See Christopher Booker, “Deported, imprisoned and beaten for being a parent”:
Last Thursday, a crippled American woman in a wheelchair was bundled by six members of prison staff in riot gear into a van at Holloway, where she had been for 21 months. Driven to Heathrow, accompanied by four guards from a firm hired by the UK Border Agency, she was put on an aircraft, to be dumped on the Tarmac in Washington, where she was deprived of her US passport, given no money and left to fend for herself—while her four-year-old son remained miserably in Britain in the care of Barnet council.
Two years ago, social workers had been informed by someone working for a charity that her mildly autistic son, who had been born while she was in Ireland and is an Irish citizen, needed speech therapy. When she disagreed, the social workers made moves for the boy to be taken into care. Before they could obtain the necessary order, however, she escaped with her son to Spain. After the council won its care order, a European Arrest Warrant was issued for her to be returned to London, on the grounds that she had kidnapped someone else’s child.
This arose from the fact that she had lived and worked for a while in London under an assumed name, because she had overstayed her UK visa. Thus, she and her son had different surnames. But this was not the reason given for the arrest warrant, which said only that she was “connected with” the boy, clearly implying that he was not her son. In a Spanish prison she was beaten by prison staff who had been told that the child was not hers.
Back in England, the boy was taken into care and his mother sent to Holloway. In April 2012, she faced a criminal charge of abducting someone else’s child. By the court’s leave, her charge sheet was amended to show a name different from her son’s. She was told by her lawyers that her only hope of seeing him again was to plead guilty. She was ordered to be deported as a criminal after completing 12 months in prison. She tried to lodge appeals, but got nowhere, although she was eventually able to arrange DNA tests, which were only made available after she had served her sentence, and which confirmed that the boy was her son. Pictures taken of him when the tests were carried out showed her once happy, healthy boy looking miserable, lost and ill after a year in foster care.
Last July, as she remained in prison as an “overstayer” while her attempts to appeal continued, her friends found her horribly bruised, crippled and in need of a wheelchair, from what she described as a savage beating by six members of the prison staff, who believed that she had kidnapped someone else’s child. Finally, on Thursday she was deported to Washington, where she has no family, friends or means of support. Her new US passport, bought for her by a friend for £250, was confiscated. Her son remains in foster care and is to be put up for adoption.
Such authoritarianism, as ever, is only for our own good, of course.
Update I (7 October): Christopher Booker provides further details in “Social workers damn us both ways”:
[More information] of the American mother who on September 15 was dumped in a wheelchair at Washington airport by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), after serving 21 months in Holloway Prison for “abducting” her son to Spain to prevent him being seized on the flimsiest excuse by Barnet social workers.
She had been given £250 by a wellwisher to buy a new US passport. But this was confiscated on her arrival by US immigration officials because she had flown in on a temporary travel document arranged by the UKBA.
What the UKBA had not bothered to arrange were the “reception and rehabilitation” facilities she was promised. She was thus abandoned in her wheelchair at the airport, penniless and without a passport, only to discover that, without any official identification, she could not get access to any of the help with accommodation or food she desperately needed. She cannot even apply for a job.
For three weeks she has been living at the airport, subsisting on the odd charitable gift, at her wits’ end as to where to turn. She cannot obtain the necessary ID without her birth certificate, which has apparently been lost by the London solicitors whose advice to her that she should plead guilty to abducting her son landed her in this plight in the first place.
When I asked the Home Office why the UKBA failed to make those reception and rehabilitation arrangements she was promised, I was told: “We cannot discuss individual cases.” There is certainly no surer way to find yourself damned in Britain today than to fall foul of our utterly dysfunctional “child protection” system.
Update II (16 October): Christopher Booker continues to provide further details of the pettiness and self-serving interference of the “child-protection” Gauleiters in “‘We decide where you eat’ – social workers love a petty power trip”:
A year ago, under the heading “Don’t ask your grandson how his jaw got broken, say social workers”, I reported the bizarre story of an Essex grandmother who was allowed a brief “contact” session with her beloved 11-year-old grandson, shortly after he had been beaten up on a beach by a gang of teenagers while he was unhappily in foster care. She was told she would only be allowed to meet the boy she had brought up, who loves his “Nan” and whom she has never harmed in any way, on strict condition that no reference could be made to his injuries and how his jaw had been broken.
Now the grandmother, who formerly made something of a name for herself in showbusiness, is having an equally bizarre argument with the boy’s social worker over how the two of them should spend three hours of the 25 hours of “contact” they are allowed each year. Granny wants to take the boy to his favourite restaurant for lunch, as he wishes. But this has been forbidden by the social worker, quoting a judge’s instruction that their contact sessions must be “activity related”. He therefore suggests that the boy should be taken to a McDonald’s, which he hates, or that the foster carer should provide him with a packed lunch. As for the rest of the contact, the social worker suggests that the boy should be taken to a bowling arcade, which costs £8.50 for a single game, and which he also hates, or for a walk on the same “beech” (sic) where his jaw was broken last year in the incident they are forbidden to mention.
How on earth could we have created a system which allows a little jobsworth social worker to throw his weight around in this absurdly dehumanised way, which makes a complete mockery of the claim that the system’s only concern is to put “the interests of the child” first?
See also the aforementioned “Don’t ask your grandson how his jaw got broken, say social workers” (from September, 2012):
A chilling recent episode exemplifies what, to an outsider, is yet another a shocking feature of our state “child protection” system. This is the ruthless way in which, when children are taken into care, social workers try to drive a wedge between their new charges and members of their families who have done them no harm and are closer to them than anyone else in the world.
Last month, an 11-year-old boy was taken to the seaside by his foster carer. There he was attacked on the beach by a gang of teenagers who left him to be taken to hospital with a broken nose and jaw. No one was more concerned to hear about this than his grandmother, into whose care he and his 16-year-old sister had been given when they were removed from her former daughter-in-law and her new partner for abuse and neglect.
When the girl ran away from home after a verbal tiff, she was taken into care. Shortly afterwards, a Romanian social worker arrived at the boy’s school to remove him as well. Terrified, he tried to escape by scaling a 12ft fence, crying, “I want my nan!” She had given him the only real sense of loving security in his life. From then on, the grandmother was only allowed to see the boy at occasional contact sessions, closely watched by a social worker in a council contact centre.
As is not uncommon in such circumstances, they were both made to sign a long list of conditions on which continuing contact could be allowed. Expressions of affection must be limited to a “brief hug” at the beginning and end of each session, which had to be initiated by the boy. They were forbidden to make any reference to his “case” or why he was in care. There must be “no whispering”. No reference must be made to his foster home or social workers. The boy could not be shown photographs except by written permission obtained in advance. Any breach of these or some 15 other rules would end all contact. His grandmother was forbidden to have contact with him in any other way.
When she heard two weeks ago that he had left hospital after the assault, she asked to be allowed to see him. She was told they would be allowed a brief “one-off contact”, but only on condition that no reference was made to his injuries or what happened on the beach. When the grandmother called the police to ask whether any charges were to be brought against the boys responsible for assaulting her grandson, she was told they were to take no further action, on the advice of the social workers who had “parental responsibility” for the boy.
Again and again, I have heard how social workers impose almost totalitarian control over how contact sessions are conducted. Frequently, children look terrified as they try to remember everything they have been told, by social workers or foster carers, that they must not talk about. When families are foreign, they are strictly forbidden to speak to each other in the language normally used at home. […]
Politicians gave social workers the opportunity to abuse their power like this, through the Children Act. It is only, alas, politicians who can end the appalling mess that they thus unwittingly called into being.
Update III (5 November): more from Christopher Booker, in “Why do judges in our family courts ignore the law?” (apparently, it’s because they can):
It is a basic principle of British justice that no one should be sent to prison except in open court, so that [his or her] name can be known and why [he or she has] been jailed. But this has long been one of those basic principles that are routinely ignored in our ultra-secretive family courts. […]
In recent years, I have come across many cases of judges continuing to break the law in this way. In one instance, a father who had already lost his two teenage sons because they were held to be “at risk of emotional abuse” from their mother, from whom he had separated, was before a judge who wanted to order the removal for adoption of his third son, aged four. When the father left the courtroom in disgust, the judge ordered his arrest for contempt.
While he was in custody, his new partner, still at home and fearful that the little boy might also be removed, panicked and took him to a secret destination. The judge summoned the father back to court to ask where they had gone. Since his partner’s flight was on the spur of the moment, the father explained, truthfully, that he had no idea. Refusing to believe him, the judge angrily sentenced him in secret to 12 months. The police tracked down the woman, who was convicted of kidnapping the boy but let off with a caution. The father was released after six months in prison, but given a penal notice forbidding him to have any further contact with his boys, all now in foster care, whom he had brought up and who loved him.
Update IV (11 November): sadly, it never ends, as Christopher Booker reports in “Another couple flee to France only to have their baby taken away”:
Last year I reported the shocking story of Marie Black and Joe Ollis who escaped to France for the birth of their first child, after learning that Norfolk social workers intended to seize it at birth on the grounds that Marie had previously been in a violent relationship with another man, who was by then out of her life. The social workers tracked down the couple and, after baby Luna was born, returned, with the approval of a British judge, to deport the child to England.
Fortunately, the couple had been put in touch with a robust British solicitor, Brendan Fleming, who took their case to the High Court. Here, a more senior judge ruled that, since Luna was born in France and was therefore, under an EU law called Brussels II, “habitually resident” there, the British authorities had no jurisdiction over her. He ordered the social workers to return the baby to her parents in France.
Far from our social workers having learnt any lesson from this case, I have lately been following one which is almost a carbon copy. Another couple fearful that Bedfordshire social workers might seize their first child at birth, again on the grounds that the mother had previously been in an abusive relationship, set off to start a new life in France. A few days ago their baby was born in a French hospital, by caesarean section, and given a French birth certificate. The next day, the mother returned from a shower, covered only in a bath towel, to find her room filled with 10 French policemen and her baby gone.
The policemen were holding a piece of paper indicating that they had been sent by Interpol, at the instigation of the British authorities, to remove the child on the grounds that the mother was a dangerous woman who might harm her baby. The couple were shocked to see that much of the description of her was factually wrong. It was also clear that they could only have been traced by someone hacking into emails they had sent since their arrival in France.
See also an American case, “Child Spends Five Years in Foster Care Because Mom ‘Belligerent’ toward Child Protective Workers”, by Roger Franklin:
It’s the bureaucratic mindset at work. In this case we see a two-year-old boy taken from his mother’s care for no apparent reason. Her anger about that then becomes cause to terminate her parental rights and whisk the child into either permanent foster care or adoption (Seattle Times, 20/10/13).
Back in the days of the Viet Nam war, there was a saying among those who opposed the U.S.’s involvement – “If you’re not angry, you’re just not paying attention.” Well, from the looks of the case reported in the Seattle Times, the mother, who’s identified only as B.R., was paying attention all too well.
It seems B.R. was cooking in her kitchen one day in 2008. She was working near hot a hot surface and had her hands full, so she handed her son, who was not quite two, to an uncle to care for. The said uncle was soon spied by a neighbour dangling the child by one leg from a balcony. Soon enough, B.R. recovered the child from his uncle and went inside. Nevertheless, the neighbour apparently reported the matter to the local Department of Social and Health Services, i.e. the child welfare agency.
For reasons we can only guess at, the DSHS took the child from B.R. and into foster care. That was five years ago, and he’s been there ever since, because the DSHS has been attempting to terminate B.R.’s parental rights. Why? Well, it’s not because she hasn’t done everything they’ve required of her, and apparently it has nothing to do with her parenting abilities or her bond with her son.
No, DSHS has spent five years trying to wrest a child from a mother’s care because B.R. behaved in an angry fashion toward DSHS personnel. Imagine that! Imagine a loving parent becoming angry with child welfare caseworkers who were only trying to permanently shanghai her son away from her and into foster care! The nerve of that woman! […]
If we want to look reasonably at this woman, it’s not hard to see that she, like most other parents, was absolutely terrified of the power of DSHS. And yes, she probably did adopt ways of dealing with her fear and anger that might not be the most conducive to mollifying the bureaucrats who are used to having parents roll over and play dead when DSHS comes calling. B.R. sounds like that rarest of birds, a parent who believes she has parental rights and the state can’t do anything it wants to just because.
So they taught her a lesson. They showed her just how they can make a parent pay, not for being a bad parent (there’s no evidence that B.R. is that), but for asserting her parental rights in an insufficiently subservient manner. […]
B. R. does not have a mental illness. What she has is a perfectly healthy and normal response to the outrageous abuse of power we see every day by child welfare personnel. Hers is a sane response to an insane situation. Yes, she could make it easier on herself if she were to learn the art of concealing her perfectly legitimate anger behind a façade of gentility. She may want to learn how to bow meekly and say “yes sir” and “no ma’am,” and feign respect for the people who have the power to walk into her house any day and walk out with her child.
Update V (24 November): no, it will never end, whilst the current people in charge remain the people in charge, as Christopher Booker reports in “We can send you to jail for objecting to an offence we’ve yet to specify”:
What an odd country we are, prepared to give record sums for the victims of the Philippines disaster […] but oblivious to the scandal whereby thousands of families are torn apart each year for seemingly no good reason by our secret family courts system.
The only public figure who appears to acknowledge that the best way to root out the frightening abuses of that system is to open it up to “the glare of publicity” is the man who is now head of it—Sir James Munby, president of the family courts.
One particular abuse at which his admirable but so far fairly lonely campaign is directed is the “draconian gagging” of parents who feel that they and their children have become victims of “punishment without crime”.
So far, his fellow judges have shown little sign of supporting him. In yet another harrowing case […] two foreign-born parents are so angry at what they see as the unjustified snatching of their five children by social workers that […] they have been using Facebook and YouTube to blazon their case across the internet.
This has so enraged the judge in the case that […] she recently issued unusually tough gagging orders, threatening them with prison not only if they breathe a word about their case to anyone outside the courtroom, but also if they discuss a long list of subjects when they are allowed to meet their children, now living unhappily in foster care, during supervised “contact sessions”.
Not a word can be spoken to the children about any aspect of their “case”, such as plans being made for their adoption. The parents are thus forbidden to speak to the children in their own language.
But what particularly strikes outsiders who have seen the “contact order” is a clause threatening the parents with prison if they “discuss any matter that the contact worker indicates is inappropriate”. As one with some legal experience asks, “Under what law has a judge been authorised to threaten a parent with imprisonment simply because some person, unspecified, may consider that some matter, unspecified, is not ‘appropriate’?”