Sunday, 25 June 2017

Always question WHY a young person is in the care system.

For conference report :
In the sessions on fostering, adoption and leaving care, chaired by the Earl of Listowel, the only speaker who even hinted that some of these children and young people shouldn't be in the care system, was the solicitor Naomi Angell (Osborne's) who mentioned several contested cases including a Judicial Review. Solicitor William Bache (G T Stewart) has been involved in a number of family law cases involving misunderstanding and misinformation. It was recently reported by BBC, ITN and elsewhere that his client Carla Andrews was reunited with her daughter after 8 months,  Paul Storey QC has spoken of a final adoption hearing for children thought to be injured by their parents. Storey observed the birth father contorting his fingers in a manner impossible for someone with normal collagen and sought an adjournment for the family to be tested for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Tests proved positive and the children were returned to their birth family. 
Schools are under pressures to increase attendance and reduce spending. The replacement of Statements of Special Educational Need with Education Health & Care Plans and associated directives on "working together", mean that more professional and ancillary workers are operating beyond their sphere of training, knowledge and experience. They are therefore unprepared to identify or recognise such things as Autism Conditions, collagen deficiency problems (e.g. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) or childhood ME/CFS. When parents of a neurologically different or medically compromised child with poor attendance, demand additional resources to support their child in school, they are often viewed with suspicion and hostility. Other services are called in, but well-intended moves towards working together may be having unforeseen negative consequences. Risk assessments can be misinterpreted and lead to section 47 Child Protection proceedings, with nobody stopping to take stock and consider if this is an appropriate course of action. Once negative comments, views and reports are on file, it is difficult for parents to refute these documents which grow in volume and severity. The psychologist Lisa Blakemore-Brown referred to this as being unable to shake off 'the first gossamer breath of suspicion'.
There may be many children in care homes, foster families or who have been adopted, who (with minimal support) could and should have remained with their birth families. I know a family in which the mother was ill when the child was nearing the end of primary school, they needed short term practical help. Instead the child was sent for a psychiatric assessment, which missed the (later diagnosed) Asperger's Syndrome and misinterpreted pocketing chocolate biscuits from the waiting room as a sign of emotional deprivation (rather than poverty and liking chocolate). The mother was assessed whilst recuperating from major surgery; her hormonal upheaval was mistaken for ongoing psychiatric illness. The child was ripped from home, local support and a safe community to be placed with a drug-using father on a rough estate. This was followed by a succession of unsatisfactory out of area foster placements and as a last resort a children's home in which the young person picked up a drug habit. It took the entire time from year 7 to GCSE failure to reunite this family. Care leaver support is ineffective or absent and the loving mother is left wondering where to turn.
I think this example and the ones cited above of young children with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome being removed from their families, demonstrate that any consideration of the care system needs to look in more detail as to why some children and young people enter the care system in the first place.

Jan Loxley Blount TCert., Diploma in Child Development.

Jan Loxley had a pioneering career in children's play, including advising Parliament on 'Latch Key Provision' during 'International Year of the Child'. She came late to motherhood and in 1999 was wrongly accused of fabricating (now diagnosed) symptoms of neurological and physiological difficulties in her children. Their story led to the 17/10/01 House of Lords Debate on False and Misleading Accusations of Child Abuse. Parents Protecting Children UK was formed to serve families with additional educational, medical, physical, neurological, social and emotional needs who, because of professional failure to understand the complexities of their situation, have been caught up in the Child Protection system. Our Facebook community has almost 1500 followers. We work with False Allegations Support Organisation, Parents Against Injustice Network, condition based organisations and family support groups.

Bearing False Witness - personal perspectives.

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness - a personal observation. 

The church group who sent me into a destabilising wave of post traumatic shock, by raising 17 year old matters to deny me membership of a discussion group, are about to discuss the Ten Commandments. Here are the thoughts I would share if I was invited!

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" is the ninth of the Ten Commandments which are widely understood as moral imperatives by legal, Jewish, Catholic and Post- Reformation scholars.

" You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. " Exodus 23:1-2

Whatever the views which officials of St Mary's school and church expressed and reported about our family around the time of the Millennium - it is  apparent that they were mistaken, misled or just plain wrong and that their witness against us was false witness. Our family were wounded and (because of the rumours spread about us) our children were bullied - it is hardly surprising that we were angry and felt betrayed by many in the church community. The now retired Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Rev Peter Wheatley, apologised to our family for believing the headteacher and the acting priest in charge without undertaking his own proper investigations. 

Our children have both graduated with first class honours and are building interesting careers. It is now known that what appeared as symptoms of chronic fatigue in both children were the effects of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome - and that I too have the heritable condition of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It is also known that our family is affected by Autism Spectrum Differences & Difficulties; our son has a confirmed diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. 

Awareness is growing of the overlap between Autism Spectrum Conditions and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It is apparent that families with members on the Autism Spectrum are frequently victims of misunderstanding and false accusations of child abuse. 

Our family story led directly to a House of Lords Debate : Lords Hansard 17 Oct 2001 Column 645 and following. 
Earl Howe rose to call attention to the damage caused to families by false accusations of child abuse; and to move for Papers.... I come now to the second major trigger for false accusations that particularly concerns me, and that is the condition known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy or MSBP.... The danger of such a broad spectrum of behaviour being packaged into a single portmanteau term, is that in the hands of those who are not sufficiently trained or experienced to know better, it is a label that is all too easily applied without due care.

In the wake of the Lords debate and with support which included St Margaret's URC Church, I founded the organisation Parents Protecting Children UK which now has an active core community and a Facebook following of almost 1500. Parents Protecting Children UK has contributed to government and other enquiries, research and conferences. We have supported numerous families with disability and chronic illness who have been wrongfully drawn into child protection matters. Several families have written to thank me for helping them be reunited with their children who, because of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, were in danger of being forced into state care or taken for adoption.

I hope that nobody in the community of St Mary's will ever again bear witness in a situation where they don't have sufficient information or knowledge to understand the situation they are speaking about. 

I hope for no further comments / actions / rumours about our family. Apologies would of course be appreciated. 

" I think we should adopt a maxim in life that everyone we meet is unique, everyone we meet knows something we don't know, is slightly different to us in some ways. Don't see them as a threat, don't see them as the enemy, see them as a source of knowledge, a source of friendship, and a source of inspiration " Jeremy Corbyn Glastonbury 2017

"Nothing about us, without us, is for us." 
("Nihil de nobis, sine nobis")

Jan Loxley Blount, 25/06/2017