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Emigrating to avoid forced adoption (Sam Thomas)

I have linked to the story about Sam Thomas in the Daily Mail. is a web log written by a Social Worker who comments on this issue.

Pregnant Sam Thomas emigrated to Ireland a couple of weeks ago because she and her mother (Carol Hughes) were concerned that the local authority (in this case Somerset) were set on taking the newborn baby into care and that this would be likely to result in the baby being given to another family and them banned from seeing it again.

It is worth looking at a few facts in respect of this case. At the time Sam emigrated there had not been a case conference. However, one was held on Monday (1/9) which resulted in a decision by the local authority that the unborn baby should be placed on the child protection register.

This means that the LA believe that the baby faces a "risk of significant harm". This implies that they will initiate care proceedings when the baby is born. There is then the question as to what that means. It is very very rare for the court to refuse a care order for a newborn baby. Hence in essence that is a rubber stamping exercise.

We can then look at the figures as to what happens to babies taken into care at birth. If anyone wants the full spreadsheet for 2004,2005 and 2006 they should email me and I will send it. If a lot of people ask I will publish it.

However, I have the figures (from DCSF) for source and destination by age of child. In other words I have the figures for the number of newborns (0-7 days) taken into care in England in each of those years and what had happened by 2007.

What the parents are interested in, of course, is "return to parents". We can also look at adoption.

YearInto careReturned to parentsAdoption

In each case fewer than 1/5 of newborn babies return to their mothers. I have expressed it as the situation where if mother stays then you have to toss a coin twice and get heads both times to keep your baby. The chances are, in fact, worse than that.

My advice to parents facing this difficulty can be summarised as follows:
  1. If you emigrate then English Social Services lose authority for the child protection proceedings as long as you emigrate before the baby is born.
  2. Emigration is not a trivial issue. However, if you emigrate to a country that does not have forced adoption (eg Ireland, Sweden) then even if your baby is taken at birth you stand a good chance of having your baby returned to you (unlike in England)
  3. If you Emigrate do it as early as you can and don't take chances with the health of the baby by doing it close to the expected date.
  4. Emigration means you are going elsewhere to live and are not intending to return (at least not for a number of years).

There are a lot of other complications as well. However, the statistics above demonstrate that Emigration should be considered. It is important to remember that very few Child Protection Conferences reject the recommendations of the social workers and that you cannot rely on the Family Court to bring sense into the proceedings. There are some good Family Court judges, but there are also others who could be replaced by a rubber stamp (and it would be a lot cheaper).

BBC TV Interview with Sam Thomas


cb said…
Thanks for that response. I don't know the details and I know it is an important issue - but my point was perhaps, more about use of emotive language and quality of journalism rather than the details - which I have no way of knowing short of a brief article - and don't have time to investigate working full time as I do!

I have never worked in children and families but I feel it is too easy to misrepresent some exceptionally positive and difficult work that is taken by social workers. I understand that each situation is vitally important, but also that some of these stories scare people into decisions too quickly. I would never support any decision that isn't made according to the guidelines and principles established by the GSCC.

It seems that the press almost wanted to make an example of a vulnerable woman to make a point. That doesn't do her any favours. But I appreciate your work on issues that are important not only to you but to many other people.

I hope you don't mind if I amend my post to link to this post..
john said…
No problem. The fact that some practitioners are doing a bad job does not mean that no practioners are doing a good job.

The issue is how one handles the accountability for the unacceptable work.
Fat Bird said…
John, you really need to get your facts straight. Perhaps go and talk to the locality offices in your borough. A baby being placed on the child protection register does not mean that it's likely to be subjected to a care order, that's not how it works.

A parent with serious mental health problems (such as self harming) may find parenting particularly stressful. Flagging the child by registering them on the child protection register ensures that the relevant professionals can work with the parent. Somebody, a professional involved with the mother must have had concerns enough to refer her to social services. If they did nothing and that parent harmed the child who do you think everyone (inc. you John) would blame? Those bloody social workers.

Did you listen to what Judge Wall said about you? You have the parents rights in the forefront, but what about the child's John? Who is looking out for the children whilst you are on a crusade against child protection. You need to balance "rights", it's not just the mother. A child isn't a possession a parent can treat how they see fit, the child has a right to be safe from significant harm!

If you don't agree with the fact that this girl has been referred to social services perhaps you should spend less time berating social workers and more time looking at the referral system!
Andrew said…
“John, you really need to get your facts straight. Perhaps go and talk to the locality offices in your borough. A baby being placed on the child protection register does not mean that it's likely to be subjected to a care order, that's not how it works.” "

Stats say otherwise, unless you’re disputing them.

”Did you listen to what Judge Wall said about you? You have the parents rights in the forefront, but what about the child's John? Who is looking out for the children whilst you are on a crusade against child protection.”

I was in the particular case you mention & I can say that Lord Justice Wall is nigh on crooked, it’s a pitty you can’t read the transcript, in fact you should have been there.

The matter(s) in hand was about;

1) The mother’s capacity to instruct a solicitor, this point was pivotal as the appeal was based on this, so obviously the case would be somewhat adult focused.

2) The mothers ability to parent a “disabled child” - who is “too ill for the mother to care for”, Lord Wall had information to the contrary in the form of a medical report which said “different” in fact even proved the placement order was based on a lie, the report was from the social services, so go figure how can a judgement say the opposite of reality.

" You need to balance "rights", it's not just the mother. A child isn't a possession a parent can treat how they see fit, the child has a right to be safe from significant harm!"

That is the whole point though, many mothers have not treated their child in any way that can be deemed "unfit" nor were the children at “risk of significant harm”, this mother in the story is a good example, so is Fran Lyon, neither had even gave birth, Fran as it happens was given the green light to parent from the Swedish authorities who as it happens thought the UK authorities were out of order.

Most people have a moral compass the tells them a ‘foetus’ should not be on any child protection register, especially when there is no evidence that any risk exists to the child, besides a perceived risk by some people who happen to appear mentally unbalanced.

You are also right the child does have rights to be safe & that is not only from mother/fathers but also from other people who do abuse them including social workers who do place children who are not at any risk into foster care & subsequently into an adoption, an adoption that was not warranted in the first place, the damage caused by social workers should not be overlooked just because they claim they are doing what is best.
john said…
The threshold for the CPR is the same as a care order. Those cases I am aware of involved the CPR and then care proceedings. If you have statistics that demonstrate that an unborn child being on the CPR does not lead to care proceedings please cite them.
Sticks said…
This seems to be identical to the Fran Lyon case, for which this Facebook group was set up. Fran ended up in Sweden.

As I have been made a moderator of that group I have now added in this case as well.

From the Fran Lyon case, I vaugely remember Northumberland County Council saying they could just make the baby a ward of court and have the baby returned by force to the UK, so I suspect Somerset County Council could do the same.

My reading of this, on a general level is that the government came up with an incentive scheme to get more older children placed for adoption, but the councils went after babies as they were easier to place and raked in the government cash from the scheme.
john said…
If the baby is habitually resident in Ireland then the English courts do not have jurisdiction.

In Fran's case she was legally resident in Sweden because she had a Swedish person number. Sam I believe now has what I think is a PPS number (but may be something else). It is much like a National Insurance Number.

This is another reason for not doing this sort of thing in a major rush.
Andrew said…
My reading of this, on a general level is that the government came up with an incentive scheme to get more older children placed for adoption, but the councils went after babies as they were easier to place and raked in the government cash from the scheme.

You’re right I remember seeing the ads & the scheme was on the face of it a very good one, after all we all know adopters want babies thus leaving older children stuck in care, however the stats show that new born babies are the ones who are most valuable due to the amount of them being taken into care & subsequently adopted. However I think this was intentional, the government knew what would happen with their scheme & from what I can see wanted it to happen.
moira said…
A parent with serious mental health problems (such as self harming) may find parenting particularly stressful. Flagging the child by registering them on the child protection register ensures that the relevant professionals can work with the parent. Somebody, a professional involved with the mother must have had concerns enough to refer her to social services

I just want to comment on fat birds above statements.
Actually self harming does not mean that a parent cant parent a child well and protect it from harm. I dont mean suicide attempts here. Its not a serious mental health issue as sh tries to portray.. You can still function well even though self harming. I wouldnt do it when looking after a child. I do know people that are damn good parents but just have this bad habit.They dont have serious mental health issues they just do self harm sometimes.It doesnt prevent them being a good parent. Its just people are labelled as non copers by people like Fat Bird who dont know the facts.

Unfortunately you refer to other professionals concerns as though the child must be at risk if another professional refers that person.
I can tell you often its just a back covering exercise. Professionals will refer over absolutely nothing really.They are ust protecting themselves really.

Its quite outrageous how they persecute some groups in society like those with mental health problems or the learning disabled.
You will find SS ignoring children where there is serious abuse and neglect just to bully the vulnerable parents in society.I can speak from experience.

Often women who have had PND will find themselves being referred to SS. These parents can be really positive and by the time midwives jump on them and with the threat of SS being involved,this can lead to unbearable stress that can cause PND,whereas if they had been left alone and supported would have had no problems.In actual fact I think the system is causing the stress whereas things would have been ok if these mums were just left alone to enjoy their pregnancy.

Anybody that thinks that SS job is to support families,should just see what they do and the damage they cause to these children and they drive parents to nervous breakdowns.Then they use this against them in court.

I want the courts to open so the nonsense workers like Fat Bird spout can be debated properly. Its very rare that you ever here of SS helping a family.
Usually they bully parents by giving them time limits of 2 months to get well from PND.Or other issues.

I was told I had 2 months to get well from PND otherwise my young baby would be adopted as he couldnt wait around. How this can help PND I dont know apart from to make the illness worse.Then social workers arent known for their common sense or compassion. they seem to leave it at the door when they are qualified.
Obviously im just his mother and therefore am dispensible in the eyes of SS. We have no value. If this is what Fat Bird calls support from professionals then she needs to open her eyes and mind.

Im so traumatised by SS help,that I have had to block it out of my mind.

We need to expose the British Social Services and prove that its not a supportive service but rather its a from of psychological torture to have these people in your lives.
Jerry said…
How many of these cases where the mothers have been diagnosed with self harming and the likes by a Social Worker and not a professional medical person, look at the stats of these cases, just how many are legally diagnosed by a Medical professional and I think you will find there are not that many. I was speaking to a client the other day and even while in court the Socaial worker said the mother had PND and was suicidal, however when the mother went for a private consultaion the doc said otherwise and the fact mother did not have PND.
Sticks said…
Hello again, I found that old story about the Northumberland SS making Fran's baby a Ward of court.

Reported in the Sunday Sun

When her baby is born officials could make an application to have it made a ward of court.

Assuming her location is established and if there is an Enforcement Agreement between the UK and Ms Lyon’s adopted country, the child could be legally brought back without her consent.

From This blog it went on the same lines

It said:
The social work filth were considering applying to the English courts to have Molly made a ward of court. Had that happened, and had Fran given birth within the European Union, then baby Molly could have been returned to the loathsome clutches of the social work industry.

And then

Thankfully all that is behind Fran now. However, if Fran and Molly are within the EU, then the social work filth can still change their minds and go after Molly through an administrative order.

The lesson for any other young woman who finds herself in the same situation is clear: get out of the European Union!

Which was why I said what I did.

Is this blogger still correct, especially on this other case?
Exile said…
Hello Sticks,

I'm the blogger that you mentioned. The Fran Lyon case is a bit complicated and not very typical. She and her daughter still live in Sweden and Fran got the support of the Swedish social services in her fight with the English. Hence it is unlikely that Sweden would agree to force Molly back to the UK.

The unusual aspect of the case from the start was that the social work industry went after a woman who was within an ace of finishing her degree at the University of Edinburgh. Obviously Fran is neither stupid nor ill-educated, so why this gang of poly-wallahs went after her is unclear. Either way once she got out of the UK they used that as the pretext to drop the case. Put bluntly, Fran could handle herself.
john said…
The law is relatively complex for international issues. Basically, however, if someone is habitually resident in another country when they give birth then the jurisdiction for child protection passes to that country.

Although it is theoretically possible that wardship proceedings could be issued these would be in contravention of the Hague Conventions.

This is not an issue relating to the EU.
Exile said…
Yes, but the whole idea behind the EU is to create this wonderful new superstate that we are all supposed to be loyal to. So it is very much a matter of the damned EU because had Fran not had her residence sorted out in Sweden, the UK social work filth could have followed the procedure laid down earlier.

Now had Molly been born in Mexico, where I live, then she would have been Mexican by birth and no power on earth could have got her out of the country.

So my point still stands: get out of the EU.
john said…
However, she did not need a Visa to go to Sweden or indeed anywhere else in I think the EEA, but possibly the EU.
Sticks said…

Do you know if Fran is in regular contact still? If so there is the facebook group I was appointed administrator of, Don't Take Her Baby which was originally set up to highlight her case, and if she is on facebook she may want to sign up, if she has time.

One question, if Fran were ever to visit the UK, would the Northumberland SS be able to take her baby off of her under the original "birth plan"

Under my administration of the facebook group I widened the remit, and now have made this case under discussion the primary focus. I even have the mother of the teenager as a member of the group.

John, do you have any plans to bring in a 10 minute rule bill or mention these cases in the house, as I said before, it seemed like there was a laudible aim originally, but it was local authorities who twisted the scheme to be what it has become.
FranLyon said…

Fran here.

Once we were habitually resident in Sweden there was nothing the UK could do. The ward of court avenue is nonsense and was never even entertained - it was a media notion.
Sticks said…
Thanks Fran

I will pass that nugget on, as the mother of Sam is a member of the group that was set up to highlight your case.

If you are on Facebook, we would love to have you come and join us there.

BTW how are you and Molly doing?
FranLyon said…
We're just great thanks. Life is back to normal.

I'm not on facebook - but thank you for the support.

The notion that I could "handle myself" raised a wry smile this end I have to say - not quite sure what to make of that Exile!
myownthoughts said…
I know this girl, and I just think YOU should all know you are not getting the full story.

People are so quick to judge the SS, but they don't act without just cause...I truly know this. I'm not going to go into detail about it, I really don't want to.

However, I will say this, that, despite all her problems, (of which there are a lot more than have been reported) she will look after that baby wonderfully, and will show them in time that that is the case.

I also want to point out, that nobody has said that they would take her baby, just that they want to be involved, which is completely fair considering the circumstances.

I know you are all going to harass me for said circumstances, but I won't divulge, it's not up to me, it's not my life and my privacy, althought they have bought themselves into the public forum and shoud be aware that if enough digging is done they will be discovered.

I truly hope she has a wonderful time with her little girl, and finally gets what she needs from being a mother.

john said…
Requiring someone to be imprisoned in hospital is more than "being involved".
Sticks said…
But it is not just this case. If Fran is still with us, she will relate her case. There have been others reported in the media where the SS seem to be a law unto themselves using the secret family courts to rubber stamp their descisions

There were adoption targets set up, but they were for placing older children. However the SS seem to go for he easy option of grabbing babies and using any and every justification to do so.

They may not have mentioned forced adoption, but given the track record of social services around the country, that should not be relied upon.

What I would like to ask John here, has he had any chance to discuss the various cases and concerns with the minister? Any way that this canbe raised in the house as part of an adjournment debate or at least an EDM.
john said…
I have done a lot see the JFF reports for details.

That includes an adjournment debate (much that I had to ask for about 6 months).
Andrew said…
“Fair considering the circumstances”

As John correctly pointed out being forced to stay in hospital until an ICO is granted is not “fair” nor is the alternative of an EPO if she tried to leave the hospital, it is abusive.

How does one reach this conclusion? Simple, the SS had already prejudged the woman as “unfit” this is evident by that attitude adopted by the social worker Carly Barrett, the way in which the SS operate in general is also a good indication of how they would treat her.

“YOU should all know you are not getting the full story”

“they don't act without just cause”

“althought they have bought themselves into the public forum and shoud be aware that if enough digging is done they will be discovered”

That would probably serve as a great reason for an ICO along with the mandatory MSBP allegation that would come in this situation and that would probably be sufficient in the family courts, after all where is the need for evidence when you have an element of “risk” that does not require proof.
Exile said…
Hello Fran,

Well, you demonstrated that you can handle yourself, didn't you? You had a passport, contacts in Sweden, knew how to set yourself up over there.

Please tell me that you are writing a book about all this.
can said…
i called social services twice on my neighbour as she didnt have a clue and needed serious help!! They were not interested,I was told everything goes on a point system. social services do not take children for no reason in fact it is a major last resort.
Andrew said…
Can or the system is flawed, there are many other instances where the social services will not do anything sometimes this ends up with a child’s death, others like with Fran Lyon they can’t wait to get the baby even though there is no risk.
Sticks said…
there is an update from Sam's mother on the facebook group I administer here
Sticks said…
Sam has now joined the group on facebook that was started originally to highlight Fran's case and now refocussed on her case.

One question I have, maybe John has the answer, who is the current mnister with responsibilities in this area. Earlier in the year someone denied there were targets now, which was contradicted later by another council.

The scheme in essence, get children trapped in care placed with families, was a noble one, but who ever draughted the scheme did not realise how badly the scheme could be subverted by elements in local government. If they had been a bit tighter in drawing up the parameters of the scheme this may not have happened.

So in light of these cases, what has been the minister's response? Would there be any point asking them to investigate how delivery of government policy at the local level was applied, or in fact miss-applied. It would be nice if we could get the minister to read the riot act, as it were, as it was the local SS who brought a good idea into disrepute and caused so much hurt.
Sticks said…
Sam has had a baby girl, Ellie Jay

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