Granny v Gay Adoption

I came across this article in the Telegraph which deals with the decision to place two young siblings for adoption in preference to leaving them with their grandparents in a kinship placement. Although I don’t know any more about this case than I have read in the article I want to offer a few thoughts on it because – as is so often the case with the accounts given in the media of individuals cases – between the lines those with experience of the system can read far more into what is probably going on than might be apparent to the majority of the readers of it. And I’m afraid that the published story seems highly unlikely to me to be the whole story. I’ve posted before about how the limitations on what information can be obtained and published in connection with family cases tends towards skewed or misleading accounts being presented through the media. And of course the primary reason that this story is deemed newsworthy is because it is an account of a case which appears to demonstrate injustice and which it is strongly insinuated is a demonstration of systematic unfairness and political correctness gone crazy. It is quite likely that if fuller information were made available or the law and process more clearly explained in the article it would be much less newsworthy, and may be deflated to no more than the dual elements of the anger / sadness of those who have lost a child of the family to adoption and an objection to the law that permits adoption by gay couples.

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As a story this piece would have us believe that social workers have acted on the basis of one dichotomy: age versus sexuality – and have ignored all other features of the case (including the welfare of the child) in the name of political correctness. From reading the story one might reasonably form the view that the grandparents were in some kind of direct competition with a specific adoptive couple and have been sidelined simply to give the gays a shot. Of course what in fact will have happened is that the matter will have been approached in stages: 1 can the children remain with family (preferably a parent) long term? 2 if not what is the best non-family arrangement for them? On the basis that this is how the law and the procedure works, question 1 must have been answered negatively by the social workers and subsequently the court quite separately from the second question (although often in practice the court will sanction both decisions on the same day they are legally distinct processes).

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It is common for news pieces to fail to distinguish properly between the judgments of social workers and the sanctioning of those judgments through the decisions of the courts. Although social workers will have formed a view and prepared a care plan for the children, and although their views will have been important to the court, we know from the article that the litigation continued for 2 years. That in itself is an indication that the social work view has not simply been rubber stamped, and so the validity of the social workers views about the grandparents and the issue of adoption has been aired at length. We know that ultimately the court must have accepted the social work view that the children could not remain with their grandparents long term. The reasons for that will have had nothing to do with the identity or characteristics of any proposed adopters.

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It is apparent from the article that the grandparents both suffered from quite serious health complaints which might realistically have had implications for their long term ability to act in a parental capacity, particularly when considering that the grandfather would be over 70 by the time the children were 18. We can make a reasonable guess that these little children had been subjected to some significant disruption in their lives prior to placement with the grandparents owing to their Mother’s drug addiction, making it very important that whatever arrangements are made for them were permanent. So many other factors are likely to have played a part in the assessment of whether or not the grandparents were suitable long term carers – what is the background to the Mother’s drug abuse? Are there intergenerational or family wide problems of substance abuse or other difficulties in the family background which may have led to the drug abuse? Are the grandparents able to manage the relationship between the children and their mother without exposing them to disruption or risk? And many other questions. I don’t know the answers to those questions but I do know that the decision is highly unlikely to have been based just on the age of the grandparents, even though that may be their perception.

 

The tone and construction of the article tends to suggest a degree of sympathy for the grandparents indignation at the placement with a gay couple. The immortal lines ‘I’m not prejudiced but…’ are followed by the clearest ever demonstration of why the grandparents would be unable to emotionally allow or support the children in settling into the adoptive placement. The old argument about playground taunts is the same one used years ago to discourage mixed marriage or dual heritage children (‘it’s not fair on the children’). It didn’t wash 20 years ago and it doesn’t wash now – children are just as likely to be teased for living with their grandparents as for having 2 dads.

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And then, to cap it off, in wades someone from the Catholic Church with a blanket statement to remind us all why no children should ever be parented by gay parents. And apparently ‘There is an overwhelming body of evidence showing that same sex relationships are inherently unstable and reduce the life expectancy of those involved.’ REALLY? Being in a homosexual relationship makes you DIE EARLY? I’d like to see that evidence.

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So…I’ve picked a few holes, speculated a little and hopefully demonstrated that this is very probably only part of the story. In fact there is only really a ‘story’ in the sense of something one can utilise to express moral outrage and disgust at the erosion of ‘traditional family values’ if the factual information is pared right down. Each time I read an article like this that plays off of the sadness and anger of families it makes me more convinced about the need to open up of family courts to the media. Because these articles do nothing to genuinely inform but they do erode public confidence in the system and for the families who are the subjects of these articles they may well instill in them a sense of justified grievance that may not in fact be valid in law or reality. Whilst all cases are difficult, important and heartrending for the families involved, 99% of cases do not raise any point of public interest that is genuinely newsworthy as opposed to being merely prurient or an exercise in headline over substance.

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PS 1 Feb Oh God…it gets worse. The Daily Mail has waded in

PPS 2 Feb And worse yet still

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15 thoughts on “Granny v Gay Adoption

  1. An excellent post – I hope newspaper editors will read and take note, but I won’t be holding my breath…

  2. I’m not prejudiced, but…. I dislike bigots.

    I found the tone of this Telegraph article to be depressingly like something from the Daily Mail – the broadside from the Catholic Church was the final straw.

    This was – as you’ve pointed out – a complex and difficult case, but much of the detail was glossed over by the press… they preferred to rely on catchy soundbites and reference to jaded stereotypes like the “inherently unstable” same-sex relationships.

    Mine’s over 7 years old… at what point can I deem it “stable”?

    Great post.

    • Glad it’s not just me that found it thoroughly unpleasant to read.
      As a family lawyer experience tells me that on some level ALL relationships are inherently unstable. I reckon your odds are as good as mine (8 years) ;-)

  3. Excellent post – I agree that some additional openess might help in cases like this, but of course it would also help if the journalists did even a little research.

    I was also gobsmcked by the comments from the catholic church – (a) what on earth hdoea any of it have to do with them? and (b) where on earht is this ‘overwhelming body of evidence’ ? (And how does it determine how many early deaths may have been caused by, ooh, the stress of being subjected to bigotry, prejudice and fear of exposure?)

    Do you suppose I ought to warn my collegue (59 yrs old, 38 yr reationship, 2 years marriage) that his relationship is ‘ingherently unstable’ and that he and his husband are doomed to die early in any case?

    Incidently, I can’t find how to read any of the comments on the telegraph article – any idea how? (It allows comments to be left, so logically there ought to be a way of reading them)

  4. Oh, and by the way, I blame you personally for the fact that I am now in a bad mood and feel I need to scrub my brain out, having made the mistake of reading the comments on the Daily Mail story. Depressing reminder of how much prejudice and ignorance there is out there *sigh*

  5. @bagpuss you just KNOW you’re going to need a brain scrub when you click on a Daily Mail link – not my fault I’m afraid.

    BTW I can’t see any comments on the Telegraph article either – but then I can’t seen any comments on any other article on the site either. But judging from the interest this story has provoked there MUST be a wealth of people filling in the comments box to put in their twopennorth of bile. I reckon that they have had to moderate all comments off the site because of the offensive nature of them.

  6. As John Bolch said an excellent post and I wish to god journalists would do what they claim to be good at and do their research on these issues.

    On an aside the journalists are giving legal advice now. In court recently the solicitors for parents had to deal with parents in care proceedings who have been talking with a journalist (they won’t say who or which paper). As a consequence of this journalist’s legal advice the parents are now contesting the renewal of the Interim Care Order (thereby scotching all their claims to be moving on through counselling and accepting their responsibility for the injuries they caused to their last child) and the solicitor had to apply to transfer to the High Court on the basis that it would be more “transparent”. When the District Judge asked what was meant by transparency in the High Court as opposed to in the County Court the solicitor could only respond that those were the client’s instructions. The District Judge had no problem in rejecting the application for transfer.

  7. With all due respect, you are incorrect when you say “the grandparents both suffered from quite serious health complaints”. One had angina, which is potentially serious, and one had diabetes, which is not serious. Speaking from experience and observation, neither would have a material effect on ability to parent.
    ************************
    Consider this from Peter Harris of the Daily Mail:

    The policy clearly set out in the Children Act 1989 is that wherever possible, and unless it is contrary to a child’s best interests, a child should be kept within its natural family, and social services have a duty to provide support to children in need in order to achieve this.

    The Adoption and Children Act 2002 goes even further in spelling out the intention of Parliament, and the duty of social services, about adoption decisions. An adoption agency (social services coming to a decision about adoption) must consider the relationship which a child has with relatives, and their willingness and ability to care for him.

    It goes on to prohibit a court or adoption agency from making a decision that a child should be adopted, unless it considers that to do so would be better for the child than not to do so.

    With such clear legal pointers in place it is devastating for grandparents (and the child) when social workers ignore them and work to their own agenda.

    **********************
    The Telegraph article is very poor: see my posts for links to more info:

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/pure-evil-social-workers-give-children-to-gay-couple-for-adoption-despite-wishes-of-grandparents/

    and

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/update-to-pure-evil-social-workers-give-children-to-gay-couple-for-adoption-despite-wishes-of-grandparents/

    • @kiwipolemicist – point taken re: the potential for angina / diabetes to be serious – the point I make though is not by way of suggestion that I know the correct outcome in this case. I don’t. Nor do you. The point I make in this post is that we don’t know because we only have limited information. I make some suggestions about what might be going on behind the scenes as it were which may explain apparently unjust decisions – decisions which are made not by social workers but by the courts IF having heard the evidence they agree with the social work view of the case. I’ve read your blog posts and I think you miss the point that social workers are unable to remove children on a whim, or at all without the sanction of the court which is tasked with applying the law that you cite.

      There may have been an injustice here, but until such time as sufficient information is in the public domain to enable us to form a sensible view about this it is a matter for the courts and for an appeal, which I understand is being funded by a religious benefactor. I don’t think its helpful to condemn individual social workers (I have seen photos of the social worker in question posted on the Daily Mail website) or social workers in general. Also, I hope that this family are not given false hopes by the promise of funding for an appeal which hopes to make public policy points about the legality of adoption by those in same sex relationships which is a matter which can only be reviewed by parliament (and which was extensively considered by parliament when this was made law originally). The issue will be about their (suit)ability to parent and about the (suit)ability of the specific gay couple in question – not about the statistical probability of gay relationships failing or any other broad brush point of principle.

  8. familoo: the reality is that courts place a great deal of weight upon the opinion of social workers (arguably more weight is given to the opinion of anyone else in a case like this), so social workers hold a pivotal if not critical role in deciding what happens to a child.

    The design of nature shows us that children are best with one male and one female parent. Observation tells us that children also need stability. According to the information that is in the public domain the grandparents were able and willing to provide these things, so they should have been allowed to adopt the children.

    You appear to have great faith in the state and its servants the social workers. I hope that you will one day realise that the state is not the servant of the people, rather it is the body which maintains a monopoly of force over a territory in order to subjugate the population of that territory. Here is an example of this in action:

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/who-are-the-police-really-serving/

    See also http://mises.org/story/2988

    • I accept that the courts place a great deal of weight upon the opinion of social workers, but I do not think that social workers have a definitive role in deciding what happens to a child, although they are often pivotal as you say.

      I don’t agree with your assertions about ‘the design of nature’, for which there is no objective evidence that I am aware of. We are likely to have to agree to differ about that as I think we come from radically different philosophical perspectives. I agree that children need stability but for me there is no reason why any particular family model needs to be constructed in order to achieve that – different cultures have different ideas of ‘family’. It should be clear by now that I don’t accept that the information in the public domain enables us to say either that the grandparents should have been allowed to adopt the children or that they should not. I’m not in fact sure that the grandparents were asking to adopt the children, it sounds to me as if they were asking to have care of the children, probably under a residence or special guardianship order (or even possibly under a care order). The legal significance of this is that the grandparents ability to care long term would have been considered by the court quite separately from the question of adoption and the proposed adoptive couple now causing the furore. And it would also reflect the very real practical distinction between a long term family placement and an out of family adoption – where there is potential / likelihood of ongoing relationships with the parents, for better or for worse. Generally extended family can offer more ongoing contact with parents but they also potentially find managing that safely is has its own particular complexities – how do you say ‘no’ to your own child?

  9. familoo: as I said in my post, the bottom line is that the state has no right to steal these children. All the other injustices are secondary to this.

    Re objective evidence for the design of nature. The design of nature is clear: male + female = baby, and numerous studies show that children have the best outcomes with a male and a female biological parent, with a male & female adoptive parent arrangement being the next best thing.

    Equally, some animals raise themselves without any parental involvement after they hatch or whatever they do and I regard that as objective evidence that the design of nature for them is non-parenting.

    If the situation for humans was male + male = baby then I would argue that that was the design of nature and that having two male parents was good for a child.

    No one in their right mind argues that humans are equally well off walking upside down on their hands, because the design of nature is clearly to the contrary.

    We are likely to have to agree to differ about that as I think we come from radically different philosophical perspectives.

    Yes, I am genuinely sad to see that you have apparently fallen for the pernicious lies of the Liberal Left, e.g.:

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/08/31/the-motives-of-the-liberal-left/

    http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/the-liberal-left-agenda-in-new-zealand/

    • Perhaps one should juxtapose the proposition that the state has no right to steal children with the proposition that parents have no right to abuse or neglect their children? Nothing is black and white. Both children and parents have rights and needs for both love and protection (from each other or the intrustion of the state), and it is not a simple thing to balance them.

      Male + female = baby – I agree on that one. But we are not the product of nature alone. We are social animals.

      Proud to have fallen for the ‘pernicious lies’ of the liberal left.

  10. Commonsense Bypass

    I had to stop the familylawlaxatives having the last losing-the-will-to-live word, and thank you kiwipolemicist.

    • Hello again Commonsense Bypass. You can have your last word if it makes you feel better, but I still get to moderate your comments. You don’t have to agree with my views, but I will only permit constructive comment which is neither offensive nor derogatory. Your other comment submitted today has not met that test and will not be published. I suggest if you want a forum through which to comprehensively set out your own views on these topics you consider using your own blog not mine.

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