My 6.5 yr old daughter rang ChildLine a few weeks ago in desperation because of the physical and emotional abuse she suffers whilst with her mother. It has culminated recently with the involvement of the police and social services.
I had a visit recently from the Social Services. My daughter wants to live with me and this is being dealt with in the courts. I have applied for residence. I already have her living with me for 50% of the year as I am at home every day. I cannot work.
When the Social Services visited her in her mother’s home recently as a result of a doctor reporting a finger mark bruise on her arm, which my daughter alleged her mother caused because she was hit whilst on the toilet for too long and not in bed, she retracted all the allegations she has consistently made for 3 years despite my having photographic evidence of physical injuries, some signed by a doctor.
She says that she was frightened she might get hit by her mother if she ‘shopped’ her mother whilst she was still in her home when she was interviewed.
The Social services now say, that as she says she is happy with her mother then there cannot be a problem and yet I have diarised for 3 years (as advised by my lawyer) over 300 pages of complaints from my daughter with photographic evidence.
What should I do?
My difficulty is that I only hear one side of the story, and a small part of it at that, and the two letters you sent differed slightly which left me a bit confused.
I’d be amazed and horrified if, in this day and age, social workers were not aware that asking a child in front of a parent if that parent abused them was hardly likely to elicit a truthful answer. I’d be amazed and horrified if police, who now take domestic violence seriously and child abuse very seriously, were prepared to back down when there is evidence and back up from a doctor. And I would be equally amazed and horrified for a social worker to maintain that a child did not need the ongoing presence of a father in their life if other men were there to take his place. But I know even professionals can be operating on old ideas and be fallible and maybe you have fallen through so many holes in the system. All very odd.
You say you are pursuing residency and I take by that that you do have Parental Responsibility – that should certainly be significant and authorities deciding what to do about your child should be taking your views into account. While most courts will still award main residency to a mother when children are young, I would expect most to take notice of the child’s expressed wishes, and certainly to listen to medical and police evidence of abuse. In many cases, joint residency is awarded and that would mean you had equal say in what happens.
On the whole, courts prefer couples decide between themselves what arrangements are made about contact and residency – have you suggested mediation so that you and your ex could come to some agreement between you? National Family Mediation can tell you of your nearest centre. Call them on 0117 904 2825 or go to www.nfm.u-net.com . For north of the border, Family Mediation Scotland 18 York Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EP, on 0131 558 9898 www.familymediationscotland.org.uk
While your daughter needs to retain contact with you, she also needs to retain contact with her mother and if what is going on is that you are trying to remove her from that, and are antagonistic to her building a relationship with your exes new partner, that may count against you.
All I can say is that there is something very wrong going on here, either in the action of the authorities or in what you have told me, or presented to them. You say you have evidence of abuse, have been in touch with the Police and you have a lawyer. Those would be the three suggestions I would make and I’m at a loss, given the picture you paint, why nothing is being done.
If you really do have evidence and the support of a doctor, I would have said your best bet was to contact the Police directly and ask to speak with whoever in your local force specializes in child abuse and if possible have your lawyer in attendance. A lawyer who is a member of Solicitors Family Law Association, now called Resolution – first for family law would be best – they encourage mediation and agreement rather than confrontation and are most experienced in family disputes and law. If you are happy with your lawyer, fine, but if you want to find another, write to P.O. Box 302, Orpington, Kent BR6 8QX with a stamped addressed envelope, or phone 01689 820272 or go to www.sfla.org.uk
I also do suggest you contact Fathers Direct who have a wealth of experience in supporting men in their parenting – those are NOT the guys up cranes in silly costumes, by the way! Their website is at www.fathersdirect.com Good luck.