"Safeguarding" - An Excuse to Spy on Your Children
Following the Baby P scandal, Social Services have had the green light to increase their paranoid monitoring activities - on children who are perfectly well looked after by parents who love them. Here are some of the ways in which they are doing it:
Playgroup and Pre-school Staff
The mostly female staff of playgroups and pre-schools are being trained in something called "safe-guarding". Which means to say they are encouraged to look for signs of abuse and neglect. One playgroup I attended with my daughter ran out of Sydenham Green Health Centre. There were many A4 printed signs on the walls about parents having to "interact" with their children and supervise their activities. Strange, I thought, because my primary interest in bringing my daughter along was to encourage her to play with other children (i.e. socialise)! Collita, the lady who ran the group, did not have a very good attitude towards disability. I asked her outright what she would do if she had a disabled parent attending who did not appear to be coping. Without hesitation, she told me she would ring Social Services!
Now that playgroup was held in a very small room that was difficult for me to get round with my walking stick. I also encourage my daughter to be independent and do not "helicopter" parent her! If that had been taken as me having no interest in her, or (heaven forbid) "not coping" she would be on the phone to Children's Services!!!
I was later to find out that Collita and her colleagues attend "Safeguarding Meetings" run by Social Services. Doubtless failing to interact or show sufficient interest in your child is viewed as a 'red flag' for abuse or neglect!
My advice to those of your attending playgroups is to;
- Be wary of the leaders, especially if they try to "befriend"
Once again, Health Visitors are also being trained in "safeguarding" i.e. spying on parents. They are quite frequently used as a 'foot in the door' for Social Services, especially since they make home visits. If Social Services have concerns they are likely to ring up a Health Visitor and get them to visit on the excuse of giving your child a check-up. They can and DO report back to Social Services. They can also turn up quite unexpectedly on your doorstep.
My advice to anyone in terms of Health Visitors is to take your child to sessions at your local GP surgery, e.g. the Baby Clinic. Do not strike up a relationship with one who visits you at home and "befriends" you. Do not treat them like a friend and do NOT under any circumstances moan and whine about the little problems you may have in life. "Little problems" can easily (and deliberately) be turned into "chronic depression" or "instability" should you find yourself under scrutiny.
A cousin of mine had one of these unexpected visits when her twins were small. She had taken them to A&E a couple of weeks before, when (as toddlers do), they had an accident. A week or so later, a Health Visitor phoned up, asking if everything was OK and whether there were "any problems at home?". My cousin replied no and that the twins were fine. A week after that, the Health Visitor was on her doorstep wanting to come in and see the children!
I have also experienced this after my daughter fell in the park and cut her forehead. We went off to A&E and she was made to explain to a nurse in her own words, exactly what had happened. She did this perfectly well, with no prompting or inconsistency! Despite this, we had a phone call two weeks later from a Health Visitor, who also wanted to know if there were any "problems at home". This is the only times I have EVER had to take my daughter to A&E and to be honest, it puts me off taking her again, should anything unfortunate happen.
One of the ways Social Services become involved with families is through school counseling services. Now you may think that counseling is a private thing, with a therapist talking through any problems and listening to your child. Not so. Should the counselor have any concerns, about emotional or physical abuse or neglect, they are advised to call Social Services.
Through Disabled Parents Network, I am aware of one parent in this very borough whose child was taken this way. He told a counselor that mummy had smacked him. The same day, his mother was arrested by the police and the 7 year old boy was taken into care. Though I am not saying that smacking is OK, it is not illegal. The mother was already known to Social Services because of her disability.
Sadly, my advice to those in need of counseling services, is to TALK TO EACH OTHER, not to professionals. There is no such thing as confidentiality in this country anymore. Any little thing you or your children say will be blown out of all proportion. If you are told your child NEEDS counseling, then either find a private practitioner, or wait until your child is old enough to understand how to approach it (i.e. understand that what s/he says may have serious consequences).
How to Deal With Social Workers
If you should wind up in a situation where you have to deal with a Social Worker, here are my top tips;
- Be friendly, but do not treat them like a friend. They are taught how to establish a "rapport" with people, because this helps them to extract information from you.
- Deny any problems. Your marriage is fine, you are very happy, you love your job and your finances are great!
- Do not allow them to access your medical records unless it is absolutely necessary.
- If they insist on visiting allow them to do so. Make sure you film the whole thing. You are allowed to video anything which occurs in your private dwelling place, that is the law. Plus, Social Workers lie all the time. If they promise you something, you need a record of that.
- Keep pets outside whilst they visit. They may think your beloved old staffy is going to maul your child, or that your cat is a health hazzard.
- Do not smoke or drink whilst they are present. Do not even have empties in your bin.
- Be prepared for them to want to see where your child sleeps.
- NEVER SIGN ANYTHING. If they want you to sign something, tell them you will think about / seek legal advice. Then do just that. Read it properly. I have heard scary stories about parents fooled into signing things which are really an agreement for your child to be taken into care (temporarily).
- If you are single, do not tell them you are dating, otherwise they will want to interview whoever you are dating. If they do not want to interview them, they can use it to make you look promiscuous. And btw, why isn't Junior your priority? So. You are celibate and Junior is the light of your life.
- Clean your house thoroughly.
- Make sure anyone who babysits is either a registered childminder, or is thoroughly vetted by yourself (take refences, visit their house, etc). Do not tell them you leave Junior with drunk Auntie Doris down the road who minds him for a couple of Special Brew.
OK, so I have tried to write the above with a sense of humour, but you know where I am coming from. Be sensible. You love your child, as I love mine.
I do not wish to scare anybody, but sadly we leave in an age where there is maximum interference in parenting. Much of it is sold as "helping" you and keeping children "safe". But the number of children being taken into care and forced into adoption is rocketing.