Family Wrongs

Hello, my name is Gary Orman. Our children were (twice) taken away from us and placed in care in some secret location. Each time under the category of 'risk of neglect'. When in fact, we simply believed in educating our children in our own way and in living healthily. How we chose to do so, however, was distorted to such extremes that I was diagnosed with a personality disorder and we were even accused in court of being vegetarians (sic). Granted, my wife was suffering a mental breakdown and we were struggling financially. But instead of being offered the temporary help and support we asked for, we were accused of being woefully inadequate parents and potentially neglectful of our children. A psychiatric report by an 'expert' consultant child psychiatrist, Mike Shaw from Sutton Hospital, claimed that we were so wicked and incompetent that the children should be removed indefinitely.

This site will contain a full account of our story, anecdotal evidence of what seems to be a routine abuse of power by social services and other professionals in the name of 'protecting' children. It is also a catalogue of incompetence and maliciousness by 'professionals' who should know better. And it is an example of a serious failing in the UK legal systems in general, and of the Children's Act in particular.

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We aim also to raise awareness of the vulnerability of parents and other carers of children. Be warned. Social Service intervention affects ordinary, decent, law-abiding, hard-working, loving caring parents just as much as alcoholics, drug addicts, single mums, violent dads and disabled or mentally ill parents. In fact, if you are in way physically or mentally disabled (or ill), you are generally deemed unfit to be a parent, unless you can prove otherwise beyond doubt.

Our case is alarming, not because we are one of the few who have got caught up in an unfortunate chain of circumstances, but because we are one of many. Families who, for want of a little support, are torn apart and demonised. We were comparatively lucky in that we had a competent legal team, a sympathetic judge on the day, and a social work team whose very vindictiveness gave us the high moral ground. Thousands of others have been less fortunate, their children removed permanently and often irreversibly adopted. A million children have been in care at some point in their lives, and three million have been affected in some way. The number of children taken into care each year is equivalent to all the children in one hundred primary schools! If you think that you are a decent, loving family and it can't happen to you, then you are in danger. A little understanding of the monitoring systems in place at schools, nurseries, after-school clubs, hospitals, GP surgeries, etc., how social services conduct their investigations and of the legal process will go a long way to ensuring that you keep your family intact. Be very aware that even illegal adoptions cannot be reversed, and that siblings are often denied contact with each other.

This experience has made us realise that the freedoms and rights we took for granted are fragile and elusive.

We were made homeless because our housing benefit wouldn't cover the (below market-rate) rent and we've even been told that my wife is not entitled to various incapacity benefits or rent top-ups on the grounds that she isn't ill enough. Ill enough to warrant a child protection investigation (costing over 350,000), but not ill enough to warrant financial support of less than 4,000 annually! As part of the process, we were monitored for six months at a family centre charging 15,000 per month! Any other assistance we may need comes with so many intrusions and conditions that we've decided to do without. It's like telling a man with no legs to climb several flights of stairs in order to apply for the help and support he needs.

It has made me doubt my own belief systems - a tactic enjoyed by the interventionists - yet I have come through stronger and more secure in my beliefs.

We've also learnt what's important in life. Traveling, camping out, meeting people and making friends and (if you have kids) enjoying a family life. If you're in the 'system' you have to think, believe and behave according to the Rules. Not unlike the Papal society of the Middle Ages...

My struggle now is to discover what is it about our society, our culture and our politics that condones such unfairness and inflicts such suffering on others. Indeed, fundamental human rights are being flouted in the pursuit of real or imagined demons, and the collatoral damage of a rise of innocent people being affected or convicted of crimes against children is deemed - by senior figures in government (and perhaps by the public at large) - as an acceptable price to pay.

We will publish a forum where you can post your own account, describe your own experiences and feelings and where I hope to collate sufficient anecdotal evidence of this problem. Far-reaching changes are required, not only to the Children's Act, but also to social services guidelines, the workings of the police, judges and the courts, improved vetting and training of social workers and professionals involved with families and children, and how resources are allocated towards helping people in need. Social workers and related professionals are also invited to put across their views. Any changes in legislation or practice will come too late for us, but I hope that this site will save other families and children from abuse by the very bodies set up to protect them.

Small improvements are beginning to be made (but probably too little too late), like the opening up of some family courts to public scrutiny. The argument for secret hearings is to protect the children involved. In practice, it means that all sorts of nonesense can go on behind closed doors and children are made to suffer needlessly as a result. One judge refused to allow our children to come home during the proceedings purely on the grounds that we may then 'exercise our right to home educate them'. School was, in his opinion, the only sure way of monitoring the welfare of the children.

What I'm calling for is set out in the Campaign for Fundamental Changes, which will be available online in due course. Also a section to provide advice and sources of help and information, should you find yourself in conflict with social services or the family courts.

You are welcome to contact me at gary at familywrongs dot com.