10 Dec 2013

A couple’s fight to look after their granddaughter

“In the beginning when we first approached a solicitor to try and have something in writing that we would still be allowed to see our granddaughter I don’t think we looked at the possibility that there weren’t grandparents rights. ”

But Katrina and Lee Parker, from Colchester, Essex, soon discovered that they did not have the automatic right to take over their care of their granddaughter after social services removed her from her mother.

It was a saga that began back in February 2012 and did not resolve itself until August this year.

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At one point the Parkers were within two days of losing their granddaughter India forever. She was to be adopted and a family was waiting to take her.

That they did eventually win means they can – to a limited extent – now speak to us about the process they went through.

However, there are many elements they cannot discuss and that we are legally obliged not to report because the proceedings took place in a family court.

And there is a certain risk even now of the Parkers talking about their case. They must not refer to anything said in court and they must not refer to any court documents.

Yet they felt they have duty to speak out about what happened to them – about the secrecy of the family courts but also about how they allege were treated as grandparents by social services.

Because, and they are probably right, they do not believe society understand how the system works.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding in society that grandparents somehow have rights,” Katrina Parker said.

The Parkers anger is largely though aimed at Essex Social Services. In February last year, India was taken into care after her mother could no longer look after the baby.

The couple claim they were not told Essex social services had been granted a care order nor, they say, were they told how they could fight to look after her.

What is disturbing about this case is that the Parkers were initially – and wrongly it turns out – excluded from even applying to the family court to take part in the care proceedings and to prevent the adoption.

They were saved by a judge who gave them the right to appeal. We are not allowed to know why the judge granted that appeal.

‘Discredited’

And they have – in their interview with us – accused social services of attempting to discredit them at every turn.

“They said they set up various meetings which we hadn’t attended and when we asked another social worker to look into that what actually happened was that they had set up these meetings which we hadn’t attended and we hadn’t attended them because they hadn’t actually invited us,” Lee Parker told us.

Katrina added: “We were portrayed as people that were very obstructive, very secretive, that we had something to hide, that there was something going on and that we weren’t letting them in.” None of which, she said, was true.

Yet even after the Parkers had won their appeal to take part in the proceedings – to apply to become India’s guardians – it took nearly a year before it was resolved. Indeed, at one point they were told by their barrister there was no hope they would win.

“The barrister came out and said you need to go home and tell your family and your children that it is over, that you have lost,” Mrs Parker said.

Why? We will never know because we are not allowed to see the court documents. Nor do the Parkers know. Indeed, even to this day they do not know what it was that eventually swung it their way.

It is a fact the Parkers have seven children – five of them still home. That may have influenced social services. Who knows?

Special guardian status

I asked them to consider it from Essex Social Services’ perspective. They had a daughter who could not look after her baby and they have a large family.

“It would be negligent not to take into account,” Mrs Parker said. “But not to move on and ask the question, where we capable, would she be happy, that was wrong.”

In August they were finally given special guardian status and they began the process of bringing India home. But that in itself was not simple. She had been living all this time with foster carers who loved her very much. “I felt like I was taking her from them,” Mrs Parker said.

“And there was the adoptive family who had obviously been told to hang on and wait. That she was worth waiting for. The adoption photos were taken well before the proceedings were over.

“You think, they might have missed out on another child because of what they were being told.”

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “This case involved very complex and finely balanced decisions which took account of a range of professional advice. As the case progressed Essex County Council was able to change its position to support these grandparents but at all times the final decision was one to be taken by the courts”

And now they do have India and she is the sweetest and seemingly happiest two-year-old. Mr and Mrs Parker can barely bring themselves to contemplate the idea that that they might have lost her.

Although, at the end of the interview Katrina Parker said that every day she looks at her and takes stock. “I look at her and think how lucky we are, how blessed.”

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29 reader comments

  1. Jane Bennett says:

    You Channel 4, are incredibly irresponsible in publishing this report being; as you inevitably are, utterly ignorant if the facts of this case save as told you by this aggrieved couple. I sincerely hope that this picture is not of the child. I suggest you speak to your lawyers and remove it immediately.

    1. rach wright says:

      jane when u’ve been through this process like I HAVE (as a grandparent who now has grandson under a special guardianship order!!) and really understand that the SS are twisted sick individuals hell bent on destroying families, who will do/say anything to reach their adoption targets !! then you can make a valid comment !!! most people have no idea what SS will do/say until it happens to them !!!!!!!!1 I personally didn’t believe how appallingly they treat family members until it happened to my family !!!!

      1. David James Duxbury says:

        It is now just started happening to my wife and I. The social services have taken my grandson off my daughter for reasons I cannot go into, the social services rang me this week to tell me he was going to be adopted,they said it will be for his own good, (forget what aunties and uncles and grand parents think.) I am now going to see if I can adopt him myself and keep him with a family that loves him. He is coming up for 5 in january and knows there is something not right, how stressfull it must be for him, I wonder if the social services think of that!

      2. Minxy says:

        Apply to the court for an SGO which is a special guardianship order this will entitle you to have the child full time as his main guardian until he is 18 legally or is old enough to ask questions and may want to live with his parents?
        Hope this has helped you, there are plenty of websites which will tell you more about SGO, good luck!

      3. Minxy says:

        Well Done To The Parker’s!!!
        I hope that my parents will be in your position very soon and not take as long as 18mths, what a joke. They do not think of the ‘child’s best interest’ at all, it is all corrupt and secretive. I think the media should be involved in these biased family courts! Essex County Council is all you hear about lately don’t that say something? I don’t know how anyone can work for these and enjoy their job however much they are getting paid, they must be sick in the head and love destroying innocent families…
        Me and my husband took our 4 week old boy into hospital because he had unusual rash/marks appear on his body. The hospital asked how they were caused and because we didn’t know they said they were bruises…they put it down to abuse. He had to stay in overnight and in the morning had to have a skeletal X-ray which showed metaphyseal fractures to his legs and ankle! We were so shocked and didn’t think this was right, we had only took him into hospital because he was generally ill. We were both arrested on the suspicion of GBH and our son was put on a ppo which is a police protection order, we were not allowed to see him. It was only because our son was ill over that weekend whilst in hospital we were allowed to go see him, he was nearly dying he had to be ventilated and transferred to another hospital to be in intensive care unit one to one. It was never confirmed because it’s all a coverup that our son actually had 8/10 symptoms of meningitis/septicaemia! He never came home again, he’s been in foster care ever since, he’s nearly a year now! He was a big baby when he was born weighing 9lb 13lb 42weeks (14days late) 31hr labour, emergency cesarean in the end. I think this was the answer how he got his corner fractures in his legs but again no one will own up to it as it’s all a coverup etc

    2. BB says:

      Jane, society needs to keep lifting the lid.

      In the 80’s there was a flurry of children taken into care under the dubious allegations that their parents were involved in witchcraft. We now know that those allegations were not true. There is also now evidence in the public domain that some of those who were in the positions of authority were linked to pedophile conduct (i.e., using the auspices of child protection to grant paedophiles unquestioned access to the children who they had put in the vulnerable position of being removed from their family and their family ostracised by society). I have been trying to bring attention to show that such abuse IS STILL HAPPENING TODAY; social workers allege the family is somehow defective which then gives them free reign to do as they please. The Parker’s case is not one of those cases but the families I have investigated do report the exact same abusive tactics that the Parker’s report. The public NEEDS to know what is going on! It is not about child protection, it is about social workers protection, and that includes those social workers who are failing the system as well as those who are using the system to sexually abuse children.

      I have provided my email address. There will not be a defamation case against me.

      But neither am I responding to reproach you; I just want the public to sit up and listen and
      not to believe the nonsense social workers feed out.

      Please, keep lifting the lid.

      1. natasha says:

        I need advice as in same situation with my grandaughter but cant get help with legal aid as just over the limit im applying to be a party but do i have to pay the fees on the day as only a few days left till the application needs to be in ive no lawyers but am determined to go it alone any help n advice would be most welcomed regards tash

      2. BB says:

        Natasha, I am not a legal but I suggest you lodge and pay for the application as soon as you can. Keep records of everything and bring this with you to court. Try to keep them on your side but at the same time privately prepare your case with the belief that they may not act honestly. Speak with the school and doctor privately early in the process. Be prepared for allegations of ’emotional abuse’ – they use this when they have nothing else as it is not tangible. Be prepared for the issue of the child being settled and take full advantage of any attachments the child(ren) have with you. Get a solicitor if you possibly can but if not, look into using a ‘McKenzie friend’. Don’t neglect your own health. Good luck!

    3. dave hosford says:

      you must work for the local authority to have such a small mind as a grandfather who a has just spent 18 months going through very similar circumstances i totally agree with the parkers the la do not seem to care about children s welfare but have a hidden agenda they have been un professional /lied/ secretive and totally incompetent and before anyone disputes what i have stated i have documented proof also one of the s/w who was leaving her job begged us to put in complaints to essex l/a so congratulations to channel 4 for having the guts to air this topic and mr and mrs parker well done nb im am more than willing to take this further at the risk of my liberty like the parkers if enough people who have experienced something similar come forward maybe we can make a difference

  2. BB says:

    Solicitors don’t want to go up against social services either. One solicitor, who had been a family friend, told me that their company earns too much from social services that they daren’t take a litigation case against them.

    PS, that attending meetings thing is a usual trick.

  3. BB says:

    It is soo frustrating listening to the Parkers because I know that those are the usual tricks that social services use; calling meetings but not telling the person and then alleging the person didn’t attend, running down the person often on tittle tattle or nonsense but repetitively saying the same thing til it sticks despite that it is not true, holding on to an original thought which is made in snap decisions despite being faced with facts that disprove their perception. But lets not forget, those social workers who are making those decisions are not exactly the brightest crayons in the box!

  4. Anon says:

    It would be interesting to know why the child had to be taken into care in the first place. Media and family all blame social services, the courts, etc but why don’t they look at the family’s failings. Perhaps if they did then it would make sense to them why they have to be excluded from proceedings to protect the ‘real’ victims in these cases and that’s the child.

    Surely a fact to point out is good parents generally produce good children who generally grow up to become good parents. The courts and Social services know that. The media often forget this, but then why let the truth get in the way of a good story hey??

    1. BB says:

      Anon, I have brought many families cases to the attention of the courts and MP’s and can assure you that the common conduct of social workers is nothing whatsoever to do with parenting. Indeed, a main area of work is false allegations that are made in divorce cases.

      However, even in the cases where it is agreed, and all parties are in favour, of a foster placement, we have seen social workers taking it upon themselves to dismantle the placement, against the plans of the courts and the official court appointed ‘Guardian ad Litem’, and remove the child to a completely different living arrangement. This single minded approach by social workers, who hide behind the auspices of child protection, is what desperately needs to be challenged. In that case I refer to about the social worker who removed the child from the foster home against the agreement of the courts and placed the child in a statutory home, let me tell you that that male child was not only raped in the statutory home but LEFT THERE until the Guardian ad Litem brought a Judicial Review. Please note that JR was heard, not away back decades ago, but as recent as March of this year. It is published on the Courts NI webpages if you care to look.

      P.s, despite Judge Treacy being highly critical of the social workers, not one has yet been held to account to the social care council nor to the police.

      People have really got to sit up and listen and understand that social workers are largely unaccountable – and this society is continuing to let them do this.

    2. Sandra Page says:

      “Surely a fact to point out is good parents generally produce good children who generally grow up to become good parents. The courts and Social services know that. The media often forget this, but then why let the truth get in the way of a good story hey??”
      How lucky you are IF you have children they must be perfect??? I know parents that work hard, instilled values and their son or daughter still walked off the beaten path. You are so wrong!!! How good does it make you feel to know it all ?

  5. Tony Laming says:

    The two most important people in my life are my two granddaughters. The thought of not being an influence and part of their lives fills me with dread. I adore them more than life itself, and I bet there are many, many grandparents who feel the same.
    We need to change the law by act of parliament so that grandparents have an automatic say in the children’s upbringing after the parents, and are first in line with perhaps aunts and uncles in being guardians to safeguard their future.
    Full marks to this couple in achieving a victory and being strong and determined to see it to the right conclusion.
    Shame on the authorities that, like so very often, are shrouded in secrecy.

  6. Grandparent Support says:

    This couple are extremely brave in speaking out, I wonder how long this blog remains available though before some legal eagle has it removed.
    One Million grandparents are denied contact in the U.K. alone, I fought for five years through the courts to maintain the relationship with our Grandchild, we used our life savings, and in the end I represented myself with a better outcome than anticipated.
    There are many reasons why this situation happens, bereavement, seperation, divorce and becoming more and more common substance abuse by the parent.
    Let us not become armchair Judges but reconciliators of the future!

  7. Dwayne Richards says:

    This is the same across the whole of the UK. Parents, Grandparents are slowly but systematically broken down so as to paint a picture of an unreliable family who couldn’t possibly provide for the child. The outcome is to be able to convince a judge that adoption is the only outcome, and it works. Every way you turn, you are headed off by social workers it is a well orchestrated method. This is not isolated to one area, so one must ask the question, is this a national strategy and delivered as training.

    1. BB says:

      Yes it is.

      But consider the potential abuse (and yes it DOES happen and HAS been noted by the courts) of such conduct. Problem is, social worker can continue to abuse; there is no adequate system of accountability.

  8. linda cousins says:

    I was one of those who thought something terrible happened to the children for the ss to step in,how wrong was i , what these grandparents told viewers about how the ss work is only a slice of it.These family courts was set up to protect the child and the only ones who seem to be protected is those so called profesionals who are in charge of the system., and have their backs covered under the cloak of confidentiality,how easy the corruption can be hid.

  9. Kinship Carer says:

    What a lovely rosy world Anon lives in, I hope that this situation never arises in your own family. I took on the care of my 2 grandchildren to stop them going into the care system, both my own children were brought up the same way, with the same values and beliefs. One works hard and is saving for her first home, the other took a different path in life, not one of my chosing but one they chose themselves. How dare you insinuate that it is the fault of the parents, at some time you are going to fall from your ivory tower with a resounding bump. Before you judge either myself or other Kinship Carers, I suggest you walk in our shoes, live our lives, and deal with some of the situations we have to deal with. A child who is so damaged by their previous life that they lash out, a child who is afraid to sleep on their own, a child who is scared that you will leave them, and all of this with little or no support from the Authorities, top that off with narrow minded individuals like yourself and add into the mix that a large proportion of Carers are over 50, it is not an easy decision to take on your grandchildren and it isn’t taken lightly, we are vetted the same as a foster carer, the reports and assessments are intrusive and stressful, relationships break down, family dynamics break down, and you are inevitably forced to chose between your child and your grandchild, not an easy decision and not one that is taken lightly by anyone. I find your attitude vile in the extreme. Many famous people have been brought up by Kinship Carers, Barrack Obama being one, many high profile people are Kinship Carers, Bob Geldof for instance. Are you saying that Barrack Obama is less of a person because his grandmother brought him up or that Bob Geldof is not a suitable role model for a child. I would suggest that instead of making snap judgements you actually talk to some Kinship Carers, do some research, not all carers are lower class, many are from highly paid jobs that they have to give up to take on the full time care of the children, anyone can find themselves in my position, so think before you open your mouth and sound off about something you know nothing about,.

  10. Amanda beech says:

    We are going through the same with stafford social services the have lied and so corrupt we have been to many courts we was at RCJ last week because we didn’t have a piece off report he dismissed it we do not have pr that’s why we could not have all the dater I have applied for the EcHR next I will walk if I have to and sell all my goods my granddaughter is my world it discussing how social services do this forced adoption I have a face book group stop social services stealing children for the wrong reasons over 4,200 in group so many people are going through the same it needs to stop its so wrong the money made on are children there is children dieting out there but ss don’t care no one wants damaged children how bad is that

  11. Julia Lang says:

    This is the tip of a gigantic iceberg. The secret family court and the court of protection judges are merely rubber stamping applications from social services and the official solicitor to remove children from their families for no good reason and to detain the disabled and elderly in care homes against theirs and their families will It a multi million pound business for those involved judges, social workers barrister solicitors cafcass officers foster and adoption agencies and foster carers and care home workers The system is completely out of control with families being routinely destroyed and the heartache they suffer is immeasurable. If you haven’t already been affected you soon will be then your views most likely will change and you will wake up to what been going on for years and getting worse by the day. For starters open up the Courts to the media, if theirs nothing to hide then what’s the problem?

  12. Stella Sawyer says:

    Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Parker for having the courage to speak out on a subject that is cloaked in secrecy. Watching the report it is quite clear that the little girl is most definitely in the right place with her grandparents. To the anonymous poster (yes very brave) please don’t judge. You don’t need to know all the facts. They are clearly good parents and you have no right to say otherwise. The little girl looks happy, well cared for and clearly adores her grandparents.

  13. Heather Collins says:

    The first comment from Jane Bennett seems to have missed the point completely in the grandparents were awarded custody and therefore any photographs are entirely lawful . I have assumed that you are a social worker who has read the facts and has jumped to the wrong conclusions.

  14. Dana Raymond says:

    Grandparents have no rights despite some 300,000 looking after their grandchildren. When a child comes under social services radar the grandparents rarely get them. There is the assumption that somehow a stranger is better despite not going through the same kind of assessments as the family members. You have to understand the judge rubber stamps what social services want, carcass are social workers, the panel members are social workers, the experts are career experts for the court and paid by the social workers & no you don’t have a choice of expert and only one is allowed. The local authority barristers are paid by the local authority and the barristers for the family fail to win, they are called professional losers! If you are in any doubt in 2007 only 27 out of 10,000 care orders were rejected. In 2011 it was 22 out of 10,000! Tell me how that can be right? Child protection is the biggest scam with their kangaroo courts removing children from families. It is also one of the biggest money spinners on the country and everyone involved is tainted. Forced Adoption is now being promoted to get the kids offloaded, they don’t care who has them but won’t return them to their family, usually doting grandparents. No, the average person in the street does not have a clue and are in shock when it happens to them. At the rate social workers are taking the children, 1000 a month, it won’t be long until most families are blighted by social workers and the family court. If the average person was aware there would be an outcry. The damage done to the families and the children is immeasurable! This country should hang its head in shame!

  15. L Vernel says:

    As a social work student in my first year this article concerns me, mainly due to the way in which it has been reported. All of our learning and professional guidance is underpinned by the Codes of Practice set out by the Scottish Social Services Council Codes and the British Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. The main goals of the profession are to protect vulnerable adults and children and promote equality. I feel that the without all the facts and perspectives of everyone involved you cannot make judgement on where fault or blame lies. The reporting of this case and other high profile social work cases feeds into the negativity towards social workers in general, making their job more difficult. The media tend to latch on to the fact that the public have a need to attach blame and social workers are often unjustly vilified because of it.

  16. Tony Laming says:

    To L Vernel.
    I think you are missing the point of this discussion.
    Viz: The rights, maternal instincts and feelings of the grandparents are so often ignored and dismissed out of hand. All this under a veil of secrecy.
    Grandparents should have an automatic, LEGAL right to be involved with decision making from the word go, and considered with other close members of family, aunts uncles etc., as suitable for adoption/guardianship favourably.
    Family connections are of prime importance.
    The sooner the Social services understand this basic human need the better.

  17. Arnaud Garnier says:

    I’m so happy for the Parker’s.
    It really demonstrates again that the legal system can be fair in such uncommun situation if you fight like a lion.
    I’m so interested to hear more about the all case.
    Arnaud

  18. L Vernel says:

    Tony,

    Those points were not missed – if it is in the best interest of the child to stay with another family member whether it is the grandparents, aunty, uncle etc then as far as I am being taught that option would be fully explored. The welfare of the child is of the upmost importance in every case and everyone involved in the child’s life should be consulted when making a decision about their future. My point is that we don’t know all the facts and are viewing this case from one perspective. I’m sure everyone can agree that social work is a very complex field – things are never that straight forward. I do not agree that grandparents should have an automatic legal right as it this would assume that all grandparents are fit to care for the child – this would not always be the case. Finally, I would like to say that it is a wonderful outcome for the Parkers and I wish them every happiness.

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