“Scotland must listen to and absorb the overwhelming evidence of the lasting pain that removal has caused children, families and communities. This must result in a fundamental shift of thinking about when a child should be removed from their family.” (Care Review “Promise”)
Three years ago a group of parents and social workers established “PAR Parents Advocacy and Rights”, an organisation for parents and families of children in care. We met yesterday in the wake of the Care Review report launch, astonished and overwhelmed by the strong and honest report produced by the Review. The Promise describes the harms of care so clearly and well and sets out the radical changes that needs to happen.
Now we want action to ensure that all children in care today unnecessarily are returned safely to their families. There are thousands of children in Scotland in care who do not need to be in care. Every day for them and their parents is a day of loss and suffering.
Parents and families are forbidden to speak about their cases but PAR and organisations like us can speak out on their behalf about their experiences.
We were motivated to help establish PAR by the harms to children and grieving and broken parents that we saw. There is neglect and casual cruelty in practices in care have now been laid bare by the Care Review. Alienating children from their families of origin, leaves children feeling the lack of care and unconditional love that children need to thrive.
Many children in care today are in care unnecessarily. They are usually only allowed restricted and supervised time with their parent or other family members. “Contact” with family is usually a time when any mention by parents of love, or of longing to have them home, of a possible future out of care are forbidden. If the parent breaks the rules they are threatened with having all contact ended. Wider family members are routinely excluded from contact.
PAR is involved in cases where children have been injured and abused in care, children have been refused the right to attend their children’s hearings purely because they want to complain about the conditions they are being held in and want to go home. We know of cases where mothers have been accused of mental illness and deliberately harming their children without a shred of evidence.We know of cases where parents of children with serious disabilities have been accused of neglect purely because of poverty and a failure of support. They then have to see no expense spared in keeping that child with strangers.
These children and thousands of others are still in care, still suffering the kind of harms that the Care Review found and described so well in their report. It’s not enough for the government to plan to do better sometime in the future. The current review system exists to rubber stamp the plans and decisions of social workers. The Care Review principle of care away from family only where necessary for safety and where there is no family alternative has to be the test that is applied. We believe there should be independent reviews of the cases of ALL children currently in care, particularly those where there are no plans in place to return them to their families.
We need to ensure that we keep a focus on children and families suffering the harms of a failed and failing system today. Children in care today must be rescued from harms being suffered today.
PAR can be contacted through www.parparentsadvocacyrights.com
c/o WomanZone, The Crannie, 9 Cranston Street Edinburgh EH8