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Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

Lilo & Stitch

I have just taken time out in between briefs to watch Lilo & Stitch whilst feeding the boy his tea. I confess that I had one eye on the tv and one on the tuna sandwiches that were being liberally smeared all over the high chair and his face, and that were threatening to come in my direction, so I may have missed some of the detail. But it still made me cry – just a little bit. But then I am a sap.

Lilo is a Hawaiin orphan being raised by a struggling older sister. She is bullied at school and displaying alarming behavioural problems including violence against her contemporaries. She is odd and sad (she explains to the other girls at school that her home made green doll’s head is oversized because it is full of insects – she is shunned). She is at risk of removal by the oddest ex-CIA social worker / man in black I have ever seen and apparently the sisters are left to fend for themselves with no help or support at all. And then they adopt an odd looking ‘dog’ Stitch, in fact an alien experiment programmed to exhibit destructive tendencies but who longs for a family to belong to. I don’t really understand how the squalid living environment, near death through negligence and demonstrably poor behaviour management techniques are miraculously overcome by the simple concept of ‘family’ (the Hawaiin word is ‘Ohana’ meaning family, and the concept that nobody gets left behind) nor how the house that was blown up by aliens is rebuilt in a mere blink of an eye (although I think that may have been down to some kind of alien wizardry). But somehow it turns out ok and the family lives happily ever after with Lilo and Stitch, big sis and random male friend who is good at surfing who appears towards the end I think just to make it more of a conventional sort of unit. But it was a touching movie with a refreshing glimpse of the sadness and oddness of children who live with fractured families and loss. But at the end of the day although Lilo is a wierd kid, she is still a cartoon and as cute as a button. Not all survivors of difficult home scenarios are quite so appealing. And sometimes someone is left behind.

Gee I should really lighten up….[Sighs….and gets back to work]…

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No, you are absolutely right. We have spent years acquiring expertise, passed up the opportunity to earn three times as much money in any other area of law you care to choose, regularly work into the night reading graphic details about head injuries and abuse and neglect, and spend 50% of our time telling our feckless clients a few home truths and putting up with tears and swearing and storm outs, all because we don’t give a **** about the children. I’m sorry if I sound a little facetious but really! I can’t THINK of a more stupid job to do if you hated children. If I really hated children I’d go and be a teacher or something.

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I do despair sometimes when a children’s guardian can say such a thing to the lawyers in a case. I understand why these things are said, but still. It’s a little insulting and a little upsetting.

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But there is a serious point here. Simply because counsel acting on instructions of their client, say the mother or father in care proceedings, pursues an appeal on fairness grounds which will cause delay in a case where the Guardian is clear in her own mind what the outcome should be – does not demonstrate the callousness to the best interests of the child that the quote might suggest.

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Orphan Movie Upset

You can read an interesting post on Popehat here about the controversy Warner’s marketing of it’s new movie ORPHAN has stirred up. A charming and socially sensitive advertising campaign by the sound of it. But hey, it sells.

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It frustrates me that, whilst care proceedings are sometimes a spur for parents to recognise the significance of their own past experience, personal issues and their pressing need for therapy to enable them to parent better and to lead more productive fulfilled lives, there is often no route through to achieve these goals because of ‘resource issues’. As is so often the way in this field of work a solution is there but nobody will pay.

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Often for a parent in the midst of care proceedings the realisation that they need therapy comes late, too late for the children who are subject to proceedings. But the legal process gives parents access to professional analysis of what has gone wrong with their lives, with their parenting and their relationships generally that might otherwise not have been available to them. And in the course of making recommendations in the context of the case, an expert will often point to the way forward for the parent in the shape of therapy. But whilst many of these damaged parents are still of child bearing age and may want to become parents again, they can do nothing to make the recommendations from the court appointed experts for long term therapy become a reality. Long term psychodynamic psychoanalytic therapy (often what is recommended) is usually completely unavailable on the NHS or at best subject to very long waiting lists (and my point is good in respect of drug rehabilitation too although there community based provision is more widely accessible in one shape or form even if residential rehab is difficult to access). So the opportunity to make the best use of the money spent on expert reports, to seize the moment, take something positive from the sadness of such cases and to prevent a repeat with future siblings is lost. Looking at it from a purely economic point of view this is madness. The cost of repeated care proceedings, and the long term financial burden to the state of supporting a child in care throughout his life must surely outweigh the cost of therapy, even if in many cases the parent will be unable to fully engage.

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It’s not every case by any means where therapy is a viable option – some problems are not susceptible to treatment, and other individuals are not ready to accept help. And of course in many cases therapy is not even the answer to the question. But in cases where an expert in care proceedings recommends therapeutic input and gives a reasonably positive prognosis, particularly where that therapy will increase the parents chance of successfully parenting either existing or future children, there should be an obligation on the Local Authority or the NHS to make that available to the willing parent. Somebody ought to stump up so that parents can be rehabilitated. They are often the product of the care system themselves.

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To be told and to come to terms with the fact that your life and chances of parenting in future will be blighted by your deep rooted psychological and emotional issues is extremely difficult (quite apart from the fact that this realisation is often coupled with the permanent loss of your children). But to be told that there is a way out for the future but you can’t have it because the NHS won’t provide it and you can never afford it must be soul destroying, and probably compounds a parent’s pre-existing difficulties and sense of despair. To be finally ready to make the changes you have needed to make for years, and yet to have that opportunity put before you and snatched away is a cruel thing. If we are serious about child welfare and serious about our responsibilities to help families we need to focus more of our resources on helping people to be better – better people, better parents. We need to prevent the removal of children by helping (if not ‘curing’) the parents.

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I know that simply making therapy available will not magically fix deep rooted issues. There will be a high attrition and failure rate. But this is part of a cross generational cycle of abuse and poor parenting where indiviudals are very often involved in the care system as both child and then – sometimess seemingly almost as day follows night – as parent. The system currently fails both those in need of therapy, and their children who may suffer needlessly as a result of society’s failure to help them become better parents and to break the cycle.

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The judgment of the Court of Appeal in the Webster v Norfolk adoption saga is available here. A very sad case. The judgment is very long, but in essence the Court of Appeal has held that the adoption orders cannot be set aside and there is no purpose in reopening the findings made against Mr and Mrs Webster in 2004 since their youngest child remains living with them.

PS Can somebody tell me if I’m losing my marbles slightly – paragraph 189 of the judgment of Lord Justice Wall contains the word ‘unexceptionable’ which I’m pretty sure is NOT a word. Although the Court of Appeal has many inherent powers I’m not sure that creating new words is one of them…

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…to keep all the snowed-in out there occupied (if you aren’t out hurtling down a hill on a bin lid that is). I don’t have time today to chase up all these items but thought some of you might be interested…

Children’s Society report (Thanks Teech Liz) – from a 2 second look at the Guardian’s related article it’s a report saying how sad life as a child is ‘these days’. Boo.

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House of Lords Judgment in Holmes-Moorhouse v LB Richmond. See Family Lore and Nearly Legal who have beaten me to it. This as I understand it basically says you can’t force a LA to treat both parents as priority need for housing by using a shared residence order as a device. Boo.

The long awaited (and long) Court of Appeal Judgment in A (A Child) concerning overseas adoption. 33 pages. Boo.

These latter two are obviously important as they have landed in my inbox today sent to all FLBA members at the request of The Pres (not Obama, Pres of the Family Division). Now I just need to find time to read them.

For those of you who liked the snowman gag and who think the above is all a bit heavy for a Friday check out today’s newsbiscuit.

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I came across this article in the Telegraph which deals with the decision to place two young siblings for adoption in preference to leaving them with their grandparents in a kinship placement. Although I don’t know any more about this case than I have read in the article I want to offer a few thoughts on it because – as is so often the case with the accounts given in the media of individuals cases – between the lines those with experience of the system can read far more into what is probably going on than might be apparent to the majority of the readers of it. And I’m afraid that the published story seems highly unlikely to me to be the whole story. I’ve posted before about how the limitations on what information can be obtained and published in connection with family cases tends towards skewed or misleading accounts being presented through the media. And of course the primary reason that this story is deemed newsworthy is because it is an account of a case which appears to demonstrate injustice and which it is strongly insinuated is a demonstration of systematic unfairness and political correctness gone crazy. It is quite likely that if fuller information were made available or the law and process more clearly explained in the article it would be much less newsworthy, and may be deflated to no more than the dual elements of the anger / sadness of those who have lost a child of the family to adoption and an objection to the law that permits adoption by gay couples.

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