ABSENT PARENTS NEED BETTER
There are many reasons why parents and their children are living apart. It could be because there are family proceedings in the courts and the children are taken in to the care system whilst the decisions about their future with the birth parents is decided. During these difficult times parents are expected to attend for contact with their children as, where and when, the social workers decide. Quite often the venues chosen are inaccessible. I have worked on cases where contact is organised to take place in a remote social work office well away from public transport routes. I’ve witnessed parents turning up fifteen minutes late to be told by a family aid, that contact has now been suspended because they have not shown ‘proper commitment’. Rarely is contact supervised by qualified social work professionals. The work of contact is seen as a secondary issue and more of an inconvenience for the professionals than the very important piece of work that should be used to help the family as a whole and underpin the child’s future knowledge of its family.
David and his wife Kim have twin sons. The boys were removed from the parents at four months for unexplained injuries. No contact was arranged and the parents instructed lawyers to fight the local authority for contact. Eventually it was agreed that Dad could have 3 hrs of contact once a month supervised by the social services and, as the children were placed with Mum’s parents awaiting the court outcome as to where the children could be safely placed, she could have weekly contact supervised by her parents.
For ten months Dad’s 3 hours of contact was supervised by eight different, unqualified, family support workers in a 12x12 social work office store room with few toys and poor changing facilities.
I’d like to say that this story is not the norm, but in my experience it certainly is.