Friday, March 30, 2012
The 'experts' who break up families: The terrifying story of the prospective MP branded an unfit mother by experts who'd never met her - a nightmare shared by many other British families
Dark deeds thrive amid official secrecy
A little over a year ago, Lucy Allan led what most people would regard as an eminently respectable life. The middle-class mother, a Tory councillor, was happily married to her stockbroker husband, Robin, and doted on their ten-year-old son, who loved going to school and was a passionate cricketer.
Indeed, such was Mrs Allan’s standing in the community that this accountant and former investment banker was on David Cameron’s A-list of potential MPs and a prospective Conservative candidate at the last election. She devoted her spare time to her council duties. Twice a month, she sat on the local fostering panel, which oversaw the removal of children from their parents and placed them with new families.
It was heart-rending work, as she recalls. ‘At each fostering meeting we were presented with horrifying cases of abusive parents, almost always depicted as “substance abusers”, mentally unstable or “unable to put the needs of their children over their own needs”. ‘Often, this portrayal was supported by an expert report from a psychiatrist, psychologist or medical doctor,’ says Lucy.
‘It never occured to me, or any member of the panel, that the information we were presented with might be a distorted, twisted fiction — or that the reports were anything other than independent.’
Now, her view has changed. She suspects that many of the damning reports were written by experts who had never met the families in question, to suit the wishes of social workers under pressure from the Government to increase the number of children adopted. As a result of this process, more and more children are being taken into state foster care.
So why has her faith in the system she once facilitated been shattered? Because, thanks to a bewildering chain of events, this eloquent, educated woman found herself under attack from social workers and fighting to stop her own son being taken into care.
Hers is a Kafkaesque story involving family experts who passed judgment on her fitness as a mother without, in some cases, even meeting her.
Lucy’s story is particularly disturbing in the light of a report released this month which found that decisions about the futures of thousands of children are being based on flawed evidence from well-paid ‘experts’, some of whom are unqualified and, time and again, never meet the families concerned.
The damning study by Professor Jane Ireland, a forensic psychologist, examined more than 127 expert witness reports used in family court cases in three areas of England. She found that 90 per cent were produced by clinicians who no longer practise, but instead earn their living entirely as ‘professional expert witnesses’ paid for by council social work departments. Sixty-five per cent of the reports were poorly or very poorly carried out.
This has led to accusations from MPs, lawyers and families that many of the experts are on a gravy train — ‘hired guns’ paid to write precisely what social workers want to read.
This month the Mail reported how just such an accusation has been levelled against one leading psychiatrist, Dr George Hibbert — who faces allegations that he deliberately misdiagnosed parents as having mental disorders, which led to them having their children taken by social services.
John Hemming, a Lib Dem MP who is calling for a national inquiry into the use of expert testimonies in family court hearings, says this dubious system has resulted in families being torn apart and hundreds of children being wrongly taken for adoption from innocent parents.
It is a scenario Lucy Allan feared could happen with her own son. Her nightmare began last March when, aged 46, and having begun to feel depressed for no apparent reason, she decided to go to see a doctor. ‘I am close to my son, so I was worried that he knew I was feeling sad. I went to my local GP surgery expecting to be given a course of anti-depressants and then feel better,’ she recalls.
She was seen by a young female locum, who listened to what Lucy had to say, and then told her she wanted to refer her to social services to ‘see if the family needed support’.
The locum turned to Dr Peter Green, a consultant forensic physician and head of child safeguarding in Wandsworth, South London, where Lucy lives. A flamboyant figure with flowing grey hair and a penchant for bow ties, he has written thousands of reports for the family courts.
According to documents seen by the Allan family, Dr Green told the locum his view was that Lucy was ‘very self-centred’ — this despite the fact he had never set eyes on Lucy or spoken to her.
(When she later complained about the conclusions he had drawn without even having seen her, the doctor is alleged to have told her he had relied on a ‘gut feel’).
To Lucy’s horror, following Dr Green’s assessment, the locum informed social services that Lucy’s son was at significant risk of harm from his mother.
Thus it was that a woman whose job it had been to make decisions on the fostering panel about which children should be removed from their families suddenly found herself under the most intense scrutiny. ‘Instead of reading reports on another mother’s “emotionally abused” child or her “chaotic” home life, I was reading the same accusations in reports about me and my family,’ she says.
Social services insisted they interview her son, but as the inquiry unfolded, the evidence from his teachers suggested he was happy and thriving. An independent report from a NHS psychiatrist also said Lucy was ‘no risk to anyone, including her son’.
But social services hired their own psychiatrist from the Priory Hospital in Roehampton, south-west London — at taxpayers’ expense naturally.
Without meeting Lucy or her son, and based only on information provided by social services, the private psychiatrist stated in an ‘expert’ report that there was an ‘urgent need’ for the assessment and treatment of Lucy. The psychiatrist added that there was ‘no way’ her depression would not have a ‘significant impact on her parenting’.
As the investigation dragged on, Lucy underwent a series of interviews by social services and by experts paid by them to examine her and her family. Many of their subsequent reports, says Lucy, were inaccurate, biased and took her family’s words out of context.
For example, her son had mentioned that when he got off the school bus, he always asked Lucy how she was, but this was described in one report as: ‘Her son demonstrates inappropriate anxiety for the wellbeing of his mother on a daily basis.’
When Lucy admitted taking sleeping pills for insomnia and diazepam for anxiety, another report on her said such ‘drug abuse would make her barely conscious on a daily basis’.
Her confession of sharing a bottle of wine with husband Robin most nights was written up as ‘alcohol abuse’, and the risk of Lucy harming her son was deemed to be ‘substantiated’.
All this begs the question of how often such judgments are passed down by ‘experts’ and social workers on those less well equipped than Lucy to defend themselves.
She has spent the past year trying to clear her name, paid out £10,000 on legal fees and has had to pull herself off the A-list of David Cameron’s potential Tory candidates, quit as a school governor, and, of course, resign from the fostering panel.
‘I am now ineligible for the Criminal Record Bureau check required for working with children or young people,’ she says sadly. Her son’s social services records state that she was once considered a ‘risk’ to him, and it will remain on his file till he is 18.
Finally, at Christmas, the council’s social services said officially no action was required concerning Lucy. She is trying to rebuild her life with the help of husband Robin — who, incredibly, was never interviewed by social services — but still fears she could come under scrutiny again.
‘The system is designed to silence people,’ she says. ‘I have been prescribed anti-depressants and I am better. But at the back of my mind is the fear that if I complain too loudly about the child protection system they will be back at my door.’
No doubt she would agree with Nigel Priestley, a lawyer involved in family law, who said recently: ‘Just about the most draconian act the state can carry out is to remove a family’s child. What is at stake is the loss of their children, and on the basis of a report which might, or might not be, questionable.’
Those who write these reports — often psychologists or psychiatrists, but also medical doctors and consultants — do not face the glare of public scrutiny precisely because of the secrecy of the family court system. Lucy can describe her ordeal only because her case never got as far as those closed courts — no parent who appears at one of these hearings, which operate in every town and city in the land, is allowed to speak to anyone later about what has happened there, even to their own MP.
Every year, 200 mothers or fathers are jailed for ‘contempt of court’ for breaking this silence — while the same family courts request the removal of 225 children each week, 97 per cent of whom are never returned to their families.
Now, there are demands for an American-style ‘class’ legal action against the Government by parents who have had dubious or even bogus reports written about them. Paul Grant, a legal adviser at Bernard Chill & Axtell Solicitors in Southampton, says devastated parents have contacted him after his firm took on the case of a mother, known only as Miss A, who claims she was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder by psychiatrist Dr George Hibbert because social workers wanted her baby adopted.
The Mail has been contacted by scores of parents who believe they have been mistreated on the word of these ‘experts’. We have been told by lawyers about clinicians charging £1,800 a day to appear at family courts, on top of the thousands of pounds a time they receive for writing the reports, which often contain lies, ambiguities and insinuations.
One mother said she had her children taken away because an ‘expert’ said she ‘liked shopping’; another was criticised as mentally unfit for ‘burning the toast’, and lost her child, too.
In another case, an expert was paid handsomely to write a report based on the observations of a social worker who said a five-year-old girl was ‘monosyllabic’. Yet we are told a secret tape recording of the social worker’s interview showed the child chatting away about school, her family and her home. The little girl has since been removed from her mother.
We have also been told about a gregarious 47-year-old business adviser in the north of England who had to fight to keep her five-year-old daughter after being labelled a ‘totally isolated schizoid’ by a psychologist, who we understand is trained only to treat children, and should never have been involved in the analysis of adult behaviour.
The psychologist in question (who writes up to 100 expert reports a year) charged £6,000 for his written opinion on the mother, her husband and child. Yet the mother says she was given no chance to deny the ‘schizoid’ report — and kept her girl by the skin of her teeth only after the child’s nanny vouched for her parenting skills.
In another extraordinary case, after a woman was found by a psychologist to be a ‘competent mother’, the social workers are said to have insisted on commissioning a second expert’s report. It agreed with the first. They then commissioned a third, which finally found that the mother had a ‘borderline personality disorder’. All three of her children were taken away for adoption.
So how have such apparent travesties been allowed to go on virtually unchecked in child protection?
No other country in Western Europe removes so many children from their parents. The numbers taken into care — the first step towards adoption — have doubled in a decade to more than 10,000 a year. The last Labour government set adoption targets and rewarded local councils with hundreds of thousands of pounds if they reached them.
The targets have been scrapped after protests from MPs and lawyers, but the dangerous legacy persists. Social workers now get praise and promotion if they raise adoption numbers. David Cameron is also demanding more adoptions — and that they are fast-tracked.
It is the 1989 Children Act — which introduced a blanket secrecy in the family courts — that is the real culprit. It encouraged a lack of public scrutiny in the child protection system and what MP John Hemming calls the ‘twaddle and psychobabble’ peddled there, which has caused dreadful miscarriages of justice.
Ian Joseph, who has written a book on forced adoption, told me this week: ‘It’s time the criminal rules of justice applied in the family courts. We need parents to be considered innocent until proven guilty and also be free to talk about what is happening in those courts without being thrown into jail.’
Until that happens, hundreds more children may be seized from their families on the word of experts — many of whom are either not qualified or are receiving huge sums of money to play God.
The NYT as a mouthpiece for Muslim terrorism
Shares in The New York Times Company have slid from $US25 to $US6.89 (S6.60) during the past four years. The company has stopped making money. Its flagship newspaper has also stopped making sense when confronted with realities that do not accord with its ingrained world view.
On March 20, after Europe was rocked by a string of murders in France, The New York Times ran a prominent story which inferred the killings were a byproduct of anti-immigrant sentiment: "The political debate around the shootings, and whether the deaths were somehow inspired by anti-immigrant talk, is likely to continue - both as a weapon in the presidential campaign and as a more general soul-searching about the nature of France . . . In a period of economic anxiety, high unemployment and concerns about the war in Afghanistan and radical Islam, the far right in Europe has made considerable gains."
For the Times, the greatest threat to social cohesion in France is the far right, not the demographic challenge presented by an increasingly disaffected, de-assimilating, rapidly growing minority of 5 million Muslims.
Even after it was revealed that the killer was a Muslim who supported al-Qaeda, progressives went into overdrive to dissociate the violence from Islam. The most egregious example appeared on the ABC website, by Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic studies at Oxford. He set new lows in rationalising bigotry:
"Twenty-three-year-old Mohamed Merah was a familiar face within and beyond his neighbourhood. People describe him as quiet, easy-going, nothing at all like an 'extremist jihadi Salafist' ready to kill for a religious or political cause . . .
"Religion was not Mohammed Merah's problem; nor is politics. A French citizen frustrated at being unable to find his place, to give his life dignity and meaning in his own country, he would find two political causes through which he could articulate his distress: Afghanistan and Palestine. He attacks symbols like the army, and kills Jews, Christians and Muslims without distinction. His political thought is that of a young man adrift, imbued neither with the values of Islam, or driven by racism and anti-Semitism."
What a load of reprehensible drivel.
Mohammed Merah did not kill without distinction. He was highly specific. He wanted to kill Muslim soldiers in the French army. He wanted to kill Jews. His killings were premeditated. He filmed the murders as he did them, a tactic frequently used and advocated by al-Qaeda. He had a history of crime and a collection of weapons. He told police he had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to train as a jihad fighter. He had been on a watch list of Muslim extremists, one reason the police found him quite quickly. When they approached he opened fire.
His film of the shootings was mailed to the al-Jazeera TV network for dissemination. The footage depicted all seven murders, taken with a camera slung from the gunman's neck. The film had been dubbed with verses from the Koran invoking jihad and the greatness of Islam.
Merah's mother is married to the father of Sabri Essid, a member of an underground network that recruited fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was convicted on terrorism charges in France in 2009. Merah's brother, Abdelkader, was also investigated but not charged. He has now been charged with complicity in the seven murders by his brother.
The more we learn about this story, the more sinister it becomes.
During Merah's time in prison he studied the Koran. The French prison system has become a fertile recruitment ground for radical Islam. Merah had also formed a connection with Forsane Alizza, Arabic for "knights of honour", which had 2000 followers on Facebook before it was banned in January by the French Interior Ministry for inciting racial hatred.
Forsane Alizza is one of several linked groups in Europe, notably Shariah4UK and Sharia4Belgium, with others in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia. According to the Pew Research Centre in the US, about 100 million Muslims express support for al-Qaeda and thousands are in Europe.
In contrast, support for race war among the far right in Europe is minuscule. The killing rampage by a far-right gunman in Norway last year revealed no connections to a wider movement.
The primary objective of Forsane Alizza, according to its website, is to "support the mujahideen everywhere". The group disavows democracy. It agitates for sharia in Europe. Its principal targets are the French military, especially Muslims in the military, and Jews. These are exactly the targets Mohammed Merah selected. But Professor Ramadan portrayed him as a frustrated, adrift, distressed, non-racist, non-political, non-religious Frenchman. A murderer of children becomes a victim.
Speaking of rationalisations for bigotry, tonight a debate will be held at the University of Sydney featuring a speaker from Hizb ut-Tahrir. The group is banned in many countries for advocating jihad.
Playing the Race Card Again
"White Hispanic." That's how the New York Times, Reuters and other media outlets have opted to describe George Zimmerman, a man who would simply be Hispanic if he hadn't shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The term, rarely if ever used before this tragedy, is necessary in telling the Martin story in a more comfortable way.
What's the comfortable way? It's the way the blame for Martin's death belongs squarely at the feet of "the system." And "the system" is a white thing, don't you know.
For instance, in a remarkably uncritical interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Rev. Jesse Jackson explained that with the election of President Obama, "there was this feeling that we were kind of beyond racism." He continued: "That's not true. His victory has triggered tremendous backlash." Indeed, "Blacks are under attack."
Jackson apparently includes in this racist Obama "backlash" record home foreclosures for African Americans and black unemployment. It would have been nice if the L.A. Times had asked Jackson to work a little harder to connect those dots.
Jackson also laments that "targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business" in America.
On the saner end of the liberal spectrum, Reniqua Allen of the New America Foundation writes in the Washington Post that it's harder to talk about race now that we have a black president (note: not a "white African American president," a la the new Zimmerman standard, although both men have a white parent).
Allen is surely right that having a black president makes it hard to talk about race, particularly if you want to have the hackneyed monologue that hustlers such as Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton want to have. Weak-tea Marxist rants about a system that parasitically feeds off black men sound absurdly antiquated when that system is run, at the top, by black men (Eric Holder, let's not forget, runs the Justice Department).
But the aging race industry that continues to see the world through a half-century-old prism of Jim Crow, and still wants you to see it that way, too, is determined to bum-rush Zimmerman into his assigned role, heedless of facts or the lack of them.
Meanwhile, Obama, who promised a new conversation on race, seems happier in an election year to lend heft to the old one. He called for soul-searching -- but absent a full set of facts, why does this homicide of all U.S. homicides require it? Obama's comments mostly seem aimed at adding credence to liberal conventional wisdom.
Zimmerman may well deserve to go to jail. Or this may just be a confluence of horrible mistakes with no criminal intent whatsoever. That's what a Justice Department probe and a Florida grand jury will determine. But for the forces demanding action, that isn't good enough. Jackson, as is his wont, threatens there will be "no peace" until Zimmerman is arrested.
Others are not so patient. The New Black Panther Party has put a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman's head. "He should be fearful for his life," leader Mikhail Muhammad said. "You can't keep killing black children." Spike Lee joined the digital lynch mob and tweeted Zimmerman's home address.
Yes, absolutely, there are pockets of racism in America. But among the myriad problems with a "blame the system" narrative is that it obscures and often silences far greater problems than white-on-black racist violence.
Martin's tragic death is a statistical outlier. More whites are killed by blacks than blacks killed by whites (or "white Hispanics"). And far, far more blacks are killed by other blacks. Indeed, if we're going to use the prism of race to analyze murder rates, then the real epidemic is that of black murderers. Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute notes that recent data show black males age 14 to 24 commit homicides at a rate nearly 10 times higher than that of young white and Latino males combined. Surely that's worthy of some soul-searching, too.
And yet, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow says "the burden of black boys in America" is fear of racist assaults. MSNBC has handed over vast swaths of airtime to its in-house huckster, Sharpton.
No doubt, white -- and "white Hispanic" -- prejudice is a problem for young black men, but the notion that it is the singular or chief "burden of black boys in America" is nonsense. Alas, the very people begging for an honest conversation on race will likely accuse you of racism for saying so.
SOURCE. More on the Zimmerman affair on GUN WATCH
Talking out of their vaginas
Eve Ensler wrote a play called the Vagina Monologues and, following this, helped begin the V-Day Movement to end violence against women and girls. She came to Australia last month to deliver the annual Australian Human Rights Centre lecture in Sydney.
The ABC interviewed Ensler on its news analysis program, Lateline (Ensler, We don't own our bodies: Ensler, 2012). The ABC describes this program as ".a provocative, challenging and intelligent window on today's world." They continue to say, "Lateline engages the foremost experts or commentators. to bring you penetrating insights from a range of perspectives (ABC, 2012)."
The foremost expert or commentator who interviewed Ensler was Emma Alberici, who has some twenty years experience in journalism.
This, dear reader, is what passes for "an intelligent window" in Australia today.
Alberici begins the interview with a general question about her play. Ensler opens up with how "everyone" was scandalised with the word "vagina" in the 1990s. She claims that "you could say `Scud Missile' on the front pages." but, apparently "if you said vagina the whole world went crazy. "
The next part is worth quoting verbatim:
"And I think part of the reason of doing the play was that so many women I had interviewed had not only, not said the word vagina, they never saw their vaginas, they didn't know what they looked like, they didn't know how their vaginas functioned, they didn't know what gave them pleasure. They didn't even know their vaginas were their own."
In the 1970s I attended college in Scotland. In my class, a Computer Science course, the gender mix was 50/50. Every single woman on that course knew the word vagina, and a whole lot of other words for the vagina. Twenty years later, when Ensler wrote her play, and the word vagina has mysteriously vanished from the western woman's vocabulary?
I'm glad that Ensler points out that they had never seen their vaginas. I immediately became aware that I have never seen my own anus.
The real question, of course, is: so f*cking what?
To what level should a woman understand how her vagina functions? For example, should she be able to discuss in detail what part Bartholin's glands play?
And why? Does Ensler know how her thyroid glands work? Does she understand how wax gets in the outer ear? As long as she knows which end to stick over the toilet, where to put the tampon, etc. does it really matter?
Ensler's final statement, that women ".didn't even know their vaginas were their own," is feminism at its finest. Alberici doesn't ask "Who did they think their vaginas belonged to?" Or, "Were they just renting them?" Or "If I kicked them in the vagina, who did they think would feel it?"
Ensler tries to paint herself as the radical who is not afraid to break taboos. And to do this she will use any word she chooses, no matter how upset the establishment gets. The fact is that when the play was written and first performed in the nineties, the word "vagina" was seen as a proper and polite term to describe female genitalia. You could have "The Vagina Monologues" on a bill board and in neon lights. It may have been titillating, perhaps, even risqu‚, but certainly short of scandalous in Western society in the nineties.
Ensler informs us that in China the play was banned because the Chinese only had vulgar and derogatory words for vagina.
Speaking of scandalous and vulgar words, the Vagina Monologues uses the word "cunt" 30 times. Now that word, all by itself, ensures an "Adults Only" rating in Australia. You can say it in a play with that rating, but you won't be having "The Cunt Monologues" in neon on Main Street.
But Alberici doesn't ask if it was the translation of "vagina" or "cunt" that caused the Chinese such problems.
In fact, the Shanghai Drama Centre was told by the Chinese authorities who banned the play that ".it does not fit with China's national situation (USA Today, 2004)." Did Alberici ask Ensler if she was surprised that a Western play written by a "Human Rights Activist" was banned in China in 2004? No, she just lets Ensler give us the sacred babble.
There are two serious aspects about her play that Alberici should have raised with Ensler, particularly given the "Human Rights Activist" tag.
The first is a section of the play which deals with the seduction of a girl by woman, which involves the woman giving the child alcohol as part of the seduction. In one version of the script I found the girl is sixteen (Ensler, Vagina Monolgues Script - The Dialogue, 1996). However, there have been reports of other versions of the script where the child was aged as young as thirteen (Swope, 2006).
In January this year a 29 year old female teacher was found guilty of the crime of having sex with a sixteen year old female student in Melbourne, Australia (Lowe, 2012). Also, note that the legal age for drinking alcohol in Australia is eighteen. In other words, Ensler's play is describing an act that is illegal in Australia, as well as immoral anywhere.
Ensler's monologue describes the seduction from the point of view of the child. It concludes:
"You know, I realized later, she was my surprising, unexpected, politically incorrect salvation. She transformed my sorry-ass coochie snorcher [vagina] and raised it up into a kind of heaven."
In other words, this manipulation into a sexual act was good for the child.
This blas‚ attitude is also seen in another monologue in the play, where Ensler's heroine dominates women during sex. The dialogue explains:
"Sometimes I used force, but not violent, oppressing force, no. More like dominating, `I'm gonna take you someplace, why don't you lay back, enjoy the ride' kind of force."
So clearly, according to Ensler, domination and child sex abuse are alright when done in a feminist context. When men rape its rape, when women rape it's "salvation," so "lie back and enjoy the ride".
Alberici does not ask one thing about this. How's that for "a range of perspectives"? That's the "let's ignore it completely" perspective.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.