In this post I will detail the process by which we had contact restrictions gradually lifted, working with children’s social care. I will also detail the courses, learning and ongoing work that we have all done. Hopefully this might be helpful to other families and to professionals as well. Ideally professionals should be working with families to facilitate reunification, where it is safe for the family to be able to do so. This is key and I will explain more about the risk assessments that are available in order to assist.
A Road Less Travelled
This month’s guest blog is by blogger ‘Anonywrites’, a remarkable woman who carefully and sensitively shares her family’s experience following ‘The Knock’, through written word.
When an online sexual offence relating to children has been committed or suspected of having been committed, where there are children living in the household, a referral is made to children’s social care. The usual process is that an assessment is made of the children, and that restrictions are put into place around the accused having supervised contact only. This is for the duration of the investigation, and up to the point of sentencing, and often beyond.
When my ex was placed under investigation for viewing child abuse images online, the police signposted him to Lucy Faithfull. I was really surprised that social care were unaware of Lucy Faithfull and that my ex’s rehabilitation was not at all considered by current processes. I was equally shocked that in the nine months that my children were ‘held’ on a Child in Need plan, that none of us were given any actions to complete. The plan was used as a holding bay whereby the children and I were placed under a lot of pressure, for no particular purpose. So I set about researching what courses and learning we could do as a family in order to make progress. I did not find it in any way acceptable that we were subjected to invasive scrutiny and being ‘rated out of 10’, whilst not a single professional suggested any way to move forward. It was the most bizarre and pointless situation (and would have cost the state around £70,000).
1) Lucy Faithfull courses for both of us. Inform course is for friends and family members, Inform Plus is for those who are accused of or have committed online sexual offences relating to indecent images of children.
2) Safer Living Foundation (him). This was very important as social care wanted to see ongoing work from him rather than just a one-off course. Safer Living Foundation are so good that he was able to continue with them rather than a state mandated course after sentencing. He began work with them four months prior to sentence and continued as soon as he was released from prison.
3) Social care actually told us that they were assessing for unsupervised after they read a copy of the SHPO. There was a bit of confusion at first on their part as they hadn’t read it and thought they were assessing for supervised hence he didn’t see the children at all for 10 days on his release.
4) He was assessed by a forensic psychologist, and I voluntarily had a capacity to protect assessment. This was after we had moved to a new LA and social services didn’t have the case open. We were proactive and had the assessment done and thus when the case was reopened the new SW said they were really happy to have all of this information (almost 60 pages) as it was more detail that they would have been able to assess. They read every page and they also spent time speaking to my ex which no social worker had done up to that point. I had been assessed as having capacity to protect hence the scrutiny was not on me, but fully on what rehabilitation my ex was doing. Our risk assessments were conducted by Phoenix Forensic (Steve Lowe), and are also available from Lucy Faithfull, Safer Lives and many independent social workers.
5) The assessment we had had recommended us each to do work, as well as made recommendations to social care about how to work with us, and identified that social care involvement had caused trauma to me. My ex was recommended trauma work to deal with his past emotional abuse, abandonment and coercive control by parents. He had been assessed as having an addiction to porn since the age of 13 with a primary attraction to adult females and not a risk of contact offending. So he did trauma work with Safer Living Foundation and I did some therapy with Acts Fast to deal with my own trauma (from the knock, the fallout from the knock etc). I had to pay a private therapist as well, as NHS couldn’t help.
6) I did NSPCC safeguarding courses, as well as having had safeguarding training in various jobs over the years. This was whilst he was RUI I did this work as no agency was making any progress with what we were meant to be doing.
7) Both ex and I attended Safer Living Webinars to learn more about this area of offending.
8) I proactively did PANTS work with my younger ones and age-appropriate Keep Safe work from the social work toolkit online with my older children. We went over this work a few times and the social worker in our new area asked the children a few questions about keeping safe etc.
9) Told my children what their father had done in an age-appropriate way.
10) Told social care when he was released that we would be willing to escalate to family court if we didn’t get the outcome we wanted for our children and asked the social worker to explain to me the process of how we get this in front of a judge if we need to. The social worker was very helpful and said that they always encourage people to challenge things and to know their rights where they aren’t happy with an outcome. I also asked what social care were stating the risk of harm was seeing as it had already been assessed. They stated a risk of reoffending, not a risk of contact offending, hence the steps to release restrictions were taken in line with the reduction of his risk of reoffending. However it has happened relatively quickly as his probation have been so supportive and he has worked so hard on himself. He still attends weekly meetings with Safer Living Foundation.
11) Since he went to prison, and beyond release, my children have had the support of an amazing charity called Children Heard and Seen.
12) My children attend Rainbows at school and one sees a counsellor. My oldest child has a mentor from the charity. Again all of this helped social care to see that a lot of people support my children and I have proactively thought of my children’s needs in all of this and found support and help for them, and someone for them to talk to.
13) Social care listened to what my children wanted and my children were given the opportunity to each articulate what level of contact they wanted with their dad and why.
14) Whilst we have not been on a plan, the schools don’t get updates from social care so I have voluntarily engaged with schools safeguarding leads at every point in this and therefore they are not in the dark about anything which has been helpful as they’ve been able to support the children and also to understand what our goals are as a family.
15) I have also kept our GP fully informed and updated. I hand delivered letters with updates as I don’t have a direct email address for the GP, only a general one for the surgery reception. The GP has been amazing and really supportive, has helped me through some awful times and has been there to talk to when I have needed. I am on monthly calls with a GP right now.