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Protecting Our Children

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Sacha Mirzoeff Sacha Mirzoeff | 11:37 UK time, Monday, 30 January 2012

Some television programmes take a long time to make.

If you want to show the most hidden human behaviour within our communities, you're going to need a lot of patience.

The BBC had good relations with Bristol Council after making Someone To Watch Over Me - a series about child social workers after the Victoria Climbié case in 2000.

After the Baby P crisis, the BBC commissioners asked my production team to make a new documentary about child protection services.

Protecting Our Children is a three-part series that closely follows social workers as they work with families who need help in bringing up their children in a suitable way.

Our crews would follow individual social workers and families over months to see how the social workers tried to make situations better for children at risk.

Shaun, one of the dads in Protecting Our Children

Shaun and his baby

Even with good historical relations, the sensitivity was such that took us over a year to agree a modus operandi with the council.

We finally established a working protocol drafted by a QC working with the council, amended by the BBC and finally ratified by the most senior family court judge in Bristol.

The crux, we all agreed from the outset was, the welfare of any child involved has to come first. The details of what that means in specific situations is complex.

Then we started filming.

It took months of hard work to try and persuade people to take part to show the real nitty gritty of the actual cases with families.

In the meantime all we could do was film the more straightforward parts that we knew would provide the 'glue' to make all the programmes piece together, like shots of the city, simple meetings amongst the social workers.

What was key was that everyone got used to us being around with our cameras, so when real action happened later we could film it, unhindered.

How do you even ask a family who are probably in the worst place of their lives whether they would like to consider taking part in a television programme?

It's impossible to build up trust and understanding when you first contact someone.

When we got to the point of spending time chatting to people face to face in their homes, it became somewhat easier.

Slowly with patience and consideration we got somewhere, but I can never imagine a more difficult ask for members of the public.

We were able to offer a very different way of taking part - a system called rolling consent.

That meant anyone being filmed could choose to pull the plug and decide not to continue at any point in the process - after the first day, after six months or after they had seen the finished film.

We quickly learned that the only way to progress was to be a fully open book - to be honest and clear.

We showed everyone who took part the final film and agreed to change anything factually inaccurate and listen carefully to other objections (which didn't include anyone's hair looking bad on a particular day!).

Slowly we found people did have reasons for wanting to take part.

Some people wanted to pass on advice to others in similar life situations. As Shaun, one of the fathers says in the finished programme "appreciate it, love your children best. Don't go my way - I made the biggest mistake. I've lost my children and I try and fight for them - you know stay strong, don't give up."

For some our presence acted as further encouragement to make progress at home. For others who were battling with social workers, they wanted their side of events faithfully recorded.

So eventually we gained access into people's lives and started to film with a small crew of two or three people.

The stunning aspect of observational filming over a long period of time is the course of people's stories changes in ways that you could never imagine.

We never could have predicted that whole families who appeared to be united would fall apart in a matter of weeks. As John Lennon stated: "Life's what happens when you're busy making other plans...".

As we got more involved with the people's lives, we got to understand what a privileged position we occupied.

Protecting Our Children: social worker Annie

Social worker Annie

We were able to speak to the families in confidence (as long as it what they said did not affect the welfare of their children). At the same time we would hear the inside track from the social workers' point of view.

When some of the hard decisions needed to be made about the future of the children, we found ourselves overcome with emotion and often reeling for months after.

Surprisingly the social workers themselves were also deeply affected by certain cases that they became ensconced in, despite their extensive training to maintain professional boundaries with families. Somehow I found that reassuring.

This series will live with all who took part for the rest of their lives.

After three years of work we are finally able to show three hours of television that gives an insight into a world many of us never get to see, but one that continues around us in all our neighbourhoods.

Sacha Mirzoeff is the series producer of Protecting Our Children.

Protecting Our Children starts on BBC Two and BBC HD on Monday, 30 January at 9pm.

For further programme times, please visit the episode guide.

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by the issues raised in this programme, you can visit the information and support page (available until 23 March).

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I have worked with social workers in child protection for many years and have the utmost respect and admiration for what they do. They are intelligent, caring and compassionate people who always work in the interests of the children and families in the short- and long-term. And work they do - it is an incredibly difficult task which one has to pour many hours and tears into if you do it properly.

    On the BBC News article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-16658110 , it states:

    "This hostility was not a surprise for Susanne. Her wider family won't even admit they have a social worker in their midst. "I think it's the most hated profession in the nation," she said."

    I was disgusted to read that, and I'm not often moved to reach out and say something in this manner, but for every ill feeling anyone has against Susanne and her peers I hope the love that the rest of us have outweighs it.

    How sad the prejudice about social work is pointed against the very people who are saving lives. Should we not be looking towards the people involved in events leading up to local authority intervention?

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent programmes were shown few yrs ago about child protection team in Coventry. VERY COURAGEOUS OF FAMILIES AND SOCIAL WORKERS to take part in filming.
    In UK we have a society where many with massive responsibilities are likely to be vilified and underpaid, eg foster-parents and adopters.
    In private sector, if you make huge errors and are paid millions ( eg the swindles by HSBC and others in fraudulent selling of PIP), evidently the world owes you a living and you deserve colossal bonuses.

  • Comment number 3.

    Social Work has such a bad press that when the council's money advice service(free debt counsellors) was merged with the Welfare Rights service we had to argue to keep the words "Social Work Department" off the headed paper. this was because people told the money advisors they would never have asked for help if they thought we were part of social work "in case you take my kids away"
    I don't like working in the area teams (Social worker teams) as its too depressing listening / overhearing part of conversations with the criminal justice or child protection teams. I could never do their job and the abuse that the admin staff in a social work office gets is unreal. One area team had metal shutters that came down when the panic alarm was hit because the admin staff had been assaulted so often.
    I can relate to the sentiments "Her wider family won't even admit they have a social worker in their midst" I never admit my team is part of social work especially to new clients - once you have their debts sorted out or benefits & support reinstated then you can admit your part of social work but only if they ask.

  • Comment number 4.

    Social workers do have a tough job but they can make mistakes also. Most of the high profile cases in the past have mentioned failings on the part of the social services departments involved.
    My personal experience of social services have left me with a sour feeling. I have found them to be biased,easily duped and, quite frankly,nasty. They are self policed and cannot ask a disabled child a direct question.
    I will watch the programme and will keep an open mind whilst doing so but will I contact them again for my concerns? Definately not.

  • Comment number 5.

    After watching the first series of which I felt was very artificial, I can assume that this is going to be the same, social workers on their best behaviour, access to certain cases only, no doubt behind the scenes discussions as to which cases would further public opinion towards social work.

    Perhaps if the producer looked elsewhere, found some of the real families, thousands of them that have been treated most heinously, lied about, lost their children through nothing more than simple opinion and lacking any evidence, we would see a different picture altogether.

    I have got evidence of 16 YEARS of failing by social workers in my own daughters case and am in the process of tearing apart the local authority who lied, perjured to steal my grandson from me, perhaps if the BBC talked with John Hemmings MP and asked him about social services and the crimes they commit, the BBC would get a completely different story!

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    CONDEMMED ! After seeing tonights programme I feel sorry for any family that get into the clutches of the Social Services (Not much of a service for that family) You could see the extra tension and the immense pressure that was put on the mother and father no wonder he rebelled and eventually was forced out by the accusation and campaign to remove the children, which was obvious from very early on. On what was very poor "evidence" too. If a fraction of the cost many thousands of pounds and the intervention of several people involved in that case was instead concentrated on true support for the family by example . ie sending people in to sort the place out ...give the child a bed and SHOW the parents the "correct" way (if there is one) Then that family may still have been together. I agree not everyones ideal family unit and the parents had some issues but after all we arn't all Einstiens, but far better to have really helped them rather than having two kids adopted or in and out of institutions for the rest of their lives. What a catostrophic intervention... no wonder Social workers get a bad press if thats the best they can do./// :(

  • Comment number 8.

    I work as a child protection social worker and i am really pleased there is a documentary highlighing the work we do. It is a challenging, emotive and often thankless task. The general public have little knowledge about what is involved in child protection, unless a tragic case has been highlighted in the press detailing the various failings of the social workers. CP Social work is understaffed and overworked with often more experienced workers leave CP after several years due to 'burn out'...prehaps this series will encourage some people to sign up and help the cause rather then soap box about how awful social workers are! I also think the series should acknowledge some of the excellent work foster carers do for the often damaged and traumatised children in their care.

  • Comment number 9.

    Almost unbearably moving to hear Tiffany talk about her reasons for giving up her children for adoption yet such a relief to know that the children were to be removed from completely ghastly situation. Agree with beckiw that an assessment for parents with learning disabilities would have been appropriate in this case. Very powerful programme.

  • Comment number 10.

    Regarding comments by Tiffany and Eucalyptus ...Hek I certainly wouldnt breath easier with that sort of attitude against disabled people especially with learning difficulties...As far as I am aware there is no IQ test requirement before we can make babies ...thank goodness !!!

  • Comment number 11.

    I have worked as a chilcare social worker for the last 5 years and found this program to be the most well balanced and honest portrayl of the profession I have ever come across in the media. It depicts the real sorts of issues faced by professionals working in this field who want more than anything to help families stay together safely and happily but ultimately have to put the children's needs first. It's refreshing to see something that does not paint a purely negative picture of a profession that is all about helping people.

  • Comment number 12.

    I am proud to be a social worker but how disappointing the programme was tonight . To make a throw away comment that Suzanne's bag was for dead children is not funny and gives our profession a bad name. The blue light came on as in quick let's remove the child without even completing a plan with the family ! Our job is not about projecting our feelings or assumptions. What does filthy mean stick to fact instead. If this was meant to be painting the profession in a better light, I don't think it has done any favours.

  • Comment number 13.

    I found your programme extremely moving and also upsetting at the sort of hopelessness of the situation. Just the initial fact that their child didn't have a bed and them not really seeing it as a problem. Their lack of parenting skills was not really their fault but bringing numerous children into these situation is frankly shocking. The other sad thing was that they had a poor little dog stuck in the home - unable to look after their child - what hope had the dog got hopefully it was also taken away to a better place. Obviously a totally irresponsible person let them have the dog with a small child. The mother was a decent girl who really need help and support earlier in her life. I know there are views about some social workers but it's not a easy job to do day in and day out - such a feeling of hopelessness damned if you do damned if you don't.

  • Comment number 14.

    Having just watched this episode I felt it actually showed a total system failure of this family. I felt deeply saddened for the Mum in particular as she was clearly depressed and there was continual reinforcement from the social protection team that they were bad parents, nobody had confidence in her improvement so she took this on board and seemed to just give up and by the end put her children up for adoption. Furthermore the older child with special needs will probably not be adopted as children with special needs are often left behind so will probably spend the rest of his childhood in foster care. I felt there could have been a lot more support for the parents in the home itself rather than all the 'support' being focused on case conferences and supervision whereby professionals were constantly criticising the parents and mostly in a clinical language the parents didn't seem to understand. I found the programme more depressing as it went on. The mother clearly loved her children and did show affection for them. I'm not dismissing the fact there was neglect etc and probably forms of abuse we weren't made aware of. I work in this field myself and I do realise social workers have a very difficult job but I didn't agree with the approach.

  • Comment number 15.

    Having watched the programme I would like to say something about the dad. I am a dad and have ,as mentioned earlier, had a very souring experience of social services. Dads get a raw deal and as an earlier post has said if a disabled child is involved then it gets difficult. As a dad you are screwed whatever happens.
    In the case on the programme though the dad should have gone a lot earlier than he did,his faults were apparent. I think his upbringing may have helped him greatly in turning out like he has.
    Where were the offer of parenting programmes,anger management courses,education? Yes,foster the children but only after every avenue is exhausted first. If no improvement then foster.
    I would have thought everyone watching knew the second baby was going to be taken straight away,everyone except the parents. Were the parents told that if they didn't improve they would lose their next baby? No. With mum it may have helped to encourage her more initially. Was this poor,confused mother still on anti-depressants when she decided to give her children for adoption? I would like to know. It was obvious to me also that the baby would be fostered straight away and it would be more difficult to place the boy. So well done social services.Your failing to exhaust EVERY avenue has resulted in kids being taken from their mother and a brother and sister split up also.
    Where are the male social workers?

  • Comment number 16.

    I like you Paul W. You are obviously not a social worker.

  • Comment number 17.

    Perhaps if they had used munro in doing things right it may have been useful

  • Comment number 18.

    Social workers seem to take any hostility or anger from parents toward them as signs that the parents are guilty. They don't seem to understand how cruel it feels to be judged by strangers for a job that is as challenging (and hopefully rewarding) as it possible for a job to be.
    The system as it is, is incredibly destructive towards parents and robs children of their right to be brought up by their natural born parents. Social workers have their often poorly educated and mis-informed view of what good parenting is. They don't seem to have the first clue! Good parenting begins with your connection to your child. If the connection (love) is there, which it almost always is (or is at least is retrievable if the right support is put in place) then thats the foundation of what is needed and half the battle is already won. After that a child needs warmth and shelter and food. As a psychotherapist, I see daily that what causes the most pain by far are attachment issues. I need to feel like I am loved. I don't need a chico highchair or even the floor to be that clean. I can handle my face being a bit dirty and my teeth needing to be cleaned. I can handle not having the latest trainers. In fact, I can handle most of what life throws my way IF AND ONLY IF I feel like I am loved. My parent does not have to be perfect, in fact far from it. He/she need only love me and I will know I have value and then I will want to live.
    Telling a parent that they are not parenting according to the 'correct standards' is to devastate that parents confidence and ability to love and care for their child. Childrearing is an often competitive task and all around there are people who are quick to judge. So to receive judgement from 'the experts' that you are not good enough, is simply soul destroying.
    Social workers need to LEARN FROM parents all the different ways that love is communicated to a child and build on this, not tear the parent down. I was broken hearted after watching the programme tonight (BBC2 N Ireland 9:00pm-10:00pm (1 hour ) Mon 30 Jan). I could see that poor young woman would never again have the confidence or heart to be able to parent her children. If she had been treated with understanding and compassion, I have no doubt she would not have made that decision to give up her children. Her heart had simply been broken and her parenting ability pulverised.
    The dad also seemed to have a strong connection to his son Toby, but he too was pulverised by the social workers. I see that Toby, started to do well in foster care and that was good to see. However make no mistake, his abillity to attach and form good connections had been hugely damaged by his removal from his parents. It would have been so much less damaging if his own parents could have been facilitated to meet his needs. Social work in its present form should be demolished and a more compassionate and supportive system put in its place for the sake of all children who are also of course, parents in the making.

  • Comment number 19.

    I was moved to tears by the whole story and could not help but feel very, very sad for Tiffany and her children! I think parents like her should be given practical help to give them life skills to learn to look after themselves and their children. People like Tiffany deserve not to suffer for the fact ther own parents didn't care for them properly. Unfortunately now all she has to do is suffer in silence and her kids will never have the love only she could give them. I completely support the fact that vulnerable children must be protected from neglect and abuse but I think this family could have been saved with more practical support and practical life skills, rather than given lists of thing they need to do. I also couldn't help but get the impression the social workers police and threaten, instead of offer the help that families actually need.

  • Comment number 20.

    There were 2 male social workers shown in the programme! I agree that every avenue of support needs to be looked at before making the huge decision to remove a child from the parents but how long must a child wait whilst this takes place. What social workers do is an assessment of parenting CAPACITY, an assessment of the liklihood of the parents changing if they are given all the support. So much damage can be done to children whilst we are waiting for parents to step up. A fact actually illustrated by the parents in this episode they talked about their own poor parenting and how this affected them. Also the mother made the decision to give up the children, it was not the social workers removing them, they were still working with mum and acknowledged the efforts she had made.

  • Comment number 21.

    Trinity thx ... I am not ...and to be direct I dont think many where true social workers on the programme we just watched .. I agree too with Jane ...What is going on with these "professionals" has simple common sense and good judgement deserted most of them or has it been removed surgically during the training course ??

  • Comment number 22.

    I wonder whether the mother received any specialised support (apart from medication) for her depression; that is certainly not the right state of mind to come to the decision of giving your children for adoption. Her son went into foster care and she felt undervalued and a failure; she had a very difficult pregnancy and birth her baby was taken away from her almost immediately: it is unsurprising that she developed a depression. I don't doubt that she had serious shortcomings as a mother, but I agree that it is revealing that none of the parents were tested for learning disabilities or emotional development issues in first place. I think the system thinks is doing best for the children, and to certain extent it does (the boy was clearly thriving after a few months), but it is serving society poorly by not supporting people who reach a parenting situation without the right skills. I don't doubt the good will of the social workers, but it seems that the system sets failing parents up for full failure: a person who never brushed his teeth or has never lived in a clean environment (let alone received the kind of interactive and nurturing care they are expected to provide as parents) cannot be expected to fully understand and be able to implement these 'new skills' in less than a year, specially when they feel under a microscope as if they were lab rats. They have neither emotional nor cultural resources, no 'capital' that they can invest in developing this new skills. Of course violence is unforgivable and needs to be prevented from advancing when observed, but it is easy to see how a family under pressure will 'lose it' more easily. I'm not surprised that families that appeared together fell apart in weeks: the observer affects the observed environment, that statement holds true in physics, anthropology, and surely social work. The work clearly needs to be done, but we can't think it is objective. I say this knowing cases where there was clearly no hope, the children had to be removed for their survival. But there was no love at all in those cases. Here there was a depressed and failing mother with what appears great depth of feeling for her children. I can't help thinking that she did not have support to thrive as a mother, after years of neglect and abuse. You may say that losing everything will help her understand how low she has faller and start the path toward sorting herself out, but that is just a rationalisation.
    Ultimately, while the children may grow well loved and happy, they will also know that their biological parents left them. And that is a very deep sorrow to carry, even if parents do this for 'the right reasons.'

  • Comment number 23.

    Err just wanted to ask why was Sacha Mirzoeff (the producer) 'surprised' that the sw's were so 'deepy affected' by the sadness of their work??? Hello? Surely it would be more surprising if we sw's had gone into this profession not giving two hoots about the people who's lives we are trying to improve? I mean for goodness sake its not as though we do it for the incredible salary!!

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Having seen the pay grades offered then I would expect a better job done than was demonstrated in the programme tonight.

  • Comment number 26.

    Apologies for breaking house rules. Was simply questioning the understanding of attachment theory by one blogger. You cannot create attachment that is not already there, and not providing for a childs basic needs is an indication of poor attachment between parent and child. Neglect is not about nits, it is a breakdown of the relationship between parent and child. Cleaning the house for a family over and over (ie giving them practical support) does not address this fundamental issue. When we love someone we care for them and provide for their needs and not just in so far as they service our own. Also in my previous post I was pointing out that the floor was not just a dirty but covered in dog faeces a fact that directly evidences the fact that the child was at risk of harm.
    It is a difficult judgement call balancing seperating a child from their parents vs leaving them to grow up in a house where the parenting clearly isn't adequate. Social workers choose to train for and take on this challenge everyone else just seems to stand in judgement of them having no respect for their knowledge and experience. People often find the decisions difficult to understand, especially if they have had direct experience of social workers and decisions have been made which they have not agreed with (families and professionals alike).
    Please everyone try to remember that it is the childs welfare that is paramount and a child is not a therapeutic tool for parents to get over their past injustices, this just perpetuates the cycle.

  • Comment number 27.

    I agree that families need to be offered practical suppoer ALONGSIDE assessment about the capacity now and in the future. but where does the money and resource come for this? parenting classes can be easy to come by but my experience is that its very difficult to convince a parent to go and if they do the group atmoshphere is very inhibiting (one on one? who will pay for that...). anger management resources is pretty much non existent and whilst in home support is available it is limited and reliant on parents´co operation. Susanna herself would have at least 20 over cases running concurrently with this family so is not available 24/7. Changes are desperately needed in the way we provide support to families but it feels people are too quick to assume blames lies with the social worker rather than highlighting this is a desperately underfunded area that needs more resources and holisitic support. something that the tories have cut to dire levels in the past 18 months leaving social workers with few tools to work with.

  • Comment number 28.

    It seems to me that a number of assumptions are being made in some of the comments above. We do not know if support of various kinds was offered to these parents. It was certainly mentioned during the Initial Child Protection Conference and the Chair noted that the parents had not previously been willing to take up services. We do know that a Children's Centre was involved in the assessment, although details of that were not shared. it is inevitable that large sections of the work that was undertaken with this family would not appear in the programme due to time pressures and / or what the parents consented to share.
    In my experience courts do not make Care Orders unless there is strong evidence, not just of risk of harm, but that support or services have little possibility of effecting change. I would expect that those representing the parents would have argued hard for additional support in Court, but the Judge clearly did not agree.
    The paediatrician was clear that there were only a few months left before the damage to Toby would be permanent. Further delay was simply not possible. finally there are simply not enough social workers to offer the high level of support needed to many families. Of course it would be great of there were. But society does not want to pay for it, and in general the public is uneasy about the level of social work intrusion into family life and would not want to see a social worker allocated to every struggling new parent.

  • Comment number 29.

    At last the word LOVE has entered the discussion... Agreed the parents lacked social skills, were certainly inarticulate but I do believe they both loved their child as difficult an demanding as he indeed was. Alas they were condemed to failure straight from the onset.. unfortunateley by the failure of the system ..to be absolutely correct the failure of people charged with running the system. There is no getting round it their treatment was disgusting. The tools and support they really needed denied and the young boy and baby girl put into the system of never ending care homes . A true case of poor justice ..that crushed the mother in a very vunerable condition (maybe even baby blues) deciding to give up her children to the very eager waiting hands of the Social Workers... Love and tenderness was apparant even in very trying circumstances.. pity that this could not have been nurtured by the nanny state !

  • Comment number 30.

    Paul W you are illustrating the points I made above about the reluctance to allow social workers to intervene early enough unless families consent. I have no idea what you mean by love but to me it means practical action to care as well as emotion. Also at the ages of those children I think it unlikely They will be in 'never ending care homes' and I speak from 30 years experience as a social worker. do you have evidence to back up your assertions?

  • Comment number 31.

    I would have removed the dog first before the child.
    The service is underfunded as are so many agencies these days and sadly it looks like getting no better but surely children cannot be placed in a lower priority than money? Can they and if so then what a sad country we live in. The family shown tonight were let down by money,resources and sadly the social workers.

  • Comment number 32.

    And possibly the editing?

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Sundial I am not illustrating your views at all.. indeed the few points you make are really very little help by protecting a failing system ..30 years or no 30 years. I do know that the people I know personally who have been through foster care & adoption would sooner have had their true parents. Its also true to say that this is limited to situations as with the people I know where real physical mental or sexual abuse was not the reason for being in care. So defend the Social Workers position if you must ..I feel that you are on very thin ice . Ask many of the people who have been through the care system you will find a large percentage of "damaged" people. There are also successes where there is no altenative but to protect a child by placing in care. I also think that some of the cases highlighting very publicly some of the failures have made SWs ultra sensitive, maybe over sensitive.. Its a fine line but the programme in question does not put SWs in the glowing lights quite the opposite.

  • Comment number 35.

    A human being requires nutrition, shelter and freedom from harm above everything else. These needs are simple, however many children do not receive this basic requirement. The skills required to care for children may not come instinctively to all so I agree parents should be offered support to find ways to care for their offspring if they need it. Social Workers have an incredibly difficult task balancing the requirements of the law versus the rights of the individual. The public have been rightly critical where serious errors have been made in Social Work practice. However, I find it difficult to imagine a society where no safeguards are put in place to ensure the safety of our children. The ability to breed children does not always equate with an ability to raise. I am in awe of the demanding, difficult job that Social Workers do in the face of adversity- let us remember that these children have a right to be free from harm/abuse/neglet and social workers are here to fight for that right.

  • Comment number 36.

    Anyway I must be off folks ... Its been great ..I have an appointment in the morning with my Pshyco Analyst .. Its been good seeing how diverse the comments have been ... interesting although I can recommend my SA to a few of you. The subject of discussion will be "How badly I have been traumatised by the programme" ...Oh and if I should go Tesco or Spar for my pork pie :)

  • Comment number 37.

    I too was moved to tears by this programme. Absolutely heartbreaking to hear Tiffany speak of her decision to have the children adopted when she was clearly still physically and emotionally exhausted. Depression often get worse after commencing medication before it gets better (if they work that is), perhaps she should have been advised to delay the decision until she was in a better state of mind to make it and stronger physically. She was clearly the better parent of the two and I think with alot more help and support she should have been given chance
    to try. Not being mothered herself, and living with a man very oppositional to authorities who couldn't support her willingness to co-operate she was always going to be at a disadvantage. Why was nothing in the way of anger management/counselling offered to the father who felt so personally attacked even though this wasn't the intention by the social workers. Couldn't they have gone into a 'family unit' house where they could be supported. Though costly initially surely this support would be cost effective in the end. Now left is one child in care awaiting adoption who could possibly get moved around, suffer as a result and later become a father as his father and so on. Two adults also both suffering who can both reproduce and then what. Who is helping them? I hope T

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    This was an extradordinary and disturbing documentary. I ask, in all honesty, what can possibly be done to help families like this? Mike seemed gratified when the Paediatrician said Toby's speech delay may have an inherited component as it gave an explanation which did relate to parenting, but he also showed no understanding of how to interract with the child. After a very short time in foster care Toby's play developed; at the contact session he picked up a telephone and began making sounds into the receiver. That was a breakthrough! The bewildered dad sat silent next to him, staring at the other telephone in his own hands, despite having earlier talked on his mobile phone to someone. Not to mention no understanding why dog poo on the floor and no toothbrushing might be harmful. Tiffany and Mike didn't even remove Toby's coat and rucksack when he was in the house. Toby had no experience of being made comfortable, no proper sleeping arrangements or regular meals. The attempts to support the family seemed futile; the father in particular lacked the capacity to understand or meet the child's basic needs. Just what can be done, other than to remove the child, if the parents are unwilling or unable to learn? So tragic.

  • Comment number 40.

    Jimmy6791 wherever does this myth that social workers get bonuses for 'getting children in care' come from? it seems to be repeated often in blogs like this, but is absolutely untrue

  • Comment number 41.

    also a few more inaccuracies. there was a written plan, it was mentioned by the social workers in 1 of the visits in the film. We do not know if parenting classes or anger management were offered or not. We know they were given a bed which was still in its wrappings on the next filmed visit.
    I've just remembered where the myth about social workers receiving bonuses originated - from some I'll informed comments made by John Hemmings MP a few years back which were widely reported in the media. If you think about it it is extremely unlikely that there would be a financial incentive to take children into care as care costs a great deal. I don't expect you will believe me but you could make a Freedom of Infromation request if you really wanted to know the truth.

  • Comment number 42.

    "A social worker tries to help a family care for their son who has learning difficulties".
    There wasn't much evidence of that help tonight.

  • Comment number 43.

    Well sundial7 if it is 'untrue' you wont mind the whole system being opened up, and casting off it's cloak of secrecy. I notice you ignore my other points. And where is the equality in that office? 1 male massively outnumbered by the females.

  • Comment number 44.

    Jimmy I posted a reply to some of your points &suggested you make a Freedom of Information request so you can see for yourself there are no such bonuses. however my post is stuck in moderation as a result of other comments I made. However I agree there is a gender imbalance in social work. Far more women than men choose to enter the profession. THere was 1 male social worker in the programme.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    Please remove my last comment . It was addressed to the moderator & not for posting!

  • Comment number 47.

    I have worked in and around child protection teams, including having recently managed one, over the last 15 years. I feel the programme was a fair portrayal of social work ant the type of work which is done.

    I do have concerns about this case and why it was chosen as appropriate. Firstly both parents appeared to have a degree of learning difficulty, was this assessed and what capacity did they have to agree to the filming and ultimate removal of the children. I hope hey are not vilified by the communities in which they live due to this.

    Secondly I saw no evidence of the Public Law OUtline being used, this may have achieved better results for the family and ensured assessment were done in a timely manner ie for learning disabilities, parenting assessments, psychological assesses stents of parents and avoided the need for an Emergency Protection Order. The fact this draconian method of removal was used in his type of case does not reflect well on social workers and the removal could have been far bett planned. It is not clear also why the unborn child was not considered at the older child's initial case conference.

    I was disappointed the programme didn't reflect the competing pressures social work staff, resources and managers were after but this was by far the fairest documentary I have seen on the issues of social work in my career.

  • Comment number 48.

    I am a child protection social worker, with over10 years experience. I sat watching this thinking, in parts, that my practice would have been different / better. I agree with the previous comment that the 'Emergency Protection Order' was a particularly draconian way to remove the child and perhaps could have been avoided. That said we were not shown efforts to arrange for family and friends to help / care for the child in the crisis and I am sure this would have happened. I too am concerned about the vulnerability of these parents. I remind myself though that this was an hour documentary so I hope that it is a case of the crew not being able to include all of the protection / planning process given the constraints.

    I was left feeling upset and disheartened after viewing the programme. Quite simply it , along with comments posted, made me realise how easy it is, as an outsider, to make judgements and think " I would have done it better or differently". The fact is that in situations like the one portrayed, there is no quick and magic fix, no formula to reach a perfect and unanimously agreed outcome, no distress free option, for either the child or their parents and family. When I think of this and all of the years I have had trying to do the best for the children I work with yet in some ways creating other distress and trauma in the wake of decisions; I realise I can't do this job any more.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    I found the programme fascinating, whilst the family certainly had issues, whether they had grounds for removing the children I would doubt.

    As a prison custody officer and my wife who is an NHS nurse, we were subjected to horrendous practises by social services who claimed that my 5 year old sons behaviour was due to 'parental influence' and stating myself and my wife were of 'low mental ability' (both of us have senior posts and have degrees), blaming my son pushing children over on witnessing me getting beaten up by my wife (their evidence for this was that I had been seen with bruises and a black eye, I provided documented evidence from my employer that it was due to an incident at work dealing with a violent situation as I am a prison custody officer but this evidence was ignored), we moved to a new local authority 3 days after an initial child protection conference because they would not see sense and it is now accepted that he is autistic spectrum (which accounts for his behaviour) and we are decent parents, although the previous social services claimed that both of us have 'criminal records' we have never had a caution or conviction in our lives and both have clear police checks (apart from a speeding ticket in the early 90's). This was done in a core assessment to discredit us and indeed threshold for court proceedings was established at the time of that initial case conference which spurred us on to move house.

    Now our son has 1 to 1 tuition and a 20,000pa Statement of Educational need which is a little different from 'its all your fault' that was said previously.

    Unfortunatelywhat happens is that what happens is that when a social worker is set on a course (especially a career minded one) they will carry on like a car goig up through the gears unless what you do what we did and derail the process (moving and going to the new LA and talking to them before you inform the old one that you have moved house). The PLO was binned and thousands wasted by the old LA.

    We have been featured in the Sunday Times and ITV calendar

    Yes there are appalling parents out there but they are balanced by appalling social workers too.... (there are some good ones such as our new one after we moved who organised the special needs assessments and made a positive change for us)

  • Comment number 51.

    It would be great to read some of the documents you mention in this - would that be possible?

  • Comment number 52.

    1:- The UK is the ONLY State in the WORLD that gags parents whose children have been taken by social services

    2:- The UK is the ONLY State in Europe (except Croatia and possibly Portugal) to permit the horror of "forced adoption".

    3:-The UK is the ONLY State in Europe to allow "Punishment without crime" ie the taking of children by social services from parents who have not committed any criminal offence.

    4:- The UK is the ONLY State in Europe taking children for "emotional abuse" and worse still "risk of emotional abuse" (on the basis of predictions from overpaid charlatans that one day parents just might harm their children)

    5:- The UK is the ONLY State in Europe to censor conversation between parents and children in care.Children are left wondering what they have done wrong as parents are forbidden to explain the situation, or discuss the court case in any way. Phrases such as "I love you and I miss you" are also forbidden under the threat of contact being stopped immediately if the parents "transgress." Children naturally begin to think their parents might not love them or want them back anymore.

    All this is a disgrace to democracy and a disgrace to freedom that could be instantly rectified by legislation to make all the above five practices illegal and to allow parents threatened with permanent separation from their children to demand a hearing by a jury.

  • Comment number 53.

    ian josephs - Would you have left Toby with his parents?

  • Comment number 54.

    I am from a middle class background with 2 children and I have never had to deal with Social services only in a professional capacity and if somebody started 'assessing' the way I behaved with my children, writing notes of how I played with them and using clinical language I would absolutely freak out. I agree with one of the previous posts that the Dad was deemed agressive by the social workers but I think any parent who feels they are being judged in a negative way is not exactly going to take it like a lamb. I think there should be also some analysis of how we perceive others who of a totally different background. Yes the house was filthy but there should have been some merit given to the fact that the parents loved their children. Having just given birth to my second child, if somebody took my baby away after birth I would probably go into a depression myself and think 'maybe I'm not good enough and the baby would be better somewhere else'. As I said before I think this mother needed support. I could almost feel the social workers dancing with glee the fact she gave them up.

  • Comment number 55.

    I found the programme to be a real eye opener, and at the same time somewhat disheartening. I admit i had not realised that someone could be quite such a bad parent as the father. The child was 3 and a half and couldn't speak a word - why i wonder? When the child approached him, all he said was, "What?" then proceeded to talk to the dog! Later on he managed an "Oi." Surely it's not hard to understand that you need to talk to your kid once in a while? What hope has that child got? And his own kids when he's an adult? Presumably he'll end up just like his dad, and his dads dad. And so it goes on... i genuinely started thinking about ways to stop the cycle, but short of enforced sterilisation what can be done?

  • Comment number 56.

    Further to my previous comment of 00.29 I am heartened that so many posters believe this family could have been supported better and could have had a different outcome, if they had undergone learning difficulty assessments, parenting classes etc. Could someone please explain in nuts and bolts terms what would actually happen and how this would help them? I heard a Radio 4 programme about a peer led group working in south London, which looked at parenting challenges and solutions but know little of these situations.
    FWIW I also know parents who have been 'abused' by Child Protection procedures, I realise it is not a one sided debate. Thank you.

  • Comment number 57.

    It was agonising to watch a newly qualified social worker tentatively pick her way through this mess. Inevitably she would have one eye on the appallingly neglected child and the other on her own back. The experienced social worker who accompanied her on her unannounced visit emphasised to her that she had to be the conduit between the child's needs and her team leader back at the office. The more experienced woman had it right. She wasn't tentative -she was all about that child. I have sat in child protection meetings in my capacity as a head teacher and given evidence of obvious prolonged neglect and or abuse. More times than I can bear to remember the result was yet another set of interventions support for the family and yet more anxiety heaped on the head of the case-load heavy social worker. I am very clear about every chid having the right to grow up in a situation where they have half a chance to thrive. That chance should not be impeded by professionals who seem unable to take decisions in the best interests of the child. Tears, tea and sympathy don't cut it.

  • Comment number 58.

    Whether some or all of the social worker's reactions were as a result of cameras being there is very difficult to say although watching first episode, they did seem genuine, however, Not all Social work Managers are quite as honest, I have been struggling to alert the Government to serious child protection failures discovered, whilst a social worker in training, specialising in child protection. Because the failures now include MP,LA,LSCB,OFSTED,CSCI,GSCC,OMBUDSMAN (2),Children Sec,ED.Dept,Government child protection Intervention team; I am having to complain to the PM directly ! All my case is fully backed by doc.evidence mainly from FOI requests, and a witness (qualified social worker) who GSCC refuse to speak to.

  • Comment number 59.

    As a person who was in care from 1960 until 1977 in Bristol i feel i can understand on both sides of this terrible story.
    For a start What about dress sense? Social Workers wearing jeans and T-Shirts and studs in their lips? How can parents and children respect professionals like Social Workers when they visit homes looking like that?
    We have this no doubt, a very nice well educated Social Worker visiting this appalling house with no bed and dog mess on the floor? come on for goodness sake, let's use some common sense here!
    I believe some firmness needs to be established and i don't mean shouting, tell the parents what will happen if after given them help, that the child will be taken into foster care until the parents sort themselves out and sent on parental course's and pass an exam of some sort and if they make sufficient progress they can have there child back. All this namby pamby about, i feel makes matters worse.

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    I dont work in child protection and have never been in the system so my perspective on the program may be alittle different to some of the people who know the area and have more experience of it. Although My wife does work in CP so i guess i do have more insight than others.

    I thought the program was informative and my overall feeling was that such cases are difficult to cram into a program to cover all the aspects of the cases that no doubt build overtime

    One aspect that i thought could be improved for someone like myself was to have more explaination. I watch the program with my wife and her commentary about what was being done and why, what the observations were at certain times and what she saw in the images in the house certainly help me understand why decsions were being made in the way there were made.

    For example - although only briefly seen for a moment the bed that had been delivered was still unwrapped when they visited a few days later but the SW soundbites were more about had the bathroom been cleaned etc.I am sure there was more than just the bathroom she was looking at. But also an explaination of the plan that was put in place and what measures to help them were put in place

    Another example was theassessment of the childs interaction with his dad ( after he had been placed in foster care) when they played on the home etc. My wife was able to give insight into what the man was assessing rather than teh summary of " some positives but also negatives".

    Or why they elected to not pursue the bruising that is inconsistent with peadatricians veiws etc. So in view of the x and y and z we elected not to investigate etc

    I appreciate that maybe a commentary in that manner may have been considered ( maybe considered too judgemntal and not balanced or or even worries about the children seeing the program when older) but i think it would have added value to justify and explain what is going on as the soundbites alone only skimmed the surface. Meaning more explaination would have given more insight to someone like me.

    Overal i do think it was better than the last BBC series following SW in bristol and i think it hopefully will go someway to help people understand the difficult job CP SW have. I think everyone involved the SW, the parents etc should be thanked for allowing BBC to offer insight into unpredictable and stressful events for all concerned.

    RE post about dress sense - raised that with my wife. She said feelings were mixed on that one as some people may not respond well to some

  • Comment number 62.

    ian josephs wrote:
    1:- The UK is the ONLY State in the WORLD that gags parents whose children have been taken by social services

    2:- The UK is the ONLY State in Europe (except Croatia and possibly Portugal) to permit the horror of "forced adoption".

    3:-The UK is the ONLY State in Europe to allow "Punishment without crime" ie the taking of children by social services from parents who have not committed any criminal offence.

    4:- The UK is the ONLY State in Europe taking children for "emotional abuse" and worse still "risk of emotional abuse" (on the basis of predictions from overpaid charlatans that one day parents just might harm their children)

    5:- The UK is the ONLY State in Europe to censor conversation between parents and children in care.Children are left wondering what they have done wrong as parents are forbidden to explain the situation, or discuss the court case in any way. Phrases such as "I love you and I miss you" are also forbidden under the threat of contact being stopped immediately if the parents "transgress." Children naturally begin to think their parents might not love them or want them back anymore.

    All this is a disgrace to democracy and a disgrace to freedom that could be instantly rectified by legislation to make all the above five practices illegal and to allow parents threatened with permanent separation from their children to demand a hearing by a jury.

    SPOT ON IAN JOSEPHS...to much cover up in court without the right to a fair hearing, children removed for what parents may do with no criminal proof or prior conviction. I do not care who is in power but this closed court with it's gagging orders needs to be exposed...that is in the public interest. Why don't some of these TV company's make a documentary about how the system is UNBEATABLE once you are in it without the income of the Beckhams for a top top QC!

  • Comment number 63.

    Who is moderating this site Bristol Social Services?

  • Comment number 64.

    Do the posters here also remember that their are social workers for many different sections, Criminal Justice - ex offenders, Disabled adults, Older Adults, Occupational Health, They also have to do duty which is deal with whoever wanders in that day looking for help. I've seen social workers try to help the client get moved from a disabled flat to a different house because thats what the client wants but isn't best for the client's health needs.
    As for child protection - the social worker was there for Toby, not Mike or Tiffany & I doubt either would have been happy if she had said you need to play with your child like this, or put him to bed at this time. If parents can't get their head round the facts that children require a safe structured place to live, with food & clean surroundings then Im sorry but they should be parents.

  • Comment number 65.

    I was surprised that we didn't hear more about the health visitor's work with this family. Such families are generally referred by their HV if they're not coping with the demands of being parents or their child needs more help than they can give alone. If the NHS in Bristol still provides a health visiting service (some areas don't fund much), they would've been working hard to try and help these parents for at least 3 years before the situation reached the state we saw last night.

    I was struck by the parent's failure to recognise and respond to the needs of this little boy - the state of their home, the child undressed when there was snow on the ground and both parents were warmly dressed, the unchanged nappies, the bed, the dog's welfare, the lack of preparation for the child to stay away from home whilst Tiffany was in hospital and the open aggression displayed by the father who seemed quite uninhibited by the child's presence or the cameras. He described a number of his children in the past who had died, either through miscarriage or stillbirths and this sounded like a very troubled history indeed. If the social workers found him scary, what was it like when the circus went away and the man was at home to do and say what he pleased? Both parents appeared to have some degree of learning disability and may themselves have had troubled childhoods. This is very sad for both of them, but not a reason to allow the children to stay and suffer whilst they fail to cope.

    I suspect this was hard to film because there will have been some information which couldn't be given on camera, but would've influenced the decision. Such cases are usually the terminal stages of many years of effort to support families where children are still in impossible situations despite all the help parents have had.

  • Comment number 66.

    People like Mike and Tiffany do not deserve to and should not be allowed to have children. Mike and Tiffany had poor upbringings and seem to have a limited ability to understand or change the situation they are in.....and so the cycle continues...

  • Comment number 67.

    I have to say I have never found a documentary so upsetting. That poor girl in particular was left bereft after that process and I would like to think that someone somewhere cares enough to give her the support and guidance she so clearly needs. I do think that the BBC missed a golden opportunity however. They appear to have chosen the most stereotyped image of a social worker in Susanne. Surely they could have found someone without piercings, riding a bike and who looked like she crocheted her own yoghurt! Also if the family had been given a social worker with whom they could have more readily identified, perhaps they may not have been so defensive and obstructive, particularly the father. My view is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, if people think this situation is not common then they should drive around places like Knowle West and see the absolute poverty and misery many children are living in. Sadly they are the parents of the future and unless something is done to tackle poor parenting history will repeat itself.

  • Comment number 68.

    Interesting reading other people's comments and their perspectives!

    I felt for Tiffany - Mike clearly had issues and he lacked the ability to parent effectively - there was very little engagement when he saw Toby in the supervised visits. Toby was an active busy little boy who craved that attention.

    Mike was so much in denial that I wonder if he had the ability to take on board any guidance or support that social workers were able to offer and I suspect that his own childhood had a large bearing on who he is as an adult today. He lacked the ability to hold eye contact and engage with others without aggression.

    Tiffany did engage with Toby and I think she had the potential to be a good parent - but Mike's influece seemed to destroy her confidence.

    For me the nail on the head was when one of the social workers said 'would you leave an animal in there? 'no' -so why leave a child?'. There are environments which nuture and enable children to flourish and those which damage and abuse - I know which I would prefer...

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    An extreme case was chosen to make the social workers look good. Advantage has been taken of these two in getting them to participate in the programme.

    People are criticising Mike, but Tiffany had as much chance to do things for Toby. Things like put bed in place, clean the house, change nappy etc. She did not interact with Toby until the meeting towards the end.

    BOTH parents needed, and MAY, of benefited from parenting classes.

  • Comment number 71.

    I had to switch it off. I was too angry to continue watching what was clearly going to become a public hanging - well intentioned social workers playing 'god' as they did their best to 'protect' ie remove a loved child from his loving but dysfunctional parents.

    I didn't know there were rules for how clean and tidy we keep our homes or that everyone must have their own bed and toothbrush. Or are there only these rules for the powerless? Those in prison or those who are poor, uneducated and vulnerable, and who fall under the protective eye of 'social services'?

    When we applied to adopt a child our social worker emphasised that adopters don't need to be a special class of people, there are no rules she said for how to be a parent. We didn't need to have a separate room for the child we hoped to parent. We didn't need to prove we had a toothbrush ready for her. After we had our child placed with us we had some follow up visits from social services but nothing probing. If anything we felt the children were neglected by them. We were shocked by the lack of attention they paid the children - how were they checking they were being well looked after by us? How easy it would be to be doing a bad job of parenting them. But we are middle class, had a nice house, clean floors, no dog, we all had beds (and toothbrushes), and we could articulate our needs and position well. So different for Mike and Tiffany.

    Yes, there was dog poo on the floor of Toby's home and it was a mess and he had no bed of his own or a toothbrush. But he was not shown to be living with drug users, alcoholics or, thankfully, a physically violent parent (though this was implied it was never evidenced). We did not hear or see syringes or needles lying on the carpet. He was on the groundfloor not in a high-rise block.

    We now have two adopted children. We often wonder what really caused them to be taken into care. We were told it was 'neglect', as in Toby's case. But the documentation is very vague. We can't imagine life without them now. But how I feel for their birth parents. And for Toby's.

  • Comment number 72.

    I applaud this programme and the Social Workers televised. It appeared they were working very hard with this first family. Clearly the little boy needed direction. I noticed at the end of the episode how much he had improved developmentally and more happy. The mother was extremely brave but out of her depth. I feel very sad for her.

  • Comment number 73.

    Thank you to the many contributors to this high level of debate on this site. It's testament to the importance of getting social work right that so many people have taken the time to write in and comment in such depth with views from all sides.

    I think it's worth saying a few things about the making of the programme. This intense case was spread out over the course of 8 months with lots and lots of filming. There are areas of the story that are not included for editorial or practical reasons and many of the comments about what should have happened were addressed in some form or another. I hope you will appreciate that for reasons of confidentiality I cannot discuss any of these actual details, but it is worth remembering that like any child protection case it was multi-agency.

    I'd love to respond to more comments and I will be back after episode 2 next week (a very different case), but a couple of specific issues I'd like to address now.

    Rachel (23)- all I meant in relation to the social workers being emotionally attached is that you are trained to maintain very clear professional boundaries. I know from having spent the last year and a half with social workers that they all care and 'give a hoot!' I guess I better way of expressing my original thought is that for many social workers the work is a vocation not a job.

    I also feel obliged to respond to arabella-t (48). Your comment showed such an understanding of the situation that I implore you not to give up on social work! The fact that there isn't a clear simple fix to many family situations gets to the core of why trained professionals are needed to be able to work out how best to improve the specific context....

  • Comment number 74.

    Sacha a most interesting documentary. I really would be interested in discussing with you the murkey and complex world of family law inthe UK as a possible subject for a future documentary.
    I speak as a member of the Charity Families need Fathers.

  • Comment number 75.

    I was adopted at a very early age . The wrench from ones birth mother and the wound it causes remains entrenched in my psychology .
    I agree with Peter (59).
    Toby was taken from his parents by stealth . The mother,
    Tiffany realised what was going on at the interview when the social workers took
    Toby away from the room . This was wrong in my opinion .
    The social workers didn't exercise common sense in this instance. They knew how Mike behaved and so pre empted that scenario . The situation should have been more open .
    The parents should have been quite openly told that certain standards were not
    being met . A psychologist should have been allowed to act as an intermediary to
    try and increase the parents awareness of what was going on and to inform the
    parents of the outcomes of non action . The playing field would then have been
    more level . The psychologist acts in neutrality .
    They were all quite brave I suppose .

  • Comment number 76.

    I found this very upsetting and I had to side with the family, yes, the family needed a huge amount of help but it was summed up by the father in the first part of the film in that they wanted to rip the family apart, at the end, he was right and that was what happened. Watching the programme backwards would show a very interesting angle to the situation. Of course the mother would be depressed, of course the father would defensive, I would be!

    Here is another possible outcome:

    Social services emply a cleaner to go round once a week for an hour; change worker to a male to deal with fathers concerns, make the bed and fit the gate for them, collect the child to take for hospital and doctors appointments (they do it for the elderly!); do this for a year and teach them the skills. It would clearly have a positive outcome and would be cheaper and most importantly the family would be kept together, oh how I felt for the boy and baby leaving their parents. Yes I agree the house was a mess, the boy had underdeveloped speech and had tantrums (what kids dont) and there was neglect, but was what they were doing illegal - hmmm? No one can predict what would have happened if they had not gone to care but I felt that more time and help for the parents could have kept the family together. Yes the workers are over-worked but it does not mean that other methods can be tried. I pray for a positive outcome for all those involved.

  • Comment number 77.

    Quite breathtaking this is allowed on public television never mind so many other things that could be said. The BBC is really just a joke now-pity we still have to pay for it or become criminals

  • Comment number 78.

    I am deeply saddened by the events in this show, I could see very clearly the concerns from the social workers and I understood them, what really got to me is how the poor mother was actually trying hard for her children... I really felt that there was a complete lack of emotional And physical support for her. I found myself cheering her on to keep trying and continue to better herself so she could have her children back. I was completely shocked when she decided to put them up for adoption,,, was I the only one thinking that this woman could achieve this. ( I must add I had little faith in the farther). Is it a system where there are no hands on practical support for the parents? I believe this woman loved her children and all she needed was the right tools to help her..... I really think more could of been done to help this woman become a "good" mum.

  • Comment number 79.

    Purely subjective comment: the new social worker who was given the case seemed more sanctimonious and self-satisfied than genuinely interested or concerned. Maybe I'm being cynical. Maybe she was acting up for the camera with her various 'caring' faces. Sorry, I don't trust these people! They seemed barely less muddled and confused than the dad. That's not to say I trusted the parents either. I would certainly put the social workers slightly ahead in the case in question. In most cases I expect it would be the other way round, with parents struggling to get through the implacable stupidity and blindness of social workers while they failed to comprehend.

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    This poor famly have been totally let down by the system. Where has the real support been?
    Why not practical help? parenting programme? and a kind non-judgemental way of communication?
    They did not stand a chance.
    It is heartbreaking that poor Tyffany should have been made to feel her children would be 'better off' if adopted.
    Simply because they might be raised in a middle class wealthy 'family' does not mean those children are 'better off'
    Why not long term foster family with Tyffany given regular supervised access while she is taught parenting skills?
    The cost no doubt, and a society that thinks money and status is everything.

  • Comment number 82.

    Kelly are you sexist or were you watching the programme with your eyes and ears closed? Though perhaps the fact you spell father 'farther' explains.

  • Comment number 83.

    It makes me sad that many posters have a profound lack of compassion and understanding for the job parents have - some of them seem to have more compassion for social workers which is telling in itself. Also it is clear that these commentators have no idea as to the level of damage it causes in a child to be ripped from their natural bonds and this should only ever be done as a very last step and when done, it should be done with a gargantuan level of sensitivity and awareness of how truamatic it is for all involved.
    I agree with the brave comment that Andre1960 wrote "As Plato suggested for politicians - any one who want to be one should be instantly disqualified". I do not understand how anyone would want to be part of this system which robs children and parents of that which is most precious (whatever your judgment of it might be - I can assure you it is most precious to them). I can only presume it takes huge levels of emotional detachment which by the way ladies and gentlemen, if you can switch off from your emotions in this way then you are not a human, you are a machine. As I said already social work in its current form should be demolished and a more compassionate and balanced system put in its place.
    I also was moved to read Lisa's comment who has adopted children. Sometimes when people like this, say the things that really need said, but aren't fashionable to say, then other people who might also have spoken on a similar note feel gratified that these points are being raised. But don't be silent - be heard. If there are enough people to raise up out of our collective inertia and mass ignorance than maybe things will change.
    Thanks Sacha for raising these issues. I feel strongly that Tiffany and Toby's dad given their level of service and sacrifice to this cause, exposing themselves the way they have, should be offered every conceivable level of hope, support and follow up that the creators of this doc. can get for them. What is being done for them currently?

  • Comment number 84.

    I know how these people feel why didnt the social workers offer to help the tiffany towards getting her children bk and why do social services always say they try to keep families together when all they do is tear them apart

  • Comment number 85.

    Effectively, this scenario must be every parents worst nightmare; so the first thing is, we are seeing a documentary where many of us are for the first time confronting a situation of which most have little or no experience. So all praise to the programme for engaging so many people in a subject which is highly controversial and deeply disturbing. To my mind social work calls for 'judgements' which are not an exact science, how can it be?; yes sometimes they get it seriously wrong but we never read about the cases where they get it right because they are never likely to hit the headlines. Sad to say, there is evidenced need that there is a demand for social workers in society today ...let's face it, some people lack the capacity to be 'natural parents' ...and to be fair, this programme does not illustrate that behind the scenes there are 'whole family' interventions nor does it fully illustrate that the ideal outcome is for a family to be together in a safe and secure environment ...children and young people who enter the care system are less likely to go on to achieve, develop appropriate self-awareness or easily achieve meaningful relationships, but right now, the alternative such as the Victoria Climbie or Baby P cases show that 'making a wrong call' ends in the ultimate tragedy. Many feel that there is in fact a greater need for a better trained, more informed and better resourced social care system ...I'm sorry that we need one at all, but evidence shows that effective interventions can really give a young disadvantaged child a real chance to go on to a happy and healthy life, admittedly not always. Parents, no matter their background, need help at some stage to a lesser or greater degree; surely if we value children we would seriously resource and serve their nurturing and protection. Social workers may not be ideal, they may not be perfect, but surely they are at the frontline, firefighting on every level, having to deal with the emotional impact of the work which they do day to day ... I know that a significant number of people have felt unjustly treated by the social work system and the courts, and lives really have been destroyed though what often appear to be arbitary decisions, but what about the countless numbers of children who have been protected ...could the social care system be better? could social workers be more effective given the support and training? you bet ...the question is, would we honestly be better off without them? If so, how many Baby P's would there be today if not for them? I can't really believe that social wo

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    I was deeply disturbed by this programme but delighted it was shown.
    These cases are in the publics interest, I was not impressed at the social workers comment regarding keeping “dead children” in her bag.
    Totally shocked by such a comment given the serious nature of her profession!

    Whilst, I totally appreciate these two parents were in need of a whole lot of support in caring for their children, I felt the approach was overbearing, they were totally engulfed by the system without support, or none that was shown.

    Why couldn’t Toby’s dad not have a different social worker if he felt uncomfortable with one person? It could of made a difference, we’ll never know now.

    The amount of money poured into the ‘some justified’ actions taken and the long term costs of Toby’s care home would have been better placed into their housing conditions, extra support for Toby and parenting skills which were desperately needed, nobody can argue with that.

    From my eyes they were a family completely overwhelmed by their little boys difficult behaviour and there overhaul lack of skills but does that make bad people?

    They once had a chance of being a happy family of four and now they are all seperated.

    The whole system needs a complete overhaul to include transparency in all that they do.
    There is far too much secrecy surrounding this departmental work, I sincerely hope this programme has paved the way for much needed change.

  • Comment number 89.

    I would like to mention is that a number of children in this country have died with Social Services knowing full well that these children were at risk. In my eyes they failed to act so this makes them part to blame for the loss of these innocent children. The UK needs to realize that since the year 2000 when Tony Blair made adoption targets for Social Services to meet by offering a Cash Incentive Bonus. Since this there is no such thing has child protection just a Government Child Abduction Squad that remove children on unfounded allegations and lies. Adoption is now a Child Trafficking business for the Government of the UK. Wake up UK to the truth about Forced Adoption in the UK.
    David Paul Jenkins
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 90.

    social workers are all bias. no matter how hard you try, if they have made their mind up you cant change it . my son is paying the price of a social worker wanting the money made from his adoption more than his return to a loving home.

  • Comment number 91.

    I have never commented on an online forum before, but felt moved to do so by this programme. Like many other posters, I found it deeply disturbing. My twin sister has suffered from depression and has two young children. Without the support of her husband and parents, I wondered if she might end up like Tiffany - feeling that she has no choice but to put her children into care? When you are depressed it is all too easy to think that "the children would be better off without me". In the short term it may well have been best for Tiffany's children to be looked after by foster parents but, in the longer term, surely she could have been helped to improve her confidence so that she could then look after the children that she obviously loved? At some points I'm the programme I felt that Toby should be removed from his parents as they didn't seem able to meet his needs. However, his mum at least was affectionate and he didn't look under-fed - there is no single model for what a 'good' family should look like, and the irreversible separation of the children from their mum seemed like a very drastic outcome.

  • Comment number 92.

    I'll admit that when I decided to watch this show I expected myself to side against the social workers.

    I have a lot of personal experience with social workers, having been on the 'at risk' register since I was probably about five, and nearly all of it has been negative.

    I didn't like people coming into my home and making my mum upset. Simple as that really. I didn't like that they took me away from my mum and gave me to my aunt.

    But, looking back now I don't think they did nearly enough. The houses I lived in were always a look filthier than the ones shown in that documentary. My mum neglected to feed me, provide hot water for baths, electricity. She'd leave me alone at night, she'd take heroin with me in house. She'd bring random drug addict friends of hers home to stay with us. She rarely made sure I got to school.

    Looking back now - and it's not like this happened thirty years ago, I'm currently 18 - I don't understand how I was left in that house with her. I mean, I was a cheerful, well behaved child, so it's not like my emotional distress was greatly evident, but it was/is definitely there. If I saw a child living in the conditions I was living in, I wouldn't think twice about taking them away.

    So, in a sense I can really understand the social workers perspective. And, also, I can understand the parents perspective. They love their children, they think they're doing as good as they can do for them.

    But what about the children? Surely the emotional distress of the parents should take a back seat in child welfare. Yes, Toby's parents are emotionally traumatised because of his removal. But what about Toby and his sister? Are they happier. Do he they a better chance at life?

    My reply a year ago would have been, no, they'd have done okay without being taken away, I have! But after meeting people who have experiences with being fostered... well. No, no they're probably better off now. Especially if they're lucky enough to find good, loving foster homes (and there are a lot out there).

    At least now they have a chance. What chance did they have with their parents? Tiffany had it exactly correct when she said that they were parenting their children the way they were parented.

  • Comment number 93.

    Hi Alphie

    I'm really sorry things were so difficult for you in your childhood. It was good to have your perspective.

    Martin Narey led an enquiry into why there are so many bad outcomes for children who'd been through the care system and concluded, as you suggested, that the greatest problem was that children were removed from neglect or abuse too late.

    You're also right that the feelings of parents should be secondary. Love is not just about feelings - it's a practical matter. Specifically, it's about wanting the best for the child and being able to deliver it. If the parents' 'best' is not good enough to satisfy any reasonable expectation that the child will be secure, happy and realise their potential as a human being, then the child should be removed from those parents and placed somewhere where they have a fighting chance. Every child is owed this as an absolute right. This supersedes any parental rights. Parenting is about fulfilling those obligations to a child which are necessary for the proper development of the child. If the person/people with primary responsibility for the child are not fulfilling these obligations they are not parenting the child and are therefore not due any parental rights. This may sound harsh, but is the correct perspective.

    I feel this is something of such great importance, and the consequences of getting it wrong as so serious and far-reaching, that far greater trouble should be taken. The question is, are the statutory authorities for judging such questions fit to do so? It is clear they are not. This is partly a matter of resources, but probably a structural thing too. I don't think the solution is anything near what we have. Why do I say this? Because what we have too often doesn't work. That is enough to condemn it. It needs something more than tinkering because the failures are too frequent and too gross.

    I have two suggestions:

    1) There needs to be a strong lay element because professionals will always end up serving themselves.

    2) Those professionals who are involved in anything to do with child welfare need to be of the highest caliber.

    Neither of these situations appertain at the moment. I have faith in lay people directed by true experts in every aspect of child development. In other words, children need to have well-informed common sense working for them. What they have now is the horrible compromise of possibly well-intentioned people who muddle through using rules of thumb focussed on satisfying organisational needs, who are out of their depth without even knowing it, and are not properly supported. What you end up with is a child stuck with one set of clueless and incompetent people who are blind to their own deficiencies but easily excuse them (unfit parents) being rescued by another set of clueless and incompetent people who are blind to their own deficiencies but easily excuse them (social workers). I suspect that the greatest determinant of a good outcome for children under current arrangements is luck. We should be able to better by children.

    Do you think I'm exaggerating? I read about some research into the difference in outcomes for children placed into adoption where a carefully devised and rigorously executed selection procedure was in place, versus outcomes where there was no selection procedure at all. What was the difference? None whatsoever! (If you exclude the desirable outcome that a number of livelihoods were created for people who got to play God). I don't think this proves that human beings are incapable of exercising good judgement, only that it's hard to create institutions which have these qualities.

  • Comment number 94.

    We recently (3 months ago) had our fair share with Social Services and the experience has left our family in devastating state. Our son was not vaccinated after 3 years old (educated choice), does not eat sugar and was under a homeopath for over a year rather than Clinic/Surgery – GP pressured to see Health Visitor in a way ‘either go to Clinic or Social Services’. During the visit HV used faulty scales and our son was underweighted by 5kg – Social Services were on our door step within 3 days unannounced. We are glad we did not allow for Social Services worker to speak to our 4.5 year old alone, after 2 hours of interrogation session. By some pure luck, I left the country the following day to look after my mother (with my son) – if not for that, our son would have been taken from us by now.

    Being abroad, we have written a complaint – the social worker was very young, straight after college and made number of mistakes. The reply we received with summary of her ‘assessment’ was simply shocking – this has resulted in 20 pages of follow up complaint addressing astonishing number of misrepresentations, quotes that were never stated, details that were never given, all of these authorised by the manager. After that we have filed Data Protection request to release the full assessment and the notes from GP – if we would have been told that anything like this even remotely possible in civilized society, we would have never believed it. ‘NEGLECT’ and ‘Urgent Child Protection case’ were dominating the GP’s records. The amount of fabrications to construct the case from nothing was unimaginable – the main goal has clearly been to reach the only possible outcome as fast as possible. The parent’s point of view or side of story were never considered – we were treated like guilty before even proven to be as such, anything we said were not only never considered, but not even heard.

    We are very lucky that our son has left the country during this battle, for 3 months all we did is non-stop spead-type writing – endless complaints and follow-ups of the complaints up to the very very top as far as possible and down below the ‘ladder’, we were also very fortunate that we found powerful QCs who choose to stand behind us – if you are a parent who are up against the Social Services and you have not done all the above, you STAND NO CHANCE whatsoever - they hit you as a ton of breaks and leave you no time to even understand what has happened and what in fact you are accused of. To write complaints and receive Data Protection information takes months, Social Services can fabricate the case and take the child in the matter of days. Closed up courts with barristers reading Social Services’ statements with the phrases such as ‘failure to thrive’, ‘emotional harm’ or even ‘future chance of emotional harm’ are stereo-typical phrases ‘thoughtfully’ inserted into the ‘assessments’ which will guarantee the removal of the child.

    In 2000 Social Services were given the targets that they had to meet, they were given financial incentives, bonuses – babies and good-looking children were earmarked. Although some of the things within the system were changed, the people who work there appear to have not. Heartless falsifications appear to be absolute norm of working conditions. Simple research in online newspaper articles on ‘social care neglect’ will give masses of cases resembling striking similarity with our case. Further online research on ‘foster homes’, ‘neglect adoption’ will give masses of alarming statistics that children who have been in foster homes end up in prisons more likely than anyone else; drug and substance abuse, early fall-out of schools, early pregnancies, very high unemployment statistics and suicides are just as common as the cold in these places. The children’s helplines are also registering alarming number of telephone calls from children in foster care reporting abuse – it is very naive to simply hope that child will have caring foster parents, because if not, this will never be discovered. How is that a better outcome for the future?!

  • Comment number 95.

    this programme showed a young venerable woman, who was trying her dammest to make good of a bad situation, all the social workers provided for her was extra stress, yes she was right to get rid of the partner, however where the social workers should of help, by confidence course's , praising her when she did get things right, appaulling to see, this failing and above all else, how very very sad it was to see her give up her children, whom without a dout she clearly loved and adored, this was not right, legal fact she was on anti-depressents, at the time of makin this desion, please please please i hope this lady , fights and gets her adorble (sometimes) children back.

  • Comment number 96.

    this programme really got to me as im a mother of 4 wonderfull children and one on the way due in 3 wks my children have been removed from my care for 8 months they have been gone they were ment to be gone for the weekend that was the 9th july 2011 im working my hardest with social services to get my children home where they belong yeh ok social had there concerns im not judging that but we have done everything in are power to work with them and were not getting anything back doesnt mean im gonna give up tho i will fight till the end it kills inside when you only get to see them 3 times a week for a hour and 15 mins the social worker has accused me of having mental health problems which doctors will confirm there is no such medical reason for this to be confimred none listerns to are complaints so yeh i do hate social services for the way we have been treated and also my babys have been split into two diffrent homes im livid they could split up a loving family who would never hurt there children so i feel for any family involved with social services if they actually did there job right and went after children that needed there help then they wouldnt get so much bad press

  • Comment number 97.

    It is clear from the programme and the actual experiences of those at the receiving end of interventions by social workers that they decide things very early on about the family they are involved with. They clearly invite anger and hostility by their attitude to families.

    They are trained to show a 'caring' face- the BBC crew have had the full act. Look at the GSCC (not a very effective regulator) website to see how many social workers, dealing with all manner of vulnerable clients do wrong. If others with criminal records of any kind cannot get jobs in the care field, neither should social workers be allowed to practice once they have one- how can one trust such a person? They do not allow families to make mistakes, nor then should the public forgive theirs.

    Child protection in the child's best interests must always include the views of the child in having a 'new family'. There is no guarantee Toby will develop into a well balanced adult following their intervention, professionals like the children's doctor are not God to know that this child definitely has a six month window of opportunity to catch up to development for his age, especially if the child has learning difficulties. Many children grow up in impoverished environments globally without long term detriments. Love of parents is the thing that matters (and removing the dog in this case for hygiene issues).

    The fact is the social workers are working to the book formula from theories from their courses tempered sometimes with their own upbringing / conditioning and personal values, though they will never admit this. That is why the safeguarding / child protection work is so problematic and dangerous to society, as it is not just about best interests of the vulnerable. We should ask in whose best interests?

    We have politicians who respond to sound bites and their own prejudices, so we have families being broken up because they do not want a root and branch look at the situation as it occurs. More children being removed ? for what? to where? and for what eventual outcome in society?

    Where they know they have legal powers they use them. Professor Munro, in an article on this website, is noted to state that foster carers are not well treated as councils, (read social work teams), do more to protect themselves it would seem. If this is the case with foster carers it will no less be the case for other families- be in no doubt.

    It is time that it was recognised by the public that the failures in child protection occur for the same reasons as ordinary families, whose lives may not be perfect, have their children removed on a notion of future harm which is unproveable, even when low risk of harm.

  • Comment number 98.

    It seems tragically that some parents are utterly inadequate socially, educationally, mentally or on all parameters?.

    Toby, a three year old developmentally retarded, still in nappies with no potty training, no bed or cot of his own, running around the flat bare chested, no toothbrush with father saying, "Why should he brush his teeth, I don't brush mine!" etc etc etc AND yet we have families adoring and caring for their kids in a most loving way with some dads keeping a milestone book!

    Even the mother was honest enough to admit her inadequacies, own neglect, abuse etc which affected her mothering abilities...but the father was so utterly paranoid, ineffectual, bullying...was there any hope for the kid or relationship?

    The last scene was so telling when the father without a shred of remorse/emotion spoke of his previous lost children through miscarriages...does he feel ANY RESPONSIBILITY for his own fathering? Does he care for anyone? Is he capable of changing? Is this just the tip of the iceberg with huge numbers of dysfunctional families out there in the "community"? How will Toby grow up? Is it inevitable that he will be a maladjusted adult? Questions, questions and more questions...

  • Comment number 99.

    of track slightly but i find sickening the bbc rightous attidude to child health.
    They are currently sacking my wife from a low paid position for no reason other than not being able to leave our 16month breastfed daughter for 15hrs at a time.The bbc has NO moral high ground .There attitude is that a child has no right to be seen or feed by its mother.

  • Comment number 100.

    I am still unable to get this family out of my mind.
    It has sparked a fantastic healthy debate and I truly welcome it, hopefully more will come over the next two weeks.

    What really shines though is the desperate need for a complete independent review of social services, yes they do work with multi agencies but I feel it is fair to say, once concerns are raised agencies appear to stick together and look for only the negative aspects of parenting. I have heard of lies being told and things being taken out of context.

    Without question children need to be protected and I feel those cases should be very easily identified, however that is not always the case.

    Personally, I would like to see a completely independent voluntary team being involved from the beginning, maybe an unbiased scrutiny committee with nothing to gain other than to give a completely independent oversight for both social workers and parents.

    I know that there are ‘alleged’ independent workers who can become involved as indeed the ‘chairman’ at CP conferences are supposed to be ‘independent’ yet they generally work for the same council.
    It is impossible to wear two hats with such an emotive subject - human nature kicks in they will generally be more supportive of their colleagues expertise.

    As reported by the BBC on 31st January 2012 “Child protection services face unannounced inspections.”

    This would be an excellent move hopefully towards transparency and integrity.


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