Denise Robertson: Family caught up in fight against forced adoption move

Denise Robertson tells of a grandfather's fight to adopt his grandchildren when his daughter became unable to cope

Nearly 4,000 children in England were adopted last year, many of them forced adoptions.

The general perception is that family is always first choice when parents fail but I hear often from grandparents who have to say goodbye to their beloved grandchildren. One grandfather was not willing to be cast aside.

His daughter became temporarily unable to care for her children so her parents stepped in.

Social Services had other ideas and demanded that the grandparents have a psychological assessment.

The grandfather said: “If we thought we would have a fair and reasonable assessment then we were to be sorely disappointed.

“Our report was scathing and we wondered whether we would even be allowed to keep our cat, let alone two young children!

“Social services applied to have the children taken into care. We were to appear be­fore the Permanence/Adoption Panel the following week and had just seven days to prepare what were to be the most important speeches of our lives.

“We were told by a number of people that we had no chance, but we gathered statements from everyone involved in the children’s care and they testified that the children were happy, healthy, well looked after kids.”

The panel concluded: “The conclusion drawn by Dr X does not appear to be a sound one and it is hard to see how she arrived at it.”

The grandparents were awarded the children until their daughter was able to reclaim them.

“My wife and I see my daughter and the children regularly and we have a great family. I hope this story will give others in a similar position some hope and inspiration. If the psychologist who assessed my wife and I had achieved her objective, then two lovely children would have been taken into care, possibly separated from each other and an entire family would have been devastated.”

Sir James Mumby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, has attacked the “anodyne and empty” arguments for enforced adoption presented at family courts, saying “sloppy practice must stop”.

He added: “It is simply unacceptable in a forensic context where the issues are so grave and the stakes, for both child and parent, so high.”

He said four appeals in July alone had raised “serious concerns and misgivings”.

He claimed removal of children from their families had become the most drastic matter judges dealt with now there was no death penalty.

He also ruled that parents should no longer be gagged by the courts: “Freedom of speech is not something to be awarded to those who are thought deserving and denied to those thought undeserving.”

There is no more important role than that of the adoptive parent. We must be sure that we do not give such deserving people stolen goods.

:: The argument over whether or not Ed Milliband’s freeze on energy prices will wreak havoc seems superfluous.

The lights will go out anyway if someone doesn’t get a move on. On one day last week it was reported that our electricity was generated as follows: gas 29%, coal 42%, nuclear 20%, wind 0.3% and the interconnector from France 5%.

The UK has 13 coal plants but nearly half are marked for closure by 2015, according to government figures. Our nuclear power stations are ageing.

If those reported figures are even half-true, does anyone think that windpower will increase enough in 12 months to plug the gap? Last week I bought a camping stove.

I already have a torch.

:: An appeals panel has excused an armed policeman for having a 40-minute sex romp on duty because “it was similar to a tea break”.

He had been dismissed for gross misconduct but the appeals panel reinstated him.

It ruled that he could still reach his gun because it was in its holder attached to the belt of his trousers which were around his ankles.

I’d be inclined to laugh at that story if it wasn’t for the fact that last week another policeman died while trying to stop a stolen car.

He was 47 and leaves a widow and teenage children.

He is the third officer to be killed on duty this year.

There have always been individuals who brought discredit on the police force but they were mercifully few and, as one senior policeman told me, “no one hates a bad apple as much as we do because he tarnishes us all”.

It’s sad that a man with his trousers round his ankles got bigger headlines than a man who died trying to keep our streets safe.

:: Last week I wrote about the folly of a benefits system that rewards couples who pretend that they live apart.

That same week a judge took umbrage at the fact that a woman she was jailing for illegally receiving more than £94,000 by claiming that her boyfriend – father of six of her children – did not live with her, can carry on claiming £237 a week even though she fiddled the welfare system for four years.

It is cases like this which cause innocent people, claiming their due, to be falsely labelled scroungers – but I’m still uneasy about a system that tempts you to lie.

I also wonder why the woman stood alone in the dock.

When a woman lies about living alone another person, her partner, must be complicit in the lie. Why does she have to face the consequences alone?

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