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  • Enza Smith MBE

The fight to keep my family together

y name is Jane my wish is that every child should have the opportunity be placed with Family or Friend carers in the first instance who know them and love them and not with strangers.

I am the grandmother of two beautiful boys who now live happily with their parents and have wonderful loving relationships with their extended families.

In December 2014 my son was accused of a non-accidental injury caused to my six week old grandson and after a long legal process of 12 months and an 11 day fact finding hearing at the crown court with legal teams involving Barristers and a Queen Council he was exonerated.

At the beginning of our family’s traumatic ordeal the first social worker to speak to me and my husband mentioned Kinship Care. I had never heard of it. Fortunately I remembered those words and when I realised my family were going to have a battle to keep our family together I searched the internet for help and found Kinship Carers UK and contacted them, without their support I don’t think I would have managed to hold it together for the 12 months, I know that other people in my situation are not as lucky as I was.

A little of my story:

The SS became involved at the very beginning when my grandson was in hospital, I was asked to take care of my eldest grandson, who at the time 18 months old, by the social worker as it was considered that his maternal Grandmother was a possible perpetrator as she had been on her own with the children for 20 minutes. Myself and my husband were told that we would have a visit from a SW on the following Monday as none worked at the weekend.

On the Monday the case SW came and carried out an initial assessment and advised she was happy with our oldest grandson staying with us.

A few days later we were asked to attend a quick meeting the SW wanted a word with us ”she advised that the Kinship Manager had decided that they should put the children into foster care as my husband and I may change our minds about our son and the children once the court proceedings had finished. We believed that our son was innocent but reassured the SW that our priority was our grandson’.

Our baby grandson was being discharged from the hospital therefore the SS hurried the proceeding and we went to court with two days’ notice to fight to keep our grandson with us, his family. Fortunately the children’s guardian, my son and his partner’s legal teams along with the judge sided with us and we were awarded a temporary care order.

The SW manager represented the Local Authority along with their solicitor argued that we had only just put ourselves forward and therefore my grandson should be placed in foster care.

After the proceeding had finished the SW manager approached us and told us if we hadn’t been successful our grandson’ would have been placed into foster care and adopted, we realised that this was his and the SSs intention from the very start.

Not once were we, as law abiding loving decent family, considered and even after they had decided that they didn’t want us to have the children they did not approach other family members, who were also law abidingpeople, who would have willingly put themselves forward. All they wanted was to put our grandson up for adoption as they assumed that my son was guilty and therefore we were guilty by association and deemed not suitable despite being law abiding people, my grandsons were easy targets.

If the SS had had their way, my youngest grandson, who was only eight weeks old when he came to us, would have spent his whole life up with strangers. He would not have had a relationship or fully bonded with his parents, as the SS would have had restricted their contact and the subsequent contact with both sets of grandparents, an Auntie, an Uncle and their extended loving family would not have happened.

My oldest grandson was at a crucial stage in his life, at 18 months old he was recognising the importance of his relationships with his parents, his grandparents and his extended loving family

My youngest grandson has a genetic condition Elhers Danlos Syndrome hypermobility type 3 to which his hospitalisation was attributed and our son being completely exonerated.

I feel very strongly about my family’s situation as you can imagine! Fortunately we were able to ensure our grandson had a relationship in this time with their parents and extended families maternal and paternal and also when they returned to their parents it was a very easy transition for them with no involvement with SS.

I feel every child should have the opportunity to be with their family, that is why I would ask you ?? to speak to the:

Director of Children Families and Communities.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families: Nadhim Zahawi MP.

“Families and friends” potential carers first: It is currently only a recommendation that social services should consider! As I have experienced and from the other stories you will hear today not all local authorities do this.

I want my voice to be heard by the local & national radio, local and national press I want to make people aware that families are not always put first.

Myself and my husband had to pay £2,000 legal fees initially to get the care order we were lucky we had the money at the time others aren’t so lucky.

On the 5th October 2016 my daughter and her partner were exonerated of harming their baby. The process started 26 weeks earlier on the 10th May2016 they were accused of harming their four-week-old baby. Two days’ after hospitalisation at 2200hrs the on call Social Work told us to get a solicitor because they were going to take the baby away. This did not follow process to invoke Section 47, the guidelines clearly state “Any decision to initiate an enquiry under Section 47 must be taken following a Strategy Meeting/Discussion”.

My role on the panel is to raise greater awareness of the process in which children are automatically put up for adoption because processes aren’t followed and no application of common sense is applied. Application of common sense could save the government circa £5billion p.a in Family Court fees, this saving could be used to support Kinship Carers.

There was a catastrophic process failure on the part of the SS.

The Senior Dr based his report on notes and photo’s provided by the junior Dr and not on his own visual inspection of the baby, he did not see the baby until three days’ after admission.

The moment an Non Accidental Injury (NAI) is mentioned it automatically starts the process of adoption.

Both Drs reported “non-malicious intent”.

All the mandated examinations excluded physical abuse:

The whole body scan – was negative – meaning no broken bones

CT Head scan – was negative – meaning no swelling or fractures to the skull

Retinal observations – was negative – mean no evidence of shaken baby syndrome

The junior Dr reported “I notice that the baby is otherwise well cared for and did not have any evidence of any other injuries on investigation”.

The Senior Dr reported “The baby is otherwise very well looked after and there is no additional evidence from the history or investigations to suggest any definite, malicious intent”

At the meeting with the police, doctors, health visitor the female hospital social worker, the HV and social worker advised the panel that they did not believe that the baby was in any danger.

The SS decided prior to the Public Law Outline (PLO and Strategy meeting to invoke Section 47, the guidelines for Section 47 Children Act 1989 clearly state “Any decision to initiate an enquiry under Section 47 must be taken following a Strategy Meeting/Discussion”.It was a fait accompli and we were at the mercy of the Family Court, the Judge, four solicitors, four barristers, the Social Workers, the Guardian and the hangers on.

RCT SS failed to follow government guidance, in particular guidance on key steps in a child protection investigation. Reference – Care and Social Service Inspectorate Wales report 2014-2015.

RCT failed to communicate with those involved or to co-operate with other agencies, such as the family and the GP.

The GP tried to intervene with the Hospital Board of Directors, as he did not feel that the baby had suffered abuse, he believe was it was a rash, this fell on deaf ears as the process had started and now had to be seen through to the 26 week completion of the Family Court, because the SS wanted to fulfil their target for their adoption quota and benefit from remuneration for hitting these targets.

My daughter’s partner lied to the solicitor, saying he had harmed the baby, because going into Court with an NAI meant more chance of losing their son to the selected adoptive family.

At the initial hearing, the Judge commented “he also agreed it was a rash”. The judge should have had the power to stop this particular proceeding which cost the tax payer over half a million pound.

If the general population were aware of the current practices of baby snatching there would be an national out-cry. Whilst I appreciate this term might sound extreme and cause you to feel uncomfortable, it is standard practice when the baby is healthy. Within this pack you have been given two further stories on the subject of baby snatching are provided.

What would the general public think if they knew the baby had been taken from a loving family willing to take that child on, because that baby has a monetary value?

This process not only cost my family circa £10K but the emotional destress has left me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, utterly devastated and broken from the failure to apply the process.

I request that my MP’s calls a question in the House of Commons regarding:

The National Guidelines and key steps in child protection investigations be mandated and followed.

Call for an overarching body within the Government to vet spurious cases taking away the ability for Social Workers to hit targets for “Forced Adoption”.

Parliamentary Taskforce for Kinship Care to:

Review and recommend improvements in the processes of child protection investigations taking into consideration the cost associated with the” Family Courts” Circa £10Billion per annum.

Hospital Board of Directors

Review findings from paediatric Drs and apply common sense to be taken into account at the Strategy meeting, prior to applying a Section 47.

GPs

Be consulted on hospital findings prior to applying a Section 47.

Ministry of Justice and CAFCASS to review and implement improvements in the process. Ensuring that when the use of the term NAI does not automatically place a child on the adoption register because potential adoptive parents want a six month old baby not a five year old child.

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