Sunday, 15 May 2016

The EU as it relates to Child Adoption/Care Matters

I reproduce in full below a news post by 'Association of McKenzie Friends' here:

It reports on recent efforts to raise the subject of child care in Britain and elsewhere in the arena of the European Parliament, and particularly concerns over the matter of forced removal of children from their natural parents and subsequent conditions of 'care' or adoption. 

No-one it seems is happy with the way the present system works, or has worked in Britain. It has to be viewed within the context of revelations of widespread institutional abuse over the years, to the extent that we must assume it was the rule, rather than the exception. A hugely expensive and drawn out national enquiry under the direction of a New Zealand judge, has had to be instituted, to look into historic cases of abuse. Sceptics might conclude this is yet another method of 'kick the subject into the long grass', whilst only legal professionals benefit from the public purse.

The police, social services and family courts have huge power to intervene in family matters. Parents may think they have primary responsibility for their children, but increasingly the British State reminds them this is conditional. 

They must send their children to school and may even be fined if they take them on holiday in term time, a decision recently overturned in the Court of Appeal. (See: But more drastically, parents have found themselves outwitted and powerless against the authorities and courts, often for what appear frivoulous or unjustified reasons, to forcably remove their children against their will and preventing access to them, by one or both natural parents. 

Most would agree the state needs to retain these powers to protect children from danger and abuse. The problem is that in too many cases, these extreme conditions have not been met and children, it would appear, have been removed almost at the whim of the local authority. The secrecy that has enveloped the family courts has permitted an almost - no in reality! - a Kafkaesque situation, where parents feel both powerless and unable to understand the justification for the action. Unable to prevent children being snatched away from them; unable to protest or make it known. 

The government approach is here: 'Fast-tracking' children in care into permanent adoption may sound good in theory, but if the original decision was flawed, it runs the risk of making the injustice and pain worse. (See:

It would not be so bad if the record of children 'in care' was good but it hasn't been. By virtually every descriptor - education, health, crime - it has been a disaster. The majority of prison inmates have a history of care. Of course this might equally reflect inadequate families and parenting but either way it suggests the matter has been poorly treated. The increased incidence of family breakdown has unavoidable knock-on effect. Unaccompanied refugee children is a current significant complicating issue.

The fundamental question is whether the way social services, police and courts act, makes everything better or worse? The jury is out on that one.

The 'inequality of arms' in civil proceedings has been highlighted and has resulted in concerned individuals setting up the organisation called 'Association of McKenzie Friends' that seeks to provide help and assistance to parents and children who feel they are being mistreated by the family court proceedings. ('Fathers for Justice' is another reflecting the dissatisfaction of innumerable fathers to the way they have been treated and exclude by family proceedings) Increasingly for various financial and other reasons, parents attempt to represent themselves. They often find themselves up against a phalanx of lawyers, who unlike them are paid for out of the public purse. 

Leading members of this organisation (whose Christian names appear at the foot of the document) have taken it upon themselves to intervene in high-profile cases and to take the matter to Brussels, a report of which is given below. In very typical British fashion, this has not led to accolades from the legal establishment, but rather persecution and prosecution that continues to crawl to a denouement.

Efforts to make the European Parliament aware of the situation continue.  Any effort to improve the position for grieving parents and children affected by a deeply flawed system, must be applauded, even though I have tended to be sceptical as to its outcome.

The EU is a clumsy and inefficient organisation. It has to wrestle with the fact that it is a conflation of 28 countries and 24 'official' languages and many more 'unofficial' ones. It
pretends to be is democratic when it isn't. The representative 'parliament' has effectively no power and few of the general public know what those powers are or how it functions and even fewer know who their MEP is or what they do. The organisation is actually run by ministers from member states and the 'Commissioners' they appoint. Not unrelated to the topic of child care, Leon Brittan of course became European Commissioner for Competition at the European Commission early in 1989 after he resigned his parliamentary seat. It is also essentially corrupt, insofar its accounts have not been signed off for decades! No accountant can be found prepared to sign them off, unable to determine with certainty where the money has gone! 

All in all, it is a compromise that is working towards the unachievable 'United States of Europe'. The compromise and tension comes from pretending to speak for the whole of Europe when constituent states also want to retain their independence and freedom to act. It tries to reconcile this with its philosophy of 'subsidiarity' or devolving every decision or implementation, to the most local level possibility. 

Further it cannot get involved in areas not covered by the various inter-governmental agreements and the 'Directorates General' of the Commission. (See:
For example the 'Social Chapter' that has been a part of the framework since the initial Luxembourg agreement between the 'six', addresses essentially worker rights. It has never as far as I am aware, involved itself in the matter of families in general and child intervention in particular. (See:

Insofar the principals of the Human Rights charter applies and is referred to, this of course is not a child of the EU but the Council of Europe which confusingly is a quite different and separate organisation. The connection is that membership is conditional on adopting it. 

So to summarise, the impact of the EU on adoption matters is bound to be limited, unless in the rather unlikely event the Commission proposes a Directive or Regulations on the subject. Even so the former leaves a great deal of discretion to each nation state. It is likely that it would be limited to cross border issues anyway. 
The involvement of the EU is complicated by the fact that a referendum in Britain may vote to leave. 

So I'm afraid to be realistic, apart from an aspect of public awareness (and how many of the population follow or are informed of EU matters) efforts in this area are unlikely to have a huge or immediate impact on the British Family Courts or Social Services Departments as they relate to children. If we want change, and in my book the case has been made by Hampstead and others, the pressure for change needs to come from within the UK. 

We have the NSPCC committed to protecting children!!! That may be a lever worth applying in the absence of any other organisation with clout. If all else fails maybe a new charity/pressure group is called for.

Release from 'MCKENZIE friends'

MAY 11, 2016 — Dear Supporters, 

First we travelled to Brussels, then we were at the "Children Screaming to be Heard" conference, and then we tried to absorb the Plenary Debate with contributions by 27 MEPs from 18 countries. 

The results are now on - a new blog with a new focus - building on what we've achieved so far. 

To get Brussels II revised PROPERLY, as well as getting it ADHERED to - in SPECIALISED chambers of the family courts across Europe - well, that's a goal worth working towards. 

Hence our letter to EU Commissioner Vera Jourova which finishes with this conclusion: 

After experiences with hundreds of cases and the positive responses by MEPs in general and the PETI and JURI Committees in particular, this is therefore to ask you to concentrate in your revision of Brussels II on:

a. The setting up of specialised chambers in family courts, as suggested in the EU Press Release about the Plenary Debate: 
i. To authorise Social Services to remove children only once parents have been convicted of a crime;
ii. In the spirit of the Resolution passed by Parliament, to distinguish between the parental responsibility of biological parents and the State grasping this undue responsibility for itself;
iii. Furthermore, to take into account the two Council of Europe reports:

• Human Rights and Family Courts written by Christopher Chope MP in 2012:〈=EN 
i. The Parliamentary Assembly is concerned about the functioning of family courts in some member States of the Council of Europe, and especially about cases where children are taken away against the will of their parents and in violation of the right to respect for family life and the principle of a fair trial;
ii. Children ought to be separated from their parents only in very exceptional circumstances, subject to judicial review and in line with the requirements stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989;
iii. The Assembly therefore calls on member States to fully implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

• When is it ok to remove a child from his or her birth parents ? by Olga Borzova (Russia) in 2015, quoting what is standard in the UK but referred to as ‘abusive’ (page 12):〈=2&cat=133 
i. the unwarranted complete severing of family ties;
ii. often in combination with removing children from parental care at birth, 
iii. basing placement decisions on the effluxion of time 
iv. and/or recourse to adoptions without parental consent.

b. Addressing the issue of jurisdiction of Member States over children of other Member States and beyond;
i. In the spirit of safeguarding children’s ‘best interests’, priority therefore needs to be put on preventing Social Services from removing children before legal proceedings even reach the state of interim or permanent placement, let alone forced adoptions;

c. Returning foreign children from Member States of the EU and the Council of Europe to their biological parents. This would include the reversal of placement and adoption orders: 
i. Concerning foreign children whose consulates and embassies were not informed;
ii. Due to listening to UK children ‘screaming to be heard’;
iii. And responding to UK and foreign parents who have not committed any crimes and whose wills were overruled in secret Family Courts and the Court of Protection. 

The full 7-page letter is on this pdf file:

Please make use of the information as 'ammunition', if you need to argue with anybody! 

Until the next steps, 

Belinda and Sabine

PS. The French version of the Debate is on

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