One of the highlighted cases shows the disparity of treatment of child protection cases:
They put the Christmas decorations up a couple of days ago but no one in the Smith family feels much like celebrating. Despite the tinsel over their sons’ photographs, there are no excited children racing around the flat. Instead, Patrick, 6, and Donald, 2 – not their real names – will spend the holiday in foster care.Wow! What did they do? It must have been really, really bad.
Worse than being a slovenly, deceitful, cruel hag with a paedophile for a boyfriend. Worse even than being known drug addicts with a history of manslaughter.
Well, not according to their story:
It started two years ago with a nosebleed. Robert Smith wiped his stepson Patrick’s nose and took him to school. A teacher spotted some dried blood, and asked Patrick what had happened.Hmm, not exactly the lackadaisical response experienced by the perpetrators in the other cases, is it? But give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there was much more to it than they claim, and the swift response was found to be fully justified.
“Robert,” he said, and made a wiping motion. She went to social services, who called the police. That afternoon Mr Smith was arrested for assault and had to move out of the flat.
Ah. Not really:
“We thought, it will all get sorted and go away. We knew we’d done nothing wrong,” he said. A criminal court threw out the charges after the prosecution admitted that it had no evidence. But social services would not let Mr Smith move back home. Stacks of legal paper under the Christmas tree chronicle the Smiths’ struggle in the family courts, where the case is still being heard.Because it obviously takes time to build a case. But this long? Something about this stinks…
Because reporters have been unable to cover such proceedings, their story would have remained untold had Mr Smith’s parents not read about The Times’s campaign and contacted the paper. Even so, The Times is unable to report details of the case against them.It better be a lot more than what they are claiming in this article, or there’s truly no justice.
For several months, Mr Smith could see Donald only twice a week under supervision. Social services did provide some help, and last spring the Smiths were reunited in an assessment centre. They thought everything was going well. But after eight weeks the children were taken into foster care because the parents showed “inconsistent emotional warmth”. The Smiths now see their sons for three supervised hour-long visits a week.So, let’s see if I’ve got this right – you can keep your children in utter squalor like Karen Matthews, be a convicted killer with a drug habit like Amanda Adams, but if you appear to a clipboard-wielding busybody to be (subjectively) ‘lacking in emotional warmth’, forget about keeping your kids….
His parents have submitted a complaint about the way that social services have handled the proceedings. They also welcome greater transparency in the system: “If we were all allowed to put this in the paper from day one, social services could look more closely at what was going on in each case.”
For their family, time is running out. A preadoption hearing will take place in the spring. A tea towel pinned up on the kitchen wall spells out an encouraging “Don’t Quit”. The Smiths find it increasingly hard, however. “Life has been on hold for the last two years. The tape is paused,” Mr Smith said.