A family that consists of 3 members, father, a 2 year old daughter, and a 7 year old son. The parents got divorced 2 years ago and the mother -according to information received -lives in a neighboring country.
The father did not take care of his children and a year before gave the child to couple so they would care for the child. He was unemployed so it was difficult to make ends meet while he was also accused of domestic abuse against his ex-wife. The police had not had information before that the daughter was cared for by another family.
The foster-parents of the daughter have asked for material assistance from the Municipal Office for Communities and Return. The representative of this office, after the discussion with the 'foster' parents understood that their child has no birth registration. He notified the Social Worker of the Center for Social Work (CSW) which made the initial assessment and concluded that the child was informally adopted, it was very difficult for the Manager to find the child’s biological parents, since they were living in another region. That is why he called for a Case Management Roundtable meeting where the invitees were: Police including Community Unit and Anti-Trafficking Unit, Municipal Official for Communities and Return, Directorate of Health and Social Welfare, Victims Advocate and Prosecutor.
Measures undertaken from two CMR meetings in two regions
During the meeting members shared different bits and pieces of information. Police and Prosecutor were notified to ensure the safety for the child and the biological family. After the assessment of the situation of the child, food and clothing assistance was provided.
During the CMR meeting information was received where the father lives - and the CSW of that region was asked to make an assessment of his situation. Based on a comprehensive assessment of his living surroundings, and his overall situation, a second meeting was convened where the father lived. After consultations with the Prosecutor, and the interview with the foster-parents, the child was considered to be at risk and was placed in a shelter, while an investigation ensued (for child trafficking).
The investigation concluded that the foster parents took care of the child properly. The police found the biological mother living in another country and she had given up her children. The father received needed medical and social support and he was consulted regulary to increase his awareness and to get his agreement to take care of the children. The father improved his behavior towards the children and started to pay more and better attention to his children. The case is being prepared by CSW in order to create proper conditions for the children to be reintegrated with their father.
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Reflections from the conversation:
ABOUT THE CASE:
- The case raised some very interesting dilemmas about how to balance the needs of children and the administrative / legal framework – in this case placing the girl in an institution (ie removing her from the non-biological carers as ‘’adoption’’ not legal).
- The small girl was placed in an institution because there were concerns about her status with the family not being legal and the idea that she might be being abused and trafficked. What was the real evidence for this? Given that the family approached for social support, would this suggest that they were intending not to care for her?
- What might be the impact on the girl of leaving her father, going to live with the family and then being removed? Specifically here thinking about her attachment to carers and the impact of the separation on her. We know that a young age is critical time in a child’s life for learning about themselves in relation to the world, and part of that is having constant and reliable caregivers who the child can form close relationships with.
- While attempts were made to see if there were other family members who could care for her, even if there had been, would moving her be in her best interests anyway? In a similar case, might it be possible to carry out a risk assessment while the child was still living with the non-biologial family to see if it was safe for her to remain there while a fuller assessment was completed / legal issues were resolved? This could avoid moving to another living situation.
- The father’s decision to give the girl to another family to care for was seen as a negative thing. Might it be possible to reframe this more positively and to see this as the father’s acknowledgement that he could not cope? If this was possible, how might it have affected the professionals’ views of the case and how best to approach?
- Very positive that contact between the non-biological family and the child was maintained – but how was this done (ie duration / frequency) ? Younger children need much more frequent contact to maintain relationships.
- Important to ensure that the relationship was maintained between the girl and her brother, for both children’s sakes.
- Linked to brother, he has experienced a lot of changes in his own life – mother leaving, sister being removed etc. There is a need to make sure that he is included when considering the girl, both as he has views but also because he might be a child in need himself. This case raises the importance of making sure that if one child is the subject of a concern the needs of all other children should be considered. What support may the boy also need now to adjust the changing circumstances of his family?
- The family ie father, has become much more engaged and has sought help with his alcohol and aggression. Why was this? Was it that services were involved? If so, this underscores the need for early intervention in families where there are problems.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
- It is not easy to be the presenter – it leaves you open to having to explain actions, and that can feel like a criticism. Also, the amount of information shared needs to be carefully managed. Separate guidance on Presenting a Case has been developed.
- Technology gets in the way – it is not the same as a conversation face to face so a degree of patience is necessary to make it work.