Guest Post – by practising frontline child protection social worker

 

As a parent involved with children’s services; we are generally suspicious of “The Social Worker”. This comes from the fear that they have the power to take our children away and it’s only natural to feel that way when our families are threatened. Social Workers are seen as ‘the enemy’, depersonalised, mistrusted, vilified and viewed with a cautious eye.

But Social Workers are human beings too. And, broadly speaking, entered the world of social work to try and help people. Some social workers find the current “risk-averse” climate and the focus on “timescales” and “permanence” very difficult to work in, because it doesn’t always allow them to help people in the way they want to.

I wanted a post by a frontline, practicing, child protection social worker, because I wanted the families who read my site to get some advice from a social worker not directly involved with their own family. I know how hard it is to listen to someone who has been responsible for taking your child away. But I also know the value of the advice that most social workers can give, and that that advice is given out of a real, genuine desire to keep families together where it is safe enough to do so.   

James – not his real name – is a qualified social worker currently supervising social workers and practising with children and families who are the subject of child protection plans and care proceedings. He has previously worked as a court appointed expert undertaking parenting assessments. These views are his own and based on his own experience. I am extremely grateful to James for taking the time to write this post and I hope it helps you.

 

I first came across Annie when I read this blog and like many readers, I was blown away by her account and the insights it gave me. We have since met when I invited her to talk to some of my colleagues in what was one of the most moving and humbling presentations I have ever seen.

When I was asked by Annie to write this post I accepted without hesitation. I write in recognition of the inspiration and hope that her brave work has given me and many of my colleagues in her journey so far. She writes honestly, speaks from the heart, and provides sound advice; I will try to do the same.

I also agreed to write this because on a personal level, I often find myself struggling to deal with the demands of my work with families. Sometimes it feels like all we social workers are doing is causing further pain and trauma to those families who have experienced and survived so much already. I hope that by writing this post I can help to redress this and enable parents to better understand and negotiate the child protection system and social work interventions with their families. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than when I or my colleagues have helped a family to make changes to improve their lives and those of their children.

In my career I have worked with parents who have been picking up the pieces of their own difficult childhood experiences, most of whom are still traumatised by what has happened to them.
I have worked with parents who have experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, FGM, slavery and exploitation, war and conflict, neglect, and emotional abuse.
I have worked with parents whose own parents have had difficulties with addictions, violent relationships, mental illness and more, and have been unable to look after their children as a result of that.
Sadly, some of the parents I have worked with have experienced abuse from within the care system, the very alternative which was supposed to keep them safe.

My point is this; In my work I don’t think I can recall having come across a parent who has not faced and survived horrendous adversity already in their life. In my experience it is often because of the impact of this adversity that many find themselves faced with child protection interventions and court proceedings. What is frustrating is that these interventions in themselves can be brutal for parents and this is something that Annie’s experience so clearly shows. Some parents can make it through, work with professionals to make the changes asked of them and show professionals and the courts that their children will be safe; some cannot. I have only compassion for those parents who don’t manage it and admiration for those who do.

In thinking about what advice I can give to those parents who find themselves facing child protection processes or care proceedings, I am not aiming to help you ‘beat’ the system, but simply to stand the best chance of navigating through it successfully.

 

My Advice

Be honest

Many of you might have heard social workers talk about ‘openness and honesty’ in meetings or seen it used in reports. It’s concept which is very important, and although on the surface it might seem fairly simple, in reality it is complicated. Sometimes for parents it can involve talking with social workers about some of the most difficult things that have happened in their lives such as abusive childhood experiences, difficult relationships, or things which they have done in the past which they might really regret or feel ashamed of. It can even mean talking about some-thing very exposing or difficult, for example, feeling that you might not like your child.
I understand that:
a) not many people would willingly want to talk about these things
and
b) parents might be suspicious of why these things are being asked of them.
It must be terrifying to be in that situation and easy to think that social workers are looking for problems or reasons for you not to look after your children. It also must be tempting to hold back on talking about these things in order to present a better picture of yourself and your family. However the reality is that social workers are usually asking about these things to try and better understand your life and to think about how they might be able to help you as a family.

Openness and honesty are important for another reason too. When we have concerns about a child, one of the things that is most difficult for social workers is dealing with uncertainty. Often when we are thinking about whether children are at risk from their parents, we are thinking about what might be happening in a child’s life when we are not there. If we don’t think a parent is being honest with us, it can have the effect of increasing our anxiety about what we don’t know. However, if what we get is an accurate picture of what is happening, it can make a huge difference to how we think about whether a child is safe in a family.

 

Tell us if you don’t understand

If you don’t understand something that is being asked of you, make sure you tell the social worker. Scary thought maybe? Well the reality is that social work is bogged down with phrases and terminology. Often I think that social workers hide behind this because they themselves do not fully understand what they are saying. I was once at some training where Andrew Turnell (a big name in the profession) said “if you can’t explain something to a six year old it’s because you don’t understand it yourself”. I think this is a very important point. Everything a social worker says to you should be explained in a way which is VERY easy to understand. If they are not doing so then it is really important you tell them. If it still does not make sense, ask them to explain it until it does. The stakes can be very high and it is important that you understand what you are agreeing to or being asked to do. It won’t reflect badly on you if you say you don’t understand something, but it might do if you are seen not to stick to an agreement, but in reality have not told anybody you did not understand what you agreed to.

Some people have real difficulties in understanding what is happening when social workers are involved with their family and need some extra help to do this. If you think you might need some extra help then think about asking to be referred for an advocate. An advocate is somebody who can help you to understand what is happening and help you to make informed choices and decisions. They will attend big meetings with you and talk to you about them before and after. If social worker suggests you would benefit from an advocate then I would recommend you consider this. The social worker should be able to arrange this for you too.

 

Listen

Listen to what the social worker is saying and try and understand their perspective. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, (and say if you don’t), but it is really important that you listen to, and think carefully about what they are worried about. You might agree with them and be worried about some of the same things too. Whatever the case may be, it is important that you are able to listen and think about what people are saying to you, no matter how painful it might be to hear. Often in my experience when parents are able to really listen and reflect on what people are worried about, it can be the turning point in our work with their families.

 

Prepare

Emotions can run high in meetings with social workers, and often in these situations I would guess that parents can forget what they wanted to say or the points they want to get across. The same happens for me when I am placed under strain. The best way to deal with this is to prepare some notes beforehand and take some notes at the time. It also comes back to my earlier point about understanding what is being asked of you. There is no reason why you should not take notes but if you do choose to during meetings or visits from social workers, then you might want to explain why you are doing so. It’s better to be clear about this than to leave any room for misunderstanding.

 

Ask for help

This relates back to being honest. It must be really scary to admit to a social worker that there is a problem, but if you can, try to have the confidence to ask for help with any difficulties that you might be having. This can often be the starting point for getting help and making changes. A social worker will always want to help your family and will be able to work with you to think about what you might find helpful.

 

Build a relationship

Every social worker should treat you and your family with respect, compassion and openness. This does not mean they have to agree with you on everything, but if they don’t agree or if they are worried about something, they should tell you, and do it in a sensitive and respectful way. If you don’t feel this is happening then ask to speak to their manager about it. If you do this, then as I mentioned before, prepare yourself carefully so that you stand the best chance of getting your point across.

There can be many reasons why you might find it difficult to build a relationship with a social worker. This might, for example, be to do with their gender, religion or background. It might also be because of your own experiences (maybe they remind you of somebody or something unpleasant). If there are difficulties, then have a conversation with them about it. If it doesn’t change, then consider asking for a change of social worker. Your relationship with the social worker is so important and it is vital that you feel as comfortable as possible with them.

 

Talk to us if you are anxious

If you are anxious about a social worker visiting, tell them. The prospect of having a social worker visit can, at times, I imagine, be terrifying for families. It must be so tempting at times for parents to cancel appointments. My advice is that if you are feeling overwhelmed by what is happening then rather than avoiding or cancelling appointments or meetings, ring the social worker and try to tell them about it. Not always easy I know, but they should be understanding and be able to help alleviate some of your worries about this. It will also help them to understand what is going on for you.

 

Get sensible advice

I know that Annie is a strong believer in the work of the Family Rights Group and I would thoroughly recommend you have a look at their website www.frg.org.uk.

If you are looking for information online, choose your online resources carefully as there is a lot of misinformation out there. I would recommend reading what Annie and Sarah Phillimore have said about this already on this website.

 

 

I hope this is useful and makes some sense to you. Although I am blogging this anonymously, you can contact me via the contact form on this website here. You can also tweet me: @jamesgosingSW

22 thoughts on “Guest Post – by practising frontline child protection social worker

  1. This is a really good piece about what to do if you are struggling, but what if you really aren’t and don’t agree with the social workers. HE for adopted children, instructions/orders based on cultural biases, child in need interference/advice that is unwelcome etc. What then?

    1. Hi StarlightMcKenzie,

      Thanks for the comment and feedback. It’s difficult to comment on your specific situation but from what you said I wonder whether my advice could be helpful still.

      From your comment It sounds like you don’t agree with the social workers you refer to.

      The first question I would suggest you think about is;
      -Do you completely understand and has a social worker made clear what exactly it is they are worried about? What I mean is has it been made absolutely crystal clear to you (i.e. has it been broken down clearly and has somebody explained how something you are doing is affecting or harming your child). If they haven’t then I would suggest that you seek this clarity from the social worker.

      If you feel you do completely understand but completely disagree then perhaps aim low to begin with. Is there anything that is being raised with you that you agree with…..however small that thing might be. Could you work together on that to start with? Maybe you’re worried about similar things as social workers but for different reasons?

      Its really important that you try and find some common-ground with the social worker as getting locked into opposition is unlikely to be helpful for anybody.

      I hope this is helpful 🙂

      James

  2. Interesting article. However, the contents in no way reflect my experiences. I have had social workers ask ME to use smaller words as they could not understand what I was trying to explain to them. I have had social workers walk into my home and say ‘This is nicer than my house and it is not fair. I will find an excuse to take your children.’ I have had one come to my house and tell me ‘I have no concerns; I recommended we close our file. But my manager says I have to find something.’ When I produced the audio recording, the social worker (agency worker) was sacked that afternoon.

    As a legal immigrant, I have been told our family lifestyle is not ‘British enough.’ I have tried to explain my cultural background; that there are things you don’t discuss with strangers such as money, sex, religion or politics. It is also part of my culture that if anyone is a government employee; tell them as little as possible and absolutely nothing unless you are under arrest. Privacy is a big deal where I am from!!!!

    My partner is British and fully supports my parenting methods. All have admitted there is actually nothing wrong with my parenting in terms of how I keep my home, hygiene, diet, my childrens education, general welfare, my attendance to their health (physical and mental), etc.

    I came to the attention of a local authority due to a nasty divorce. It got to the point that I would ring up the duty team on a Friday and warn them that they would have a faxed referral when they walked in Monday morning. (This went on for 2 years; every six weeks like clockwork.) Finally, someone realised that every single faxed referral was word for word the same. The custody battle was still going on. The ex had been told over and over that my offer for contact was more than generous and my ‘conditions’ more than reasonable. Finally, when confronted he admitted it was him that had been sending the faxes. No matter how much I (! even after 2 years of hell) I begged the Judge not to make the order he did; indirect contact only until the children were 18.

    Fast forward 5 years, an allegation was made that I had collected my son from school drunk. The fact I had had a stroke 6 weeks before was not taken into consideration.

    Unannounced visit……came back 3 days later. ‘We believe you have a drink problem.’ On what evidence?
    a) over 30 historical anonymous referrals that you are a drunk
    b) When visiting 3 days previous a half a bottle of open wine on the counter and an empty by the bin.
    c) A ‘throw away’ comment made years before ‘Yes, I have a glass of wine watching the Eastenders Omnibus on Sunday- it is my reward for doing the ironing.’
    d) A second throw away comment made at the unannounced visit ‘No I don’t have a drink problem but I can understand why dealing with you can drive people to drink.’

    I always tell a social worker that I will work with them and be positive and helpful as long as they can prove they are professional and competent. As I have had 8 complaints upheld, I explain why this is a pre-requisite for me. To finish, I explain ‘I have to be this way due to my experiences. Unfortunately, your co-workers have created this perception of your field. I am willing to allow you to prove you are different.’

    So now I am officially labelled as ‘unco-operative, not open and honest and possible drink problem. Arrogant and offensive. Holds anti-authority views which could be emotionally harmful to the child.’

    1. Hi TC,

      It sounds like you have had some really difficult interactions with social workers in the past. It also seems like you have persevered through this and are still doing what you can to move forward in your relationship with the professionals in your life.

      Perhaps there is room for some give and take or negotiations from both sides with this… you setting out what you need (e.g. what would be helpful and not helpful to you) from the social worker and in return them setting out what they will need from you. Some examples of things I might try and establish as a social worker are; for example (how will I know if I have upset you? how is the best way for us to move on from a disagreement? what will we do if our discussions are overwhelming you, how will I know you are overwhelmed?).

      I would also add that it is not necessarily a bad thing to ask what exactly it is that social workers or professionals would need to see in order to close the case and withdraw from your family life. It can seem a bit of a strange question but it actually helps focus minds (family and professional) about what exactly everybody’s expectations are about what needs to happen. It ‘sort of’ links to my point in the post about understanding in that really you ought to be clear in your understanding about what is being asked or expected of you.

      I hope this helps and best of luck.

      🙂

      1. I have asked the questions over and over and all I get is ‘be nicer to us.’ As I explained, I explain the history, I show them the documentation and say ‘And this is why it is for you to prove to me that you are professional and competent. Until that happens, we will not move forward.’ (In other words, I told them exactly what would be helpful to me and they tell me what would be helpful to them. So, the solution is be professional and competent; please complete paperwork correctly and accurately (preferably with correct grammar and spelling), don’t turn up at my house/meetings/court with ripped dirty jeans, a faded T-shirt and greasy hair looking like you haven’t bathed for a week, when I say to you, ‘Repeat back to me what I just told you’ don’t stare at me blankly or get it wrong and make me have to write it down for you.)

        I have had encounters with social workers when my family from abroad have been visiting. They all have the same reaction:’No one can be really be this incompetent and lacking in professional communication skills and be in a position of authority. Can they? It has to be an act.’

        I have also explained ‘In this situation, I am not the professional. I am just a mother. You will find me completely different in a business situation. So yes, I am going to get emotional, yes, I am going to get angry and yes, I am going to get frustrated.’ There seems to be this expectation that just because I am a professional with 25 years experience in my field, I should behave that way about my children and our family life. (I am not working at the moment as I am a full time carer for my partner, but if you were to ask any of my former co-workers, they would describe me as ‘the ice queen- a creature of pure logic and ration.’)

        You also have not answered the question: What if you don’t actually need any help? What if other than ‘be nicer to us’ they can’t find anything that requires change?

        By the way, thank you for taking the time to reply.
        TC

        1. Hi TC,

          Thanks for your response to my response.
          I will never know your circumstances in full but I guess I can try and think about your position and try and answer.

          Your position at this time seems to be that you don’t need help and others can’t find anything that you need help with.

          It seems however from your predicament that professionals involved with your family have a different view. What I would say is that I find it difficult to see how the only thing that could be required to change (from the perspective of child protection professionals) is to ‘be nicer to us’ and I cannot see how that in itself could form the basis of any support plan, be that a Child Protection plan or any plan as part of court proceedings.

          Whatever it is that has happened, I do wonder whether you could be locked into a denial dispute with professionals (focusing on disputed allegations or concerns of past actions) which in my experience can be very difficult for professionals and families to get around. Perhaps it would be more useful to think about what it is you need to do to show that what they are worried about could not happen again or be a worry for professionals in the future. That way you are looking forward and not backward, doing what is suggested is needed to be done and showing that your child will be safe in the future.

          I am aware that you have also left a response to ‘Jason’. I have to say I find it very difficult comprehend that your accounts could be based in reality. Social workers receiving financial incentives (i.e.kitchens) for adoptions is a complete myth. It would really concern me if even one parent who was experiencing care proceedings read your comments, believed them and disengaged with professionals as a result of that.

          I understand and accept that your experiences with the child protection system have been difficult for you, but please please please think very carefully about the impact of what you are writing on other people who might be in a very vulnerable and desperate situation.

          1. James
            Thank you again for taking the time and energy to answer me.

            Unfortunately the ‘I need a new kitchen’ is the truth.

            I can not genuinely find anything ‘I need to change’ and the LA can’t either except for ‘be nicer to us.’

            Now I will add some new information. Due to the LA clerical errors; our personal information was given to a family who clearly needed assistance. The result was our car being ‘destroyed’ and I was given an Osman Letter. (there are only 19 ever; if you don’t know what it is; google it)

            I now have a permanent 2 inch scar on my face due to my lounge window being smashed and me dragged through it. The ‘mob’ decided that murdering my cat was ‘fun’. They decided (due to the rumours) that putting dog faeces mixed with curry through my letterbox was a good idea.

            As I said, the only ‘change’ required of me is ‘be nicer to us’. How can you be ‘nicer’ to an organisation that has shown such gross incompetency and their actions have almost resulted in your murder?. (ICO finded them but no compensation for my almost £2K bill to try to save my cat.)

            I have no intention or design to ever mislead a parent(s). I absolutely do not advocate ‘fleeing’; if I did, do you really think I would still be in this country?

            However, I think you sort of are ‘brushing over’ the point; why should a parent such as me ‘engage’ with ‘professionals’ when they constant show themselves to be incompetent?

            So hence my stance. It is for these ‘professionals’ to prove to me that they are competent, able to carry out the most basic tasks (like addressing an envelope correctly) and show some contrition for the history.

            Your comment is of interest to me: other people who might be in a very vulnerable and desperate situation. Why would they be in that situation?

            Again, thanks for your time and attention.
            TC

  3. God how I wish that what this anonymous social worker was writing was true. Well I’m sorry, but it isn’t. It sounds good: you’d have thought being “open and honest” would be a great thing and not a way for social workers to accumulate as much as they can against you to take away your kids – for good!

    Since when have social workers been open and honest? Never.The social workers I have encountered have been devious, cowardly and cruel. They stick together, and they all cover for each others’ mistakes. Oh, and once they’ve started a case, they will not want to lose it, however wrong they may be. “Relentless” is the word, and low empathy is the form.

  4. Jason
    Your post is so strong…Well, I have had similar. I think I have detailed my own experiences enough here.

    But I will say something; which is ‘turn your blood cool’. I went to a child protection meeting. People obviously did not understand that you can be heard in a hall way! The social worker and manager said ‘This is easy; blond, blue eyed, bright, walking before a year; talking’ easy adoption; I need that money; I want a new kitchen.’

    WE froze in place.; I don’t believe that personal adoptions exist but percentages are what do the balance sheet!
    TC

    1. Hi TC,

      I apologise if any offence was caused to you or indeed any of the other readers by my previous response (on the other chain of comments).

      I would also add that your experiences sound truely horrendous and I’m sorry to read that whatever went wrong had such dire consequences for you and your family.

      Regarding the adoption stuff: I guess I find it so difficult to comprehend that practice like that could take place and I’m not sure how the professionals you spoke of would have the means to get financial incentives for adoptions. If I am being naive or there is evidence to the contrary then I will stand professionally embarrassed and corrected. I’m sure that there are some bad apples in the barrel, as with every profession, but in my experience the vast majority of social workers are hard working and passionate about working with families.

      Now back to your question. I guess the short answer is you don’t have to engage and if that’s all they have to worry about then that will be that. No plan can be built on ‘be nicer’ and the social work team would have to be able to make the case that your child is being harmed as a consequence of something you are doing. However in experience that approach is unlikely to help and I would not really advise it to anybody – I would always always always advise dialogue, however difficult that may be.

      All the best

  5. It is good that someone has written this. But it does not seem, to me, to take on board the nub of the question which is one of power. A social worker who is a good person doing their best feels – to themself – like someone who is trying to help, but from the point of view of someone who is at the receiving end, the point is that they have power. Because of the way the system works the social worker analyses, decides and acts. Through my divorce I came across doctors and lawyers who were good, bad and indifferent but a: they were working from a body of knowledge and practice and b: there was a system and a number of people around them who worked within that tradition and body of knowledge and it allowed for flexibility. They had to be educated in order to get to where they were. When I came up against social services many had only minimal education and often when I raised matters they would say they had training, eg when a social worker at a child protection meeting mentioned therapy I had had, and made judgments, I asked who was to make a psychological assessment of me and she answered that she had ‘plenty of training.’ There was a lot of judgment, a lot of assertion without evidence. This is my second point. In order to become a psychotherapist people have to undergo therapy in order to get to know their own stuff so that it does not get in the way and corrupt their relationships with their clients. With social workers, time and time again it was clear that they were projecting their own prejudices onto the situation, and where someone has power, this is terrifying. The danger is not with the good social workers, it is finding yourself and your children in the power of someone who is prejudiced and small minded.

    1. DD – what an excellent point you make about power. I think sometimes difficulties can come as an unintended consequence of wanting to be helpful, rather than of malicious intent. I can think of occasions where I have probably been guilty of this myself.

      I would suggest that social work, perhaps more than other respected professionals does concern itself with consideration about how to guard against oppressive use of power in work with families. Check out the BASW (British Association of Social Workers) code of practice for an example of how this is incorporated into our professional value base.

      You might be thinking that values great but what about practice? What about when it comes down to the professional judgement of one social worker which in many cases can have significant consequences? Well I guess what I’d say is that I supervise 3 social workers and we meet for 1/2 day every week for group supervision. One of the key functions of these meetings is to discuss our work with families. Decisions are made as a group and colleagues views and perspectives are challenged within these meetings in order to help guard against assumptions and judgements and to help social workers consider their issues and what they are bringing into the equation when they interact with families. It’s not perfect but I think it helps.

      I think another vital way to help our profession learn is by engaging with families and hearing their experiences directly from them. It was for this reason that Annie (from this site) and I arranged for her to come and speak with social workers within my local authority. It is also for this reason that I felt it so important to support this blogsite in the first place.

      Just briefly on another point you make. I think there is a strong strong argument for more therapeutic support for social workers as part of training and professional practice.

  6. Dear all who have responded. Thanks for your comments. I will do my best to respond in the next few days. I want to give what you’re saying some proper thought before i do though.

  7. It is a nice idea that a social worker wants to help parents, and it was also a nice idea of the LA lawyer to give parents tips on his website. The truth is, if I had followed those tips I would have lost my children for good. I may appear abrupt but I can assure you I am forever out to understand the merits of a system that is in a state of crisis. My mind is open, but I am hearing the same old things.

    DD has a point: power is the factor. Another factor is that power corrupts. Children’s social workers have power given to them by the state. They also have power because they are dealing (quite a bit of the time) with the vulnerable and the downtrodden; it is easy for most people to feel more powerful than the vulnerable, but especially if they work for the council. Then they have the social power given them by Joe Public, lots of whom think that social workers are dealing with dirty, child abusing scum. Social Workers are villified by the tabloids, who seem to expect them to have eyes in the back of their heads: this last is unfair.

    James you are clearly a dedicated social worker, and not a shyster like so many in your field; every now and then I come across evidence that decent social workers exist. But being good is not enough, unless you are challenging the system you are in, and I suspect that you are not. Many of your colleagues are not honest, and you are telling parents to be honest. How is that going to look? How would you recognise honesty?

    Social workers tend to confuse honesty for compliance; they think a parent is honest if they agree with the social worker’s negative perception of them, or if they tell the social worker what they want to hear; if the parent said to the social worker “you are a foul scumbag and I resent letting you into my house,” it would no doubt be quite honest, but I can’t see the social worker writing a report saying how refreshing the honesty of the parent was in that case.

    I would agree with both Annie and James that self-denial gets in the way of change; we can’t work on a problem if we keep denying we have one. I also have sympathy for TC, who says that while there are parents who do need to confront their own demons and whose denial poses a problem to their children, there are other parents who have been wrongly labelled as having a problem in the first place; it is not clear how confronting their demons would apply to them.

    If I had accepted what social workers were saying about me, I would have been accepting information that I knew to be inaccurate. I went on to successfully sue social services for placing dishonest information about me in front of a court; it was only after my case had been closed that I was able to prove that it was false; at the time my case was ongoing all the “professionals” were saying “why can’t you just admit you have a problem?”

    Broadly speaking, a lot of parents want social workers to look in the mirror. Social worker cannot fix themselves until they admit there is a problem. They cannot earn trust until they stop lying or, in cases where they themselves don’t lie, they need to report dishonest colleagues. The people who fabricated my case are all still practising. The LA shuffles bent social workers around like the Vatican shifts bent priests.

    James you take TC to task for mentioning something she overheard about adoption. I know there are some cases in which social workers have been given a backhander by foster carers for recommending them, but I don’t think it’s systemic. I’m incredulous, though, that you think that what TC has posted would seriously affect a vulnerable person. Have you ANY idea about what it’s like out there, and do you seriously think that what TC overheard is anything like as bad as other things people are hearing?

    1. Jason
      A well thought out and ‘reflective’ post.

      I can hand on heart state this is what my Mother and I heard.

      I should also ‘come clean’ and admit, I have been working as a non fee charging McKenzie Friend for the last 7 years. I have seen it all. I have had parents come to me and when I review their paperwork, I think ‘I wouldn’t let you look after a cat’. (I obviously never say it that way!) But there are many (regrettably the majority) who I think, ‘This should have never got this far’ or ‘I can see where the misunderstanding took place.’ Those parents I spend my time and energy on as much as I can.

      I should also admit, that I was assisting a journalist to ‘expose’ the system. I have been mentioned in youtube videos and myself have been on the radio and television and in the print media. Unfortunately, after almost 8 years working with this journalist; I cut all ties. I could not stand that he had been taken in by the ‘Freeman of the Land’ people, the conspiracy theorists who advocate ‘zero co-operation from day one’, the ones advising people to flee, the people who are not qualified solicitors who want to charge people for their time (I have some ‘proper’ legal training and a lot of knowledge of the system, but would never call my solicitor; I am a lay advocate and I give people in writing how I work, what they can expect from me and what I expect from them.- I am happy to post my standard ‘terms and conditions’ if it helps.)

      Regards
      TC

    2. Hi Jason,

      Sorry I have taken a little while to reply to you. This response is in reply to both your posts if that’s ok. As with the other posts I can’t really comment on your specific case but can comment on the issues you raise.

      In the spirit of being open and honest I would like to say that I’m finding it really difficult to think of how to approach some of the things you raise. I would also say I have never done these sorts of discussions before and I’ve no idea if it’s helpful or not….

      On the point of expectations of honesty from families I guess what I would say is that honesty should always be presumed and concern about dishonesty should always be backed up with evidence. If I thought a family were not being open and honest about something I would have to be able to say exactly why I think that and what it was I was seeing differently.

      I think whether somebody is being honest is down to interpretation and because that is primarily from a social worker there is a huge power dynamic there which cannot be ignored. Thats why it’s important that any suggestion that somebody is not being honest should always be backed up by evidence, otherwise it’s surely only really speculation.

      In stating the above I’m not saying that a) this is always the case on the ground and b) that social workers always explain their concerns about dishonesty to families clearly or in a way which families understand. I’m sure it’s something that many of my colleagues do well, but some need to work on.

      I also happen to agree with you that some parents will have difficulties with denial (which will impact on whether they accept they are not being honest about something) whereas some will inevitably be wrongly labelled as having a problem by the child protection system and at times by individual social workers. There’s no easy answer to that – I don’t know how to solve it but some of the most interesting accounts I’ve heard about parents addressing injustices within the child protection system have been from when they organise and engage with the professional system effectively as a group. David Tobis in his book talks about experiences of developing parents advocacy in New York which you might find interesting. I certainly think that dialogue with families has to be the way forward. What do you think?

      1. Hi James,

        Thank you for your reply. I think it is commendable that you are trying to engage with people on these issues, although I don’t know why you can’t say what you would do if you found one of your colleagues was being dishonest.

        Dishonest parents will always be with us, but dishonest public servants are a threat to all of our security. If a social worker lies, the consequences can be fatal, and the injustice can have massive reverberations, and yet no social workers are being sent to prison for perjury, or even being punished. If there was at least a deterrent against social workers lying, that would at least be a step in the right direction.

        I don’t have TC’s extensive range of experience, but I know that in my case, a social worker lied and was completely shielded by the system. The same social worker lied in another case that I know of, and it is hard for me to see how a person who lies in court on one occasion will never do it again, when she is not punished for it.

        I suspect that you are adamant that parents should not leave the country if social services pursue them. In the past I would have been absolutely the first to agree: if you are a bad parent, then your children will need help, and if you are indeed a good parent and this has all been some sort of misconception, well then – you’ll be able to prove it in court. The truth will always prevail, will it not?

        But now I can see that the truth does not necessarily prevail. I accept that sometimes there are instances where it is a case of conflicting opinions, and opinions can’t be true or false, simply matters of perspective.

        But there are also facts and lies. Lies like a social worker repeating something she did not hear, and claiming she saw things she did not see. I have spoken to a few people who have told me gleefully that the judge “told off” the social workers for lying – as if they were kids running too fast in the school corridor, rather than public servants committing perjury. One parent was convinced that the social worker would be punished for the lies, but nothing happened to this social worker.

        So now I think there is no categorical answer. I agree that if social services have your child you must engage in dialogue, even though you will probably not get your child back whatever you do. Certainly all parents who have wrongfully had their children removed and returned should engage with services, whether by suing them and/or by putting pressure on them to increase transparency.

        If social services are concerned about a family and so is everyone else, then I would suggest that there is a genuine problem and that the family should engage with social services.

        However, if you can see that a social worker is lying about you, then leaving the country with your family is usually the only solution, if your children have not already been taken; the judge is unlikely to be interested in whether or not the social workers are telling the truth. In a case where you can see that someone is lying about you, it is not worth the risk of continued engagement with them.

  8. I am a bit upset, but not very surprised, that James has not replied to my post. Does he have nothing to say regarding dishonest social workers? My life was ruined, you know.

    TC, I am sure you do good work. Are you saying, then, that these experiences you have had with your cat/your neck etc are someone else’s experiences or your own? It all sounds terrible.

    I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am just an ordinary member of the public that has had an appalling experience. I have seen that organisations that exist to protect the public often end up becoming, at least in part, organisations that end up protecting themselves. Sometimes the dishonesty manifests itself in “losing” paperwork, signing off errors, or covering for colleagues’ mistakes – it is defensive there. And sometimes it is a more active type of dishonesty where a social worker says they saw something they didn’t etc.

    Social workers do not financially profit from removing children, but some of them certainly try to look good at work by winning cases; this is all well and good, I suppose, when the case is a genuine one. How does a social worker look good? Results. Just like a teacher is considered good if their pupils get good marks, a social worker is considered good if they get results. Winning cases against parents is a way of getting results. And unfortunately sometimes winning is more important than the truth.

    Obviously dishonesty is hard to prove – I guess in the type of case I refer to it could be construed as a series of mistakes, mistakes that for some reason are always in the direction of proving the social worker’s point. This is where zealots of the family law system will say “That’s why the family need a solicitor, so that if the social worker is dishonest the solicitor will be able to show the court the reality.”

    Not so. Solicitors should certainly be there to represent parents and to challenge sloppy evidence, mistaken perceptions etc, but the bar is now so low that solicitors expect parents to accept that social workers have lied, and that they, the solicitor, will try to sort things out. The social worker’s dishonesty will not be reported by the parents’ solicitor, no-one is going to listen to the parents, and er… if you think the LA solicitors are going to report dishonest social workers then dream on!

    Councils have, over the years, built up a tolerance of malicious and/or dishonest behaviour, and one of the most horrible manifestations of this is the mantra that “dishonesty here does not exist”. James you have probably been conditioned to believe that there is nothing to say in answer to me, because the type of behaviour I mention simply doesn’t exist.

    1. Hi Jason, I seem to have exceeded you expectations on this occasion although I do apologise it took me some time. As I said above I find it really important to I’ve my responses some thought. Perhaps if you read through my comment and respond if you feel you would like to and then I’ll come back to you on both. 🙂

  9. Can I echo the sentiments of the above posters. I have been through the child “protection” process.

    I’m sure you personally are honest and genuinely trying to help but you must understand that some social workers and some social work departments are manipulative, bullying, dishonest and incompetent, but above all they are completely unaccountable.

    My story is unbelievable. Really unbelievable. Prior to my experience *I* wouldnt have believed it if someone told it to me. But its true. I started writing it here but it would take a bòok, and I cant carry on reliving the trauma that they caused. For my own mental health I need to keep that box shut for now.

    1. Hi anon,

      I can understand if it is difficult to tell your story at this time and just wanted to thank you for reading what I’ve written and leaving a comment.

      James 🙂

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