independent

Tuesday 2 September 2014

'Please don't take my children away'

David MEDCALF

Published 07/01/2009 | 09:20

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AN ENGLISH WOMAN who snatched her own son from foster care and then fled from her native country is living in County Wexford and campaigning for her right to keep her children.

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The behaviour of UK social services towards the mum has been described by member of parliament John Hemming as 'stark raving bonkers'.

He praised the attitude taken by social workers in Ireland who are quite happy to leave the six-yearold boy, and his one-year-old little brother, in the care of his mother.

The case dates back to 2006 when the 33-year-old mother, who now lives near Enniscorthy, was living in the English midlands with her husband, a problem drinker.

Problems arose when the husband's drinking led to domestic strife, though the young boy suffered no physical harm.

She decided to move with her child over three hundred miles to be nearer to her mother and to make a break from her troubled spouse.

The care order that removed her son to foster care, on the grounds that the child was at risk of emotional harm, followed her failure to appear at a court hearing back home in the midlands.

She said that she was advised there was no need to attend, as the case was being mentioned only in order to switch the matter from one location to the other. 'My evidence never even went in,' she said, recalling that the situation then snowballed to the extent that she only saw her son for four hours over a period of three months.

'I was desperate to get my son back.' She became concerned that the boy was becoming depressed as he was moved from one foster family to another, and he even threatened self-harm.

Her attempts to regain her child included an ill-advised stint of living once more with her spouse, on the advice of one member of the social services, in a bid to impress on the authorities that the couple could work together.

'He is a perfectly good man and a normal father, when he is not drinking,' she says, recalling that he did find work as a painter/decorator for a while and attended A.A. meetings before slipping back to his old ways.

As a result of returning to the marriage she became pregnant with her second son, and then lived in terror that the new baby would also be taken away from her by officials.

Instead, she took the initiative and waited until her mother, who had limited unsupervised visiting rights, took the older boy on a visit to a church in spring of 2007.

While the grandmother was in the toilet, the woman called the boy over to her car and left a note explaining what had happened on her mother's windscreen.

Within four hours, she was on a ferry with her son and, and by the time her second child was born, she was living on the continent.

'I could not bear it any more,' she said looking back on the period when her son was in foster care. 'He was suffering and they would not even allow my parents much contact with him.'

During the autumn, she and the two children switched to their current home. The older boy is happily attending school, and both teachers and social workers are happy that there is no threat poised by his living with his mother.

However, the U.K. authorities continue to pursue the woman under the Hague Convention and are seeking to have the matter raised before a court in Ireland.

'There is a warrant out for my arrest and I have also been served with Hague Convention papers,' said the reluctant fugitive who used to have a good job in England but now lives off the Irish state. 'I am in limbo land.'

She is convinced that the system back in her home country was preparing to give her first son to another family under a system of adoption quotas which has since been abandoned.

This view is supported by Liberal M.P. John Hemming, who described the Social Services regime in Britain as mad: 'It's completely insane. It focuses on the wrong cases and puts its their resources into messing with people's lives. The system prioritises the wrong things.'

The mum reported that Irish Social Services have been to visit her in her County Wexford home and have indicated that they will provide a positive report on her situation.

'They are not going to take away my children and the school here has been brilliant but the moment I go back to England, my son goes straight back into care,' she reported.

'They even offered to send a social worker to pick him up.' She pointed out that she no longer has anything to do with her husband, whose behaviour was the reason why the authorities became involved in the first place.

She has begun an internet campaign for a change in the law in the U.K., so that children will be left with their mothers while troublesome fathers are barred from the home.

'The system in England does not put children first - it is selfserving and uncaring,' commented John Hemming M.P. as his fellow countrywoman awaits a possible date in an Irish court.

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