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Entries in child protection (6)

Monday
Apr112016

Today Programme highlights false allegation case

A separated father accused of physically abusing his children told the Radio 4 Today Programme  on 11th April (approx 1'32" in) about his 18 month ordeal leading up to the case being dropped without explanation on the day of the trial.

He had faced previous false allegations and had presented evidence to the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to demonstrate his innocence. Nevertheless he was charged with cruelty to a child and had the prospect of a trial dominating his life. On the day of the hearing in the Crown Court the CPS dropped the case without any evidence being heard.

Although this example was an English case, FNF Scotland hears from many fathers in Scotland who face similar allegations and spend months with bail conditions preventing them from making any contact with their children. Even when they are acquitted or the case is dropped their relationship with their children can be badly undermined.

We understand that any report of a child being abused has to be taken very seriously but not why such cases should drag on so long.  Children have to be protected from any form of abuse but parents also need protection from false or unfounded allegations.  Giving such cases high priority so that they are concluded in months rather than years should benefit everybody, not least the children involved.

Monday
Aug042014

Work with fathers in order to safeguard children

Mark OsbornResearch by the Fatherhood Institute has highlighted the importance of social work and other shild protection services involving fathers and other men around children, rather than just dealing with mothers.

That’s the key conclusion of an article by their safeguarding programme manager Mark Osborn, published in Child Abuse & Neglect in June 2014, which stresses that ‘serious case review after serious case review highlights…that children are dying in our country when we do not assess and work with fathers and father figures effectively’

Mark's study reviewed the policies and procedures in six English local authorities alongside an audit of recorded practice to establish a structural view of how fathers are engaged and to make recommendations that would enable, and support, improved practices, and potentially address the culture within the organisation.  

Contrasting case studies mentioned in the paper show the need for change.  

In the first case there was an exemplary piece of social work practice to find a young mother who had not been in her child’s life for the previous two years.  The teenage mum had moved to another area of the country and the social worker followed up many leads and old addresses to try to find her.  Being unsuccessful in this, the detective work continued through contacts with a practitioner who worked with a sibling of the young mum.  Finally she was tracked down, contact was made, assessments were carried out, intervention took place, and eventually the young mum came back into the life of her child.  

The next file audited also involved a teenage pregnancy.  In this case the young father was living around the corner from his child and was not in contact with the child but he was expressing concerns for the child’s safety.  There was no record of any assessment, no intervention with him, he was not invited to meetings or conferences and was not included within the core group, but no reasons for these exclusions were recorded.

FNF Scotland hears similar stories from across Scotland from fathers who have been sidelined or ignored by child protection procedures.  We will highlight this study to the authorities responsible for Scotland's "Getting It Right For Every Child" procedures. 

Monday
Nov262012

Research on raw deal for fathers starts up a heated debate

Nick SmithersNick Smithers found himself in the midst of a media storm last Tuesday when his report on how fathers are treated by the Social Work profession caused a front-page headline "Sexism stops fathers from seeing children" in the Herald newspaper.

Nick, who is a father's worker with the family support charity Circle, undertook the research though a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship with Edinburgh University Social Work Department.

He talked to eight fathers about their experiences of child protection processes when their children were placed in foster care or on the child protection register.  These fathers talked about expressing concern for their children who were in the care of partners suffering from drug or alcohol problems.  Some had faced malicious allegations of child abuse and were themselves suffering from domestic violence.

They all felt they hadn't been listened to and had sometims been prevented from seeing their children when they expressed concerns.

One father criticised what he felt is the standard social work approach: “I think if there’s a family breakdown they should get rid of the old school ‘better with the mum’. There should be a meeting where everyone’s involved and look at everything over time then say the kids are better off with X instead of the ‘since the beginning of time kids are better off with their mum.’

The report suggests that training of professionals involved in child protection should be improved  and social workers held to account to ensure that they do not marginalise or fail to include fathers.  It stresses the importance of organisations that will listen to fathers.

The heated debate continues on the letters page of the Herald.  While the headlines may have been a bit over the top, the content of this report certainly deserves to be debated fully.

Wednesday
Jul182012

New Scottish child protection web site

  The Scottish Government has launched a new national website offering help and support to vulnerable children and families on child protection issues.

The new site includes clear, accessible information on what the public should do if they are concerned for a child's welfare, and will also feature a range of information and links to downloadable materials for children themselves, including cartoons and online games providing child safety tips.

Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell said: "Children only get one childhood and it should be a special time when they are loved and cherished, kept safe from harm and go on to realise their full potential. This valuable new resource will play a significant part in enhancing child protection across Scotland."

Tuesday
Apr172012

How effective is Community Disclosure?

Families Need Fathers Scotland has received queries from a number of members about how to request information about someone new in their child’s life. FNFS reported earlier this year that it is now possible for parents, carers or guardians of children under 18 years old to make a formal request for the disclosure of information about a named person who may have contact with their child if they are concerned that he or she might be a registered child sexual offender through Community Disclosure.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) reported on 30 March 2012 that “[t]he number of applications since the scheme began is 258.  The number of applications which related to registered sex offenders was 64.  A total of 26 disclosures were made and most importantly a total of 55 child concern reports were submitted.   Some 28 applications are currently being considered (decision pending) and a total of 114 intelligence reports were submitted."

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny Macaskill stated Parents and carers have a right to know who has access to their children and the peace of mind that brings.”

At present there is no cost for making an application through the scheme. The concerned parent, carer or guardian does not have to complete a form. The Police complete a form internally. When making an application through the scheme the parent, carer or guardian must supply the Police with as much information as possible about the person they are concerned about. Where possible the applicant should provide the Police with the name, address, date of birth, gender and occupation of the person they concerned about. They should also inform the police of their relationship to person they are concerned about and to the child involved.

For further information see: http://www.acpos.police.uk/keepingchildrensafe/

FNFS would like to hear from anyone who has used this scheme. Did you find the scheme accessible enough? Did you have enough information to make the application? Was information given within the target time of 6 weeks? Did you find the scheme effective? Comments to scotland@fnf.org.uk.