Saturday, May 1, 2010

Got No Heart, Part 2

We continue from Part 1, where we saw how, in the UK, secret court proceedings were sending government agents to remove children from their parents upon birth because of the potential that the parents might abuse their child at some point in the future.

The last story we reviewed was from a Monday, August 31, 2007; on the previous Friday, an outcry about this was already in the news. From Outcry over rise in forced adoptions, dated August 24, 2007:

Record numbers of young children are being removed from their parents and adopted unjustly because of government targets and the "secrecy" of the family courts, it was claimed today.

Campaigners say there are now more than 100 cases of possible miscarriages of justice where children have been forcibly adopted.

The figures, revealed in BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts programme, claims the number of parents in England who have had to give up their children, despite insufficient evidence they were causing them harm, has now hit record levels.

It says 1,300 babies under a month old are being adopted every year, up from 500 when the government came into power in 1997.

Social workers told the programme, to be broadcast later today, that they were being put under pressure to meet the government adoption targets set in 2000.

And lawyers claimed parents were not being given a proper chance to challenge adoptions because of the time limit on appeals and the secrecy within the family courts.

So, bureacrats were under pressure (from government officials) to meet government adoption targets, and the forcible adoption issue was being decided in secret courtrooms with limits on the appeals process!

Think the deck was stacked against the parents who, after all, had not been proven to have done anything wrong to begin with?

Skipping down:

[BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts] programme features one mother who claims she was actually giving birth when the authorities arrived to remove her baby, and a father who had his two sons unjustly adopted. He later received a written apology from the local authority but, because his children had already been adopted, he will never get them back.

An acknowledged mistake, but the government is beyond having to correct the error!

The Department for Children, Schools and Families denied there was a policy to take children from their birth parents in order to meet overall adoption targets.

A spokesman said government policy had always been that children should live with their parents wherever possible and given extra support to stay together if necessary.

He said targets had been set to increase the number of looked-after children adopted and to speed up the placing of children for adoption. But he added that this was only if they had already been assessed as suitable for adoption and it had been decided that adoption was in the child's best interests.

In other words, it's a government-run adoption ring, where the government has people with badges and guns to take away someone's child and give the child to another family.

But, they assure us of their good intentions.

Now, we skip forward a few months to January 31, 2008, where we learn more about the government's good intentions. From How social services are paid bonuses to snatch babies for adoption:

For a mother, there can be no greater horror than having a baby snatched away by the State at birth.

The women to whom it has happened say their lives are ruined for ever - and goodness knows what longterm effect it has on the child.

Most never recover from this trauma.

Imagine a baby growing in your body for nine months, imagine going through the emotion of bringing it into the world, only to have social workers seize the newborn, sometimes within minutes of its first cry and often on the flimsiest of excuses.

Yet this disturbing scenario is played out every day.

The number of babies under one month old being taken into care for adoption is now running at almost four a day (a 300 per cent increase over a decade).

In total, 75 children of all ages are being removed from their parents every week before being handed over to new families.

Some of these may have been willingly given up for adoption, but critics of the Government's policy are convinced that the vast majority are taken by force.

Time and again, the mothers say they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Of course, there are people who are not fit to be parents and it is the duty of any responsible State to protect their children.

But over the five years since I began investigating the scandal of forced adoptions, I have found a deeply secretive system which is too often biased against basically decent families.

I have been told of routine dishonesty by social workers and questionable evidence given by doctors which has wrongly condemned mothers.

Meanwhile, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been given to councils to encourage them to meet high Government targets on child adoptions.

Under New Labour policy, Tony Blair changed targets in 2000 to raise the number of children being adopted by 50 per cent to 5,400 a year.

The annual tally has now reached almost 4,000 in England and Wales - four times higher than in France, which has a similar-sized population.

Blair promised millions of pounds to councils that achieved the targets and some have already received more than £2million each in rewards for successful adoptions.

Figures recently released by the Department for Local Government and Community Cohesion show that two councils - Essex and Kent - were offered more than £2million "bonuses" over three years to encourage additional adoptions.

Four others - Norfolk, Gloucestershire, Cheshire and Hampshire - were promised an extra £1million.

This sweeping shake-up was designed for all the right reasons: to get difficult-to-place older children in care homes allocated to new parents.

But the reforms didn't work. Encouraged by the promise of extra cash, social workers began to earmark babies and cute toddlers who were most easy to place in adoptive homes, leaving the more difficultto-place older children in care.

As a result, the number of over-sevens adopted has plummeted by half.

Critics - including family solicitors, MPs and midwives as well as the wronged families - report cases where young children are selected, even before birth, by social workers in order to win the bonuses.

More chillingly, parents have been told by social workers they must lose their children because, at some time in the future, they might abuse them.

One mother's son was adopted on the grounds that there was a chance she might shout at him when he was older.

So, local government entities were promised more money from London if they increased the number of adoptions. In turn, using excuses like "a chance [the parent] might shout at [the baby] when he was older", they started taking babies from innocent families, because babies are easier to adopt out.

In Scotland, where there are no official targets, adoptions are a fraction of the number south of the border, even allowing for the smaller population.

What's more, the obsessive secrecy of the system means that the public only occasionally gets an inkling of the human tragedy now unfolding across the country.

For at the heart of this adoption system are the family courts, whose hearings are conducted behind closed doors in order to protect the identity of the children involved.

Yet this secrecy threatens the centuries-old tradition of Britain's legal system - the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

From the moment a mother is first accused of being incapable as a parent - a decision nearly always made by a social worker or doctor - the system is pitted against her.

There are no juries in family courts, only a lone judge or trio of magistrates who make decisions based on the balance of probability.

Crucially, the courts' culture of secrecy means that if a social worker lies or fabricates notes or a medical expert giving evidence makes a mistake, no one finds out and there is no retribution.

Only the workings of the homeland security service, MI5, are guarded more closely than those of the family courts.

From the time a child is named on a social services care order until the day they are adopted, the parents are breaking the law - a crime punishable by imprisonment - if they tell anyone what is happening to their family.

Anything from a chat with a neighbour to a letter sent to a friend can land them in jail.

And many have found themselves sent to prison for breaching court orders by talking about their case.

So, like our own oft-abused State Secrets Privilege, the system in parts of the UK (apparently excluding Scotland) includes provisions so that, if the victim (that is, the innocent parent being targeted by this terrible system) dares to speak out, the victim can go to prison.

Well, that's fair.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

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