Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Transparency in the family courts

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Personal experiences of the family court system Sir, I fully share the concern expressed in your leading article (July 7) and by Camilla Cavendish in times2 that the removal of a child from its parents is the most draconian intervention of the State in a familys life and that the decision-making process leading to such removal needs to be extremely carefully scrutinised by the family court. Nor do I on a personal level, as someone who has specialised in the field of child protection for more than 20 years, object to more media reporting of the cases that I am involved in. Where I disagree, however, is in the suggestion that parents and children involved in these cases wish to be identified so that the so-called conspiracy of silence between the family courts and social services is broken. In my experience, the vast majority of parents in these cases, for cogent reasons, do not want their identity made public. These cases involve extremely personal information. Clients of mine last year, parents of a child who had been severely injured in their care, made their position perfectly clear. They preferred to tell all those who lived near them that their child was ill in hospital with a rare disease, rather than admit that he was in foster care, for fear that their flat would be torched by their neighbours if the truth was known. In addition, all the research so far shows that children wish to retain their anonymity in these cases, wish for the details of their cases to remain confidential and for obvious reasons, do not wish their classmates to know that they are in care nor the reasons for that. The position is not as simple as your leader suggests.

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