The horrors of 'child protection' as it is often practised now - particularly on foreign children - would be a theme for a latter-day Dickens.
Last week, I spoke to an anguished Russian mother who recently escaped to Germany with her young son, because British social workers were threatening to take the boy into care.
Until last month, they lived happily together here, but one evening the mother, temporarily depressed for work reasons, poured out her troubles to a stranger she met in a park. Next day, this well-meaning lady contacted the local social workers, hoping they might be able to help the family. Within hours, social workers were at the house, coldly suggesting that it might be best for them to draw up a “care plan”.
Alarmed at their tone, the mother fled with her son, to stay with her mother in Germany. In her absence she was summoned to court and threatened that, unless she brought her son back, her assets might be seized (she owns a house) and she might even be imprisoned.
On arriving in Germany, she had contacted the local social workers, who saw that the boy was happy and in good care. Their English counterparts, though, are now talking of going to Germany to arrange for him to be brought back to England. The mother would love to bring him back herself, if only this mess could be sorted out in a sensible fashion. But she is terrified that if she returns she will be put in prison.
A recurring feature in the dozens of cases I have investigated involving the desire of social workers to remove children from their families on what can seem the flimsiest of grounds, is how many of these families are foreign. Not unnaturally, after their children have been seized, they would be happy to return abroad, if they could do so with their children. But what is striking is how determined the social workers can be to keep the children here, at huge expense to British taxpayers.
Cases that I have been following include that of another Russian mother, whose 14-year-old daughter cannot understand why they are not allowed to leave this strange, hostile country to live in France. There are also two French children who only wish to return home to France with their father. I have had contact with Lithuanian, Slovak and Polish families, torn apart for what seem wholly inadequate reasons, in a similar plight. Another husband and wife have pleaded for over a year to be allowed to return with their children to Africa, where their case has become a cause célèbre in the local press.
In all these cases, the children are miserable in foster care and would be only too happy to go abroad with their parents. Similarly, when some British parents have fled to Ireland to avoid their children being seized, English social workers seem determined to bring the children back forcibly, often to the astonishment of their Irish counterparts who are entirely satisfied with how the children are being looked after.
In one tragic case, a bright teenage boy, happy and thriving at an Irish school, was deported back to England, to be placed quite inappropriately in a “special needs” school where he is unmercifully bullied.
Such are the mysteries of our “family protection” system. Why, if its purpose is to protect the interests of children, are they forced, in these cases, to live unhappily with strangers, when they wish only to be reunited with the parents they love? And why, when children are old enough to speak for themselves, do judges so often refuse them that right, disregarding their wishes in the most arrogantly cold-hearted way?
A latter-day Dickens would not be writing about orphans in workhouses. He would be exposing the callous horrors of “child protection” as it is too often practised in our own time.re0