you couldn’t make this stuff if you you tried honestly. The allergations not actually evidence as this wasn’t possible as taken at birth. Future emotional harm of sexual abuse. the baby was stolen at birth,wasn’t partied in and apparently if baby would have come )home to dad and bathed/put baby to bed due to them NOT suffering any abuse in there lives ) only involvement we can see the pattern on the mums side.. she was vaunrable for what???? No criminal record,don’t drink and never smoked until recently due to stress as said and confirmed by police. I tried revoking the order 1min an 10second exactly 4/6/16 ,this is a child’s life and takes longer to order a coffee. These allegations were hearsay by the local authorities. The baby sustained 3 head injuries from 18 weeks old to 7 months old and denied medical treatment for medical records not to have it on them. they say future harm,that’s where it started?

Mike Cox - March 12, 2017 at 12:00am

My goodness, such heresy – he’ll be suggesting evidence-based decision-making next!

Stephen - March 30, 2017 at 12:54pm

I think that the era of closed adoption, secrecy, long term confidentiality agreements, false life stories, cover ups of the truth, and faked sibling death stories are going to be a thing of the past.

Where I think we are going to go from here:

* Training and education to help struggling parents reduce abuse, neglect, and bad parenting practices and help them turn their lives around.

* Youth will be given accurate life stories using age appropriate vocabulary. How you explain a difficult situation like divorce, child abuse, bad parenting, permanent disability, financial problems, substance abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, criminal activity, etc to a 2 year old is going to be different from a 6 year old, from a 12 year old, etc. There will be no cover up of the truth till age 18. With social media, it is no longer safe to tell a kid lies about why they were taken away.

* Adoptive parents will should be informed in writing that sealing adoption records, changing a child’s name or surname, etc may not fully cut off a child’s contact with their birth relatives, siblings, or former friends, especially those of older children, nor can it force letterbox only contact. As a child gains more computer skills, the amount of adult control of contact may wane due to social media and internet searches and the child’s ability to remember their past increases.

* Youth, especially older youth may get a voice in the level of contact they want with their birth parents due to social media.

* To provide safety, youth will need to be taught the blocking tools on social media if they want to cut off their contact with one or more relatives.

JamesB - March 30, 2017 at 2:44pm

It is not right or good enough to not protect children. They are not able to look after or protect themselves. Given that and that the evidence is not available without cctv in a lot of homes and there will be problems. Perhaps the answer is in fostering and supervised contact before adoption as a last resort if the parent or parents cannot reach the standard required by the experts.

I have sympathy for both sides of this argument, the social worker side as it is such a difficult job, the other side as having your children taken away is horrendous.

More of a society thing than a them and us thing which can stop parents asking for help. If was more helpful intervention, then perhaps I would have two sisters now and not just one and perhaps I would have more teeth. No I did not have great parenting when growing up.

Also quite like the cardboard box they give out in Finland, we should do that here also. Still, infant mortality is a lot lower than it was however good to make it even better.

keith - March 30, 2017 at 6:01pm

i wouldnt be surprised if at least 60% of all Adopted children were unlawfully pushed through the system with no thought to adoption as a last resort.
i know this to be true as it happened in our case via a bunch of very dishonest people dealing with the case.
lies and corruption is definitely going on. the problem is not whether parents are telling the truth but more a case that nobody wants to investigate.

L - August 3, 2017 at 7:47pm

The high rate of Adoptions is in part to do with poor hospital reports, that deliberately don’t document an injury, avoid disclosing evidence that renders their report untrustworthy. Where the social worker and guardian take a draconian view of child protection and dont investigate properly having decided Adoption was the only option and based upon a lose term of “best interest” from government legislation.
You are wrong to have removed my child. I will never forgive. I will not be staying.

Dr manhattan - August 4, 2017 at 11:10am

“social worker and guardian take a draconian view of child protection and dont investigate properly having decided Adoption was the only option”.
.
i agree L,
Even though the highest ranking Family court judge Sir James Munby stated 2 yrs ago that Local authorities and Judges should only consider Adoption as an absolute last resort when All else will not do.
the mistake Munby did was not to call for a investigation into collusion and corruption between Social workers,Family courts Judges and others as Exposed by Justice Pauffley in 2014. this would have without doubt brought prosecutions and maybe even Jail time for many of those involved in the corruption.

N - September 26, 2017 at 10:27pm

Hi everyone where would I be to get help from judge McFarlane or whoever please about mine and my girlfriend’s 2 little boys who are wrongly being adopted out very soon over future emotional harm when it cannot be proven we have never been unable to cope with our little boys Joey and Tyler who are 2 and 4 years old we have adored and loved them everyday since birth we had problems with my 2 older stepchildren and being a bad influence on Joey and tyler and now we are being silenced and sent to court for contempt of court because we done a petition to stop the adoption because we really don’t want our boys being adopted to a forever family as social services say and they are also saying we neglected and and abused our children by arguing which we never knew that was true and we would also take the arguments outside away from the kids where the neighbours would tell us they are phoning the police on us for arguing but we know that we would be able to manage with the younger 2 as we haven’t got the 4 kids together

Dr. Manhattan. - September 27, 2017 at 10:17am

you could try writing to the president of the family division Sir James Munby to have your case reviewed. he has always stated that Local authorities and Judges should only consider Adoption as an absolute last resort when All else will not do.
Local authorities are notorious for aggressively pursuing Adoption. they will tell all sorts of lies about parents to damage their chances in court.
if they have told lies about you and your partner go the the Local Government and social care Ombusman and explain that you dont have time to go through the 3 stage complaints at the council as time is running out. they may then take action.
best wishes with fighting the SS. you can bet it wont be a clean one.

Sam - September 27, 2017 at 3:52pm

Hello Dr manhatten
Just reading your comments as usual trying to help others. I hope your well. When you have exhausted all avenues for ex child commissioner,the government body’s,the first minister,child minister,MPs/ams,cabinet members basically everyone and including the home office out of desperation after ombudsman and legal ombudsman were also contacted replying that they can’t do anything where do 1 go? We were in London for 2 days trying to bring this to light. After trying to revoke the orders 8 times,an a appeal heard in our town even though we stated the London courts that was denied? She admitted a lot of inconsistencies so that was 3 different judges bearing in mind my son wasn’t partied in until the 22nd week. We’ve looked through all the acts CPR,FPR,Family law,adoption act,criminal act,human rights act,child act and we can see an been told our case was a kangaroo case (why we contacted home office) we had 3 different judges and ss has made 303 errors also 3 different families mentioned in our case we didn’t know. We have further discovered the children/family mentioned in the papers are actually in LTFC ruled in procedures some years ago,the medical records of the children are in our papers,also leading to 5 children adopted in 2007. We think that’s why they wouldn’t revoke/do appeal as all this would have come out. The judge listed a 2 day hearing not knowing dad as only partied in 4 weeks previously and stamped another placement which was done on the twin track. The hearing only lasted 40 minutes and the sw1/2 we never ever met but submitted a viability assessment about my son? Cafcass didn’t know the LA had placed the child 230 miles away 2 months previously and admitted this in a hearing by that judge who I asked to debar down due to allowing misleading and inaccurate information to be allowed through by the LA. He refused we had no rep and have reported the previous solicitors to the solicitors regulation after claiming legal aid and was sacked on the day the 2 day hearing lasted 40 minutes telling us to give up as we never stood a chance. They couldn’t even get the sex of the baby right. Son didn’t know about pregnancy and was in a relationship when told the day b4 birth and the judge has said another persons name tried revoking the order I have the bank statement also receipt no he didn’t do a judgement. Saying a significant change in circumstances! It states it doesn’t have to be significant when lord mumby was saying about that horrendous case. You couldn’t make this up if you tried. Apparently my son have given birth to 7 children (looked after kids by LA) reports about the trainee with no qualifications was allowed to submit evidence,relying on evidence from sw2 who was dismissed and sw1 in June 2016 after we complained. We didn’t meet baby until 3 months old but had a letter from adoption agency the day before telling him to go to a meeting!! He wasn’t aware of anything and met his baby the day after. The baby sustained 3 separate head injuries from 18 weeks old to 7 months,the trainee stopped contact and was lucky to get 1 he aweek.. around there routine. The FC was physically escorted out of contact by 3 members of staff after shouting and getting aggressive and baby screaming where she was frightened.. dad only asked why he didn’t take her to hospital yet again. Also stating the trainee nor himself or his wife had a medical degree to make such big decisions.. which is true I stood in between them as he stepped forward towards my son and granddaughter she was hysterical I’ve never seen a baby like that. Those reports were missing,the reports of everything we supplied the local authorities,the fact they got 3 in 1 orders and said nothing. The trainee put only in a statement the baby become distressed not the reasons why. A social worker has to be fully qualified for 3 years when doing adoption/fostering but this is not happening.
Where would you suggest we go as solicitors still has papers, the judge from march adjourned it until 3 days later after stepping bk in after a injury and only met dad 1 time previously this year for 10 minutes, the allegations the police told the ss legal rep sw2 and manager to amend records as mentioned myself which was false and saying he had a criminal record referring to a date which we know now to be a looked after young adult who was arrested in 2016, but said it was him the ages don’t add up he has never touched drugs/no CR/ an only started smoking cigarettes recently after everything. The judge has warned him not to have anymore children mind. She was taken at birth them lying again as a few hours old said to us in a call she went to foster care but she was actually transferred to another hospital left on her own 5 days and went for a adoption order at 4 weeks old,by law it says 6 weeks old and on adoption 2002. A little sibling born last year has never met her we tried keeping them both together as other dad couldn’t get her and we were told to drop her or we’d loose both. Wasnt offer any support the last resort is the only resort he had a career in the military prep and used it against him. Said a police officer and fc of 40 years weren’t reliable witnesses. No letters were ever written and stopped contact without telling us. Surely a child shouldn’t have 4 S/N numbers attached to them. They done a assessment on the mum in a car park in Tesco, it’s absolutely disgusting how this was allowed through the family court. Solicitors was paid for a barrister in October 2016, but met him 15 minutes before the hearing this year with no papers. The statement of truth are statements of lies. Surly this has to be looked at where thinking of going to the European court. We have all the recordings/pictures of injuries,where else would you suggest please we go as we’re running out of roads to go down. He just wants the baby to know the truth when older and obviously justice. I wish we had the details and if they record hearings as he could get hold of 1 in particular where the judge stated this is not mumbys court. A magistrate judge who heard the case said that when I tried explaining the errors,and I was in shock. Of course no transcripts were given or the following hearing either. We tried everything,dads girlfriend has qualifications in social care more than what sw1/2 and trainee had and used it against them. The plan was adoption before birth they have admitted that loud and clear. He had no newborn pictures and provided memory sticks,denied going on birth certificate we’ve kept emails as that would have given him PR and couldn’t adopt without knowing. A judge can’t offer options A,B,C and none was to keep the baby. This was his first child,my first grandchild. Because I suffered DV in 1995, they used that against him, he wasn’t even born,my son who died 17 years ago was apparently on a child protection register which is impossible. The lengths and lies were horrific and slandering but more importantly they disclosed children who we didn’t know. Any advice please cheers as coming under criminal law 1950

Sam - September 27, 2017 at 4:09pm

Children’s services was set up in the 1940s to help families and support them. The last resort is the one and only resort, it’s sad the figures shown by the MOJ in 3 months in England and Wales 11,444,000 child care cases.
There very dishonest and I’ve been contacted by x sw saying the reasons she left,was because how it’s being run today and last few years she was a good one.
As I said SAR files were denied,birth certificate,15 page complaint that I made 10 copies of and gave the LA the original due to the injuries she sustained and denied medical treatment. Her bangle was removed that was bought as a present and we kitted her out as she had clothing on marking her tiny belly. After 3 months told us not to bring anymore as FC could not cope with all the bags and nappies. They didn’t check th FC as would have learned 3 children on the mothers side had children there and adopted out. And we also provided a present not just for the baby but the other young child in there care. There was over 64 ppl who wanted to come forward and they said it was only me. It’s alarming how ppl are terrified of going to hospital/doctors and taking kids to school in case there taken. She was taken at birth but come to severe harm and abuse in the local authorities care and nobody involved reported it or put it in reports. I’d be horrified if I was the adopters reading the files. They have no medical history for her and female side is Hereditary and we can’t sleep,eat and carry on day to day life worrying if she is ok,is she hurt or worse. Due to so much lies we don’t believe the adoption is true. And believe she is stuck somewhere,letterbox contact doesn’t exist and it’s torture the not knowing after we seen what they done and the lengths they went to.. hiding evidence from the court and statements,mixing other child care cases in ours how can that ever be justified. Showing the incompetence of the ppl who done the case. The solicitors didn’t raise it at 1 part and he was told to be quiet.. what can one do ? Thanks for your input as usual and John himself.

Dr. Manhattan. - September 27, 2017 at 5:01pm

Sam it sounds like you are in a terrible position to put it mildly.
many of the points you have made are very similar to countless other cases we hear about. your Solicitor seems to have sat back and done nothing and in light of that you have to realize that many Family Solicitors representing parents also represent the same Local authorities parents are fighting against. so it can be a very difficult task getting a Solicitor who is not working their best interests instead of yours.
as i said before and which goes for most parents, best wishes with fighting the SS but you can bet it wont be a clean one.
it would seem you have tried just about every avenue possible to get justice but to no avail. if we were being honest this world is in Urgent need of a system Reboot via an advance ET civilization.

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