S1, Ep 6. When there’s no legal representation – LiPs and McKenzie Friends

** Please note, the sound is not perfect in this episode due to the different level of voices and background noise that I could not remove from the recording ** 

 

In todays episode I’m joined by Sylvia Schroer and Dave Bagshaw. We discuss the role of McKenzie friends, the difficulties Litigants in person encounter and the trauma that adoptive parents and special guardians and their children face when fighting the system.  We also speak about  Special Guardians and Adopters Togeher the peer supported awareness raising group , and the work and research that they’re currently undertaking – specifically the Beyond Disruption Project amongst other things.

 

Beyond Disruption project

 

Sylvia Schroer is an adoptive parent and the co-founder and chair of Special Guardians and Adopters Together. SG&AT is a peer supported awareness raising group for special guardians and adopters. Sylvia’s professional background is in psychology and complementary therapies. She has a PhD in health research and the group uses lived experience research to bring the issues affecting parents and guardians to the fore.

 

Dave Bagshaw is a member of the POTATO group and SG&AT. He has been involved with adoption for 24 years and sat on an adoption panel for 8 years. He has been a McKenzie Friend in two highly complex adoption cases where a child had re-entered care and parent litigants in person were applying for discharge of a Care Order. These parents did not meet the threshold for legal aid but could not afford legal representation. Dave is retired. He has a background in sociology and was previously an ultra marathon record holder. He was a university lecturer in his professional life.

https://thepotatogroup.org.uk

 

Special Guardians & Adopters Together 

https://specialguardiansandadopterstogether.com

Special Guardians and Adopters Together is a peer led and peer supported campaigning and awareness raising group.

SG&AT formed in August 2017, initially just for adopters. The decision to include special guardians came in October 2017. They could see that the issues which impact adopters, were issues also affecting special guardians and many birth families where children and young people have complex needs.

As a group, SG&AT tries to provide a platform for people who wish to see positive social change for children who are brought up in second permanent families. They seek to enable all involved to be supported to create beneficial change, through engaging in research and dialogue in order to achieve shared understanding of the problems. The problems we deal with are so complex and we so much need to find ways to come together with researchers, professionals and experts. With so many caring people, adopters, special guardians, professionals and experts from a range of disciplines we hope to find better ways of minimising the trauma experienced by children and their families. We feel participation in sharing skills and knowledge to achieve this common goal probably needs better supportive structures to optimise success – in this difficult and complex task.

 

S.20 of the Children Act 1989 – voluntary care order

s.20 is about a local authority (social services / childrens’ services) providing accommodation for children who do not have somewhere suitable to live. It is sometimes called ‘voluntary care’ or ‘voluntary accommodation’ because usually parents must agree to the child being accommodated.

 

A guidance note about s.20 from The Transparency Project: http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/press/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/s20guidancefeb16.pdf

 

McKenzie Friends 

Anyone involved in a family law case in a United Kingdom court is entitled to represent themselves in court (they do not need to employ a solicitor or barrister) and if they choose to do this they are termed a Litigant in Person (LIP).

A LIP may be accompanied by someone to help them and this person is called a McKenzie Friend, named after the case which established the principles in 1970. This is not an automatic right, but a judge would only refuse to allow a LIP to have the help of a McKenzie Friend for a very good reason.

Information taken from: http://courtwithoutalawyer.co.uk/mckenzie-friends.html

 

Adoption Support Fund 

For information on the Adoption Support fund see: https://www.first4adoption.org.uk/adoption-support/financial-support/adoption-support-fund/

 

Personal Support Unit

The Personal Support Unit is a charity dedicated to providing free, independent assistance to people facing proceedings without legal representation.

https://www.thepsu.org

 

Citizen’s Advice Bureau 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

Articles and other links:

Accessing and Receiving Support report –  (this explains about Lived Experience research)
Other SG&AT research reports
Nuffield Family Justice Observatory – special guardian reform
The recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adoption and Permanence in respect of the Adoption Support Fund
The BASW Enquiry into the ethics of the role of social worker in adoptions
A recent article by the report’s authors that talks about impact of austerity
Craniosacral Therapy
Petition – Legislation not guidance for special guardians

SCIE- Social care institute for excellence

https://www.scie.org.uk

 

Mary Gauthier – singer songwriter
The Foundling (powerful album about adoption)

“Abandoned, abandoned, falling through space
With nobody’s eyes and nobody’s face
A foundling A child disconnected who no longer cries
With a prisoners stare and an orphans eyes”

 

The War after the War – from the Album Rifles and Rosary Beads, co written with US verterans and their families:
“Whose gonna care for those who care for those who went to war
Landmines in the living room eggshells on the floor”

Contact me if you have any questions:

Email: voicesoffamilylaw@gmail.com

Website: http://www.voicesoffamilylaw.com

Twitter : @voicesoffamlaw

Instagram: @voicesoffamlaw

 

 

S1, Ep 5. Surrogacy – a relationship, not a transaction

Zaina Mahoud completed her bachelors’ degree at the University of Western Ontario in Canada and moved to the University of Exeter to pursue her law degree. Following her LLB, she completed a masters’ degree in intellectual property law. She is a currently undertaking a Wellcome Trust funded PhD at the University of Exeter, looking at surrogacy regulation in the U.K. and in California from a socio-legal and medical perspective. Her research is concerned with how legal frameworks affect the experiences of surrogates, in terms of their autonomy and health and wellbeing, and so she’s working with surrogates, lawyers, academics and healthcare practitioners to co-create her interviews and has already started her interviews in the U.K. 

In today’s episode we discuss the current law surrounding surrogacy in the UK and the latest proposals to reform the law governing surrogacy.   

We also discuss overall attitudes towards surrogacy, and the reasons many are misinformed on what surrogates actually do, and how the law isn’t matching the expectations of the surrogates or the intended parents – so it really is failing both sides.

 We also talk about Zainas’s current work and PHD that she is undertaking in relation to surrogacy and how she became passionate about surrogacy reform.

If you are a surrogate and would like to take part in Zaina’s work visit her website here: https://surrogacyreform.com

You can find the Law Commission’s Consultation Paper here: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/surrogacy/

 

The Law we discuss and definitions: 

Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985

Human Fertilisation Embryology Act 2008

Parental Responsibility is defined in s 3(1) Children Act 1989 as being:

“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

Child Arrangements Order

Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended section 8 Children Act 1989). They replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order means a court order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

  1. With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
  2. When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

Traditional or Genetic Surrogacy 

For more information on these types of surrogacy you can visit:

https://surrogate.com/about-surrogacy/types-of-surrogacy/traditional-vs-gestational-surrogacy-whats-best-for-my-family/

Commercial or Altruistic Surrogacy 

Commerical Surrogacy and Altruistic Surrogacy are compared here:

https://info.worldwidesurrogacy.org/blog/commercial-surrogacy-vs.-altruistic-surrogacy

 

Cases mentioned: 

Re W [2013] EWHC 3570

Summary available on Family Law Week: https://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed121608

 

Podcasts about surrogacy:

Surrogacy: a family frontier 

The Birth Hour

Resolve Podcasts 

Hope Works 

The Fertility Podcast 

Creating a Family 

There are many more brilliant ones you can find online either by searching or visiting player fm here.

 

Contact me if you have any questions:

Email: voicesoffamilylaw@gmail.com

Website: http://www.voicesoffamilylaw.com

Twitter : @voicesoffamlaw

Instagram: @voicesoffamlaw

Researching Reform’s blog post about our recent interview:

Researching Reform

Researching Reform was very kindly invited to talk about the issues surrounding forced adoption in the UK, by Chloe Lee, a pupil barrister and the host of family law podcasts Voices of Family Law.

During the interview we spoke about the unique nature of adoption policy in the UK, the challenges the system faces in improving family intervention and cases we worked on involving forced adoption.

Chloe asked poignant questions about the ways in which forced adoption affects families and children, and the problems that irrevocable orders cause in the context of child development and parental health.

You can listen to the podcast here.

The podcast is part of a series looking at issues within the family justice system like adoption, transparency and access to justice. The series is an important addition to the growing conversation around family law and child welfare.

For those who use iPhones, you can…

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S1, Ep 4. Non-consensual adoption

In this episode I’m joined by Natasha Philips. We discuss the current law surrounding adoption in the UK, including the irrevocable nature of adoption orders and what post-adoption contact actually means. We also talk about the on-going campaigns against non-consensual adoption, and what campaigners are saying.

Of course, we also speak about Natasha Philip’s wonderful project Researching Reform, how it came about and what drives Natasha to keep researching, producing and sharing her content with the world.

The Law we discuss: 

Under s.66(1) Adoption and Children Act 2002  ‘adoption’ means:

(a) adoption by an adoption order, or a Scottish or Northern Irish adoption order;

(b) adoption by an order made in the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands;

(c) a ‘Convention adoption’;

(d) an ‘overseas adoption’; or

(e) an adoption recognised by the law of England and Wales and effected under the law of any other country.

An adoption order is an order that gives parental responsibility for a child to the adopters, which is made on their application to a court. The making of an adoption order exstinguishes the parental responsibility which any person had for the child immediately before the making of the order s.46 ACA 2002 An adoption order is irrevocable, save in the restricted circumstances of s.55 ACA 2002.

Parental Responsibility is defined in s 3(1) Children Act 1989 as being:

“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

Interim Care Orders:

At the start of care proceedings, the council asks the family court to make a temporary court order, called an ‘interim care order’.

If the court agrees, the child can be placed in local authority care on a temporary basis, which can be for up to 8 weeks at first. This is while the family circumstances are assessed and until the court can make a final decision about what is best for the child. The order gives parental responsibility for the child to the local authority, which is shared with others with parental responsibility. A child may remain living with family members during this process.

Post-adoption contact orders:

When making an adoption order the court must consider whether there should be arrangements made allowing any person contact with the child (Adoption and Children Act 2002 section 46(6)). Adoption orders in relation to contact are intended to be permanent and final.

Section 9 of the Children and Families Act 2014 introduced two new sections (s.51A and s.51B) into the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to govern post-adoption contact. These came into force on 22 April 2014.   A Section 51A order can provide for contact or prohibit contact with specified individuals (s.51A (2)(b)).  Section 51A (3)(a)-(e) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 identifies the categories of people who are permitted to be named in an order and includes any blood relatives or relatives through marriage or civil partnership.  Any persons seeking an order for post-adoption contact must obtain the court’s leave to pursue their application (Section 51A(4)(c) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002).

In deciding whether leave should be granted, the court must consider the extent to which allowing such contact would disrupt the child’s new life, the applicant’s connection to the child, and any representations made to the court by the child or the adoptive family.

(This information on post-adoption orders was taken from https://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed200419

Best Interests Principle:

Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that the best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children.

 

Articles and other links:

Researching Reform – https://researchingreform.net

Researching Reform: Why campaigners are battling the UK’s adoption policy – Report

Researching Reform: Politicians call for state inquiry into force and illegal adoptions 

Jo Ward and Joe Smeeton’s paper on adoption – “The End Of Non Concensual Adoption? Promoting the Wellbeing of Children in Care

The Good Social Worker Guide – https://goodsocialworker.com

Article by Natasha Philips for Apolitical on non-consensual adoption (link: https://apolitical.co/solution_article/child-health-why-uk-campaigners-are-battling-its-adoption-policy/) apolitical.co/solution_artic…

https://theconversation.com/ – Losing children to foster care

BBC 4 – Womens hour – Zara telling her story about running away to France to ‘keep her baby’ –  Listen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-47802296

Family Court Statistics (Quarterly, England and Wales, Jan-March 2019) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/811693/FCSQ_January_to_March_2019_final.pdf

Family Drug and Alcohol Court – https://fdac.org.uk

Community Care – https://www.communitycare.co.uk

Cases mentioned: 

Re B (A Child) (Post-adoption Contact) [2019] EWCA Civ 29

Natasha writes about Re B (A Child) [2019] on Researching Reform which you can find here.

Re BS (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146 

Information about the judgment in Re BS (Children) [2013] can be found on Family Law Weekly here

 

Contact me if you have any questions:

Email: voicesoffamilylaw@gmail.com

Website: http://www.voicesoffamilylaw.com

Twitter : @voicesoffamlaw

Instagram: @voicesoffamlaw

S1, Ep 3. Transparency in the family courts

In this episode I am joined by Lucy Reed, a family law barrister at St John’s Chambers in Bristol. Her practice spans all areas of family law but she specialises in children work.

In todays episode we discuss how the family system is often inaccessible to many, and how non-lawyers struggle to navigate the system. We also dispel the assumption that all lawyers come from a certain background and are often unapproachable, and we discuss how the Transparency Project is helping to improve the accessibility of information about family proceedings to the public.

Links:

The Transparency Project website: http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/group

The TP Guidance Notes: http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/category/guidancenote/

Lucy’s website: http://lucyreed.co.uk

Lucy’s blog: http://www.pinktape.co.uk

Lucy’s chambers profile: http://www.stjohnschambers.co.uk/profile/lucy-reed/

http://www.familycourtinfo.org.uk

http://www.nofamilylawyer.co.uk

 

Contact me if you have any questions:

Email: voicesoffamilylaw@gmail.com

Website: http://www.voicesoffamilylaw.com

Twitter : @voicesoffamlaw

Instagram: @voicesoffamlaw

 

 

S1, Ep 2. “Can you hear me?” The voice of the child in family proceedings.

In this episode I’m joined by Aoife Daly a Senior Lecturer at the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool.  She has worked and researched extensively on human rights law, children’s rights, civil and political rights, and family law. She published in 2018 the book Children, Autonomy and the Courts, in which she argues for greater transparency around the weight given to children’s wishes in proceedings about their best interests. She recently produced a report for the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission on how to implement human rights in the UK. Some of her current work relates to sex education as a human right and she has been funded by the Swedish Söderberg Institute to research children and law comparing Sweden and the UK.

“Can you hear me?” is about children actually being heard in family law proceedings and how the ‘right to be heard’ (Article 12 convention on the rights of the child) does not go far enough to give children a voice. 

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Article 3 – Best Interests Principle

1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.

Links:

https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/law/staff/aoife-daly/

https://brill.com/view/title/35870?lang=en

Home

 

Contact me if you have any questions:

Email: voicesoffamilylaw@gmail.com

Website: http://www.voicesoffamilylaw.com

Twitter : @voicesoffamlaw

Instagram: @voicesoffamlaw