The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme has investigated child-snatching by social services.
In a landmark edition of Panorama screened last night (13/01/2014) entitled ‘I want my baby back’, a number of cases of horrific injustice were revealed.
The programme is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for a year and is required – and sobering – viewing for anyone interested in families and justice in the United Kingdom.
According to the write-up: ‘Panorama reporter John Sweeney investigates the secretive world of the family courts and asks whether some parents may have unfairly lost their children forever’.
Presenter Sweeney traveled to Spain to interview one mother who fled the country after her elder daughter was taken and ‘freed’ for adoption in the secret family courts.
Like other parents in the film, and many others whose stories were not told, her child was taken after X-rays showed multiple bone fractures, leading to accusations that she or her partner had physically abused the infant.
But new evidence is linking fragile bones with vitamin D deficiency. In the landmark case of baby Jayden Wray, his death from multiple fractures led to his parents being charged with murder and having their surviving child taken ‘into care’.
But a post-mortem carried out by paediatric pathologist Dr Irene Scheimberg, interviewed for Panorama by John Sweeney, revealed that Jayden’s bones were so brittle they snapped in her fingers.
All charges were dropped by the police, and a judge ruled that Jayden’s bereaved parents should have their other child returned.
Some very uncomfortable details emerged during the Panorama programme.
Firstly, parents like those of Jayden Wray who protest their innocence are looked upon as uncooperative and ‘in denial’ by social workers, value-judgments which lessen their chances of being re-united with their child. However, if they admit any kind of guilt, they won’t have their baby returned anyway.
Secondly, the programme revealed something of the merry-go-round of medical experts who are paid to present evidence on behalf of social services departments in the family courts. Thousands of pounds are paid out for preparing evidence and presenting it at a hearing. The experts find themselves depending on social services for a considerable income which they know will only continue if they present evidence which supports the position of social services, which appears always to hang on to a child until the bitter end.
One qualified expert radiographer even told a court that cases of vitamin D deficiency were unknown in white children of Caucasian parents, something which is blatantly untrue.
What the programme did not investigate was the huge sums paid to social services and adoption agencies in the event of a successful adoption. This successor to targets, which also had financial rewards for being met, mean that a single baby is worth £27,000 in adoption grants to somebody.
That might explain why children’s charities always seem so keen on the present system and, put with panic over cases like that of ‘Baby Peter’ why SS departments are so eager to take children ‘into care’.
There are so many children in care now that a scheme to speed up the adoption process has recently been trialled. This, according to the Guardian, has left parents reporting being ‘bulldozed’.
The only bit of possible good news is that Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said in November last year that parents of children taken into care should no longer be gagged by the courts and journalists should be allowed to report on proceedings. Only the death penalty is more drastic than removing a child, he has said.
But opening up the family courts is not going to happen any time soon, and until it does, what John Hemming MP described last night to Mr Sweeney as ‘a tsunami of injustice’ will continue in the secret family courts with their retinue of tame experts and their backdrop of adoption payments.