Jenny was 20 years old when Sam’s father left them. Jenny then asked social services to take Sam as she had “…enough of his crying and tantrums”. Sam was put up for adoption and was adopted by John and Julie before his 2nd birthday. Sam is now 12 years old and a couple of months ago Sam found his estranged birth mother (Jenny) on Facebook. He reported the matter to his adoptive parents who organised a meeting between Sam and his birth-mother. Therefore, about 6 weeks ago Sam met his birth-mother Jenny and her partner Andrew (a successful litigation lawyer).
Since their first meeting Sam has visited Jenny and Andrew for two consecutive Saturday afternoons and then about a month ago he asked his adoptive parents if he could spend Saturday nights with Jenny and Andrew.
Subsequently, John and Julie contacted social services to seek advice regarding the best way forward and, given the previous involvement of social services, the duty social worker answering the call, advised John and Julie that they will be contacted by another member of the team and referred the case for assessment.
The following day the case was assigned to Stephanie, a Newly Qualified Social Worker, who has been in the local authority for the past 3 months. Stephanie trying to impress her manager, immediately requested background checks on Jenny and Andrew. In their response, the police expressed concerns regarding contact but did not disclose any further information. Stephanie called her friend in CAIT (Child Abuse and Investigation Team) who confidentially and unofficially informed her that Andrew is under surveillance for possible paedophilia. However, they do not yet have sufficient information on Andrew.
Stephanie trying to make a good impression in her team and with her manager, advised her manager of her “discovery”.
Stephanie’s manager informed her that she should have sought consent form Jenny and Andrew before performing background checks and recommended that Stephanie attends training on information sharing and child protection procedures. Subsequently, Stephanie has asked for consent for background check from Jenny and Andrew, and although Jenny has granted consent Andrew, on grounds of privacy, has refused to do so. Stephanie has requested that there are no further contacts between Sam, Jenny and Andrew, until social services’ checks are completed.
3 days ago, after a strategy meeting a child protection conference was called to put Sam under a child protection plan. However, today, Jenny and Andrew filed an official complaint against Stephanie and her manager for lack of clarity and “…a highly oppressive practice”. They have stated that they have not been informed of any reason why there is a need for a child protection conference and have emphasised that it is Jenny’s right to have free and unsupervised contact with her Son.
Therefore, considering that:
- The police does not have sufficient evidence to accuse Andrew in any way and therefore, are unwilling to share any information about their highly confidential investigation. Given Andrew’s career profile any such information would be highly damaging for him, and the police will surely be held accountable for not being able to produce appropriate/valid evidence.
- Aside from Sam’s adoption about 11 year ago, neither Jenny nor Andrew have any history with social services and there are no bars on contact between Jenny and her son.
- Sam is very distressed by all this and has become quite bitter as he cannot understand why he is not allowed to see his birth-mother.
- Jenny and Andrew have placed official complaint against Stephanie and have asked the local authority to clarify the reason for escalating the case to child protection. They state that such escalation is without justifiable cause and is an intimidatory and oppressive tactic. They have stated that “…in the absence of appropriate intervention by the local authority to stop such intimidatory tactics…” they are ready to file charges against the local authority, seeking an exemplar punishment “…in order to deter other social workers and local authorities from such oppressive practices.”
You are the local authority’s child protection advisor, and therefore, the local authority is seeking your advise as to the best way forward?
Join @SWSCmedia debate on Sunday (10-June-2012) at 6:00 PM UK. / 1:00 PM (New York) & share your views.