Judgement calls

16 March 2017: News Round-up

THE CHILD protection system, in particular the use and impact of non-consensual adoption, came under the spotlight in a wild-ranging speech from Appeal Court Judge Andrew McFarlane to the Family Justice Council last week.

Focussing on the balance between child protection and the right to family life the Judge put his comments in the context of the development of the UK’s child protection system over the last 50 years – and ultimately the rise in child protection cases in recent years. “It is my belief that the degree to which we investigate child abuse within our family court system is on a wholly different basis and scale from that undertaken elsewhere,” he said.

The judge focussed on the difficulties faced by many adopters of children who had faced adverse childhood experiences – the impact of which could increase with the age at which the child was adopted. The issues were compounded by the expectation that these children were to have no contact with birth parents – unrealistic given the ease of unsupervised contact being made via social media, Lord Justice McFarlane said. He pointed out the power of the court to make a contact order at the time of adoption or “anytime afterwards” and that it might be right for an adopted person “particularly one soon to be an adult” to have contact with birth family members to provide a bridge back to their roots. “Is adoption still the best option?” the judge asked. He also noted that magistrates and judges were making orders to permanently remove children from their families while receiving almost no feedback on the impact of their decisions, except where cases came back to court.

ALISON MICHALSKA, the incoming president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, has called for the government to delve deep into the issue of profit making within the fostering system, writes CYP Now, “We hope the [fostering] stocktake will consider if it is appropriate for huge surpluses to be generated from the care of vulnerable children and young people and then passed onto shareholders,” Michalska said. Writing in CYP Now she said that the system was coming under increasing financial pressure, “which is resulting in increased competition for new recruits between different local authorities and independent fostering agencies”. But Foster Care Co-op, one of the UK’s not for profit fostering agencies, took the opportunity to point out that not all non-local authority fostering agencies are the same. “We plough surplus income after expenses straight back into providing care,” it said, responding to the article via Twitter.

CHESHIRE EAST Council has been ordered to pay for independent kinship carer assessments after the “lackadaisical” assessments made by its own social workers were found to be of such poor quality that the local authority was deemed to have “comprehensively failed to discharge its duty” according to a family court judge. The order to pay for the independent assessments out of the council budget came at what should have been the final hearing to decide on a friends and family placement for an 11 month year old girl. You can read the judgement and a blog on the outcome by Suesspicious Minds.

 A PROJECT to boost recruitment of Muslim foster carers was launched at a gala dinner hosted by the Better Community Business Network this week, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan among those speaking at the event. Run jointly by the Fostering Network and Mercy Mission UK, the Muslim Fostering Project will also provide support and information to foster carers who are not from a Muslim background but are caring for Muslim children.
NEW CARE applications have reached 13,242 in the current financial year to February – surpassing the 2015-2016 total of 12,781 with a month still to go. But the 1,134 new applications received in February 2017 represent an 8% decrease on February 2016, CAFCASS figures show. The picture varied between local authorities with some, such as Knowsley and some of the London boroughs recording a fall in care applications per head of child population compared with the previous year, while South Tyneside in comparison saw applications nearly double to 28.7 per 10,000 children.
AND FINALLY, Bridgend Council has paid care leaver Rob Johnson more than £3,000 because inadequate savings were set aside for him while he was in foster care, reports the BBC. The local authority was directed to make the payment by the Public Ombudsman for Wales who found that the council failed to monitor and ensure that money was being put aside by Johnson’s foster carers.

 

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