“. . . . Anne Neale, of Legal Action for Women who co-authored a report which found care orders were targeting low-income families, said: “The power of social workers is quite frightening. What is not paid any attention is the impact on children of the trauma of being separated from their parents
The burden these children carry for their lives and feeling of rejection is shown by the outcomes for many in care who end up in the criminal justice system.
In cases when they are being breast-fed they are being taken away. We’ve started a Support not Separation coalition. There’s a big government push for adoption which would mean fewer children in care but it’s had the opposite effect.”
When mum Jill Goss visited a GP for a routine appointment to check a swelling on her baby daughter’s arm, she thought she’d be home with her ten-week-old in a few hours. But after an unimaginable sequence of events, her child was taken from her forever and she was thrust into a living nightmare.
The mum-of-two is one of tens of thousands of parents who have had their children seized by social services using secretive court care orders.
Parents up and down the country are facing agonising court battles each year against councils who are removing children in record numbers.
Jill, who has not seen her daughter since she was taken by social services and adopted in 2012, said: “I think about her every day.
“On her birthday some years we have let off balloon lanterns for her birthday or lit a candle.
“I’ve also got a memory book so I put things in there. But once she turns 18 I will do everything I can to try and find her.”
Campaigners and judges have warned of strong-arm tactics by social services who hide under a cloak of secrecy granted by the courts.
Devastated families are being torn apart with thousands of children under the age of one alone taken from parents each year – many of those removed after birth from hospital wards.
The Sun can reveal children taken through forced court care orders rocketed by a shocking 34 per cent from 7,550 to 10,130 last year.
Government sources told The Sun they have investigated the huge leap and that there is “no single reason” for the rise.
The explosion in care cases – with almost 73,000 children in care last year – has been described as an “untenable” pressure on courts by the top High Court family judge Sir Andrew McFarlane.
Public outrage has followed some high-profile cases such as one in June when a judge blasted social workers after they removed a boy, aged eight, from his mother’s care because she did not take him for an ice cream.
Others include one child taken away because they were too fat and nine children – some as young as two – removed because parents failed to get them to brush their teeth.
For hairdresser mum Jill, whose case has previously featured on the BBC’s Panorama programme, the trauma began when she took her baby daughter to see a doctor over a swelling on her arm.
The GP diagnosed a tiny fracture on ten-week-old Alyssa’s arm and sent her for hospital x-rays which discovered three more fractures on her legs and ribs.
Baby Alyssa had been receiving treatment for vitamin D deficiency but this was dismissed by social workers – despite doctors’ reports saying this may have led to the fractures.
Alyssa’s father Jon then claimed to have accidentally injured the child while holding her after they say a police officer and social worker advised them this was the easiest way for Jill to get the child back.
Jon later retracted the statement but a family court judge ruled he had likely injured the girl and that because Jill maintained he had not harmed his daughter she was not safe to be around the child either.
Both Jill and Jon were arrested and held on bail but after two years the charges were dropped.
At the same time they were involved in a two-year court battle which saw Alyssa put up for adoption by Wokingham Borough Council in 2012 with no right to appeal.
Hairdresser Jill, who has not seen her daughter in six years, fled to Spain in 2012 to give birth to her son Loiq after she is said to have received threats from social workers he would be taken from her at birth.
But despite UK authorities initially pursuing Jill she now lives happily with her six-year-old boy near Granada, southern Spain, alongside the rest of her family.
Jill, 31, who before fleeing had lived in Reading, said: “Once we took Alyssa to the Royal Berkshire hospital it started to go very wrong.
“After they found the fractures the police were called in after a day and we had to speak to them in the hospital conference room.
“Alyssa had been constipated so we’d been told to massage her stomach but social services said this could not be the reason for the fracture. Another doctor said there was no way we had injured her though.
“We were arrested in the hospital and taken to the station but I thought I’d be able to go back and see Alyssa – the police said I could but I was just terrified and distraught.
“Then I signed a document believing it meant Alyssa could stay with her aunt but in fact I’d signed for her to go into care.
“They considered putting me on sedatives but I was still providing breast milk for Alyssa which they were taking to her.
“I’d been lied to – it was horrendous and I later told my solicitor but they didn’t push this in court.
“We were in the court within days and it was clear then Alyssa was in care – I always believed I would get her back because we had done nothing wrong.
“I’ve still got Loiq to concentrate on and I have to carry on for him and also when Alyssa is older, if I find her first or she finds me, I don’t want her seeing that I’ve spent my life wasted all because of what’s happened.
“I don’t want her to blame herself because of it – it’s not her fault and it’s not my fault. She would be eight now and I don’t know anything about her.
“I’ve not even had letter contact because it’s up to the adopters whether they send anything. It’s heartbreaking.”
Child deaths and the number of those listed by councils as being at risk of sexual or physical abuse has dropped in most years since 1995.
But those said to be at risk of neglect or emotional abuse – the main reason behind court care orders – has risen.
The government has responded to high-profile cases of neglect by asking teachers and those in contact with children to make more referrals to social services.
It means that currently almost one in ten children in England are referred for assessment each year.
Last year figures showed a record 90 children each day – 32,810 across the year – were taken into care through forced and voluntary agreements after social services’ intervention.
Children in care due to court orders is now the highest it has ever been at 50,470 – around a 25 per cent rise on eight years before – with more than 14,000 applications to the courts in each of the last two years.
In 2016 former top family judge Sir James Munby said there was a “relentless rise in the number of new care cases” and that the country was” approaching a crisis for which we are ill‐prepared and where there is no clear strategy to manage the crisis.”
And current family judge president Sir Andrew McFarlane has said the courts could be “slipping” into taking children away who were “generally in need” rather than asking whether removal conditions had been met.
He added: “It may properly be said that we have reached a stage where the threshold for obtaining a public law court order is noticeably low, whereas, no doubt as a result of the current financial climate, the threshold for a family being able to access specialist support services in the community is conversely, very high.
In June Mr Justice Mostyn fumed at a social worker from Carmarthernshire, Wales, who had taken a child away from his mum after she refused to give him an ice cream.
At the High Court he said the social worker’s criticisms were “utterly insubstantial” and “obviously inconsequential” – describing her report as “very long on rhetoric” but “very short indeed” on “concrete examples” of “deficient” parenting.
We spoke to another couple John and Jacque Courtnage who lost their two sons after taking their youngest baby to hospital in Nottingham after becoming concerned by a swelling on his head.
John, a 51-year-old data analyst and wife Jacque, a 49-year-old former accountant who now runs a charity for families whose children have been “forced adopted”, were accused of causing the injuries in 2008.
Social services took the children from their care despite one medical expert presenting evidence the head injury had been caused by a fissure – a birth defect that weakened the skull bone.
The couple battled for three years to have their children back but were unsuccessful and they were adopted in 2011.
Jacque, speaking from the couple’s detached home in leafy Allestree, Derby, tearfully said: “We get a one page letter once a year from social services with brief details which amount really to just telling us the boys are fine.
“Our lives are now so painful. We can’t watch television’s Long Lost Families, we just find it too upsetting.
“Our whole house is covered in photographs of the boys. We want to be constantly reminded of them. Our screen savers are all pictures of the boys.
“Every birthday we buy them cards and presents such as train sets and telescopes which we’ve wrapped and will give to them when the time is right.
“We have written a book about all that has happened in our lives that we constantly update. We have given instructions that if anything should happen to us it will be given to them when they are 18.”
Anne Neale, of Legal Action for Women who co-authored a report which found care orders were targeting low-income families, said: “The power of social workers is quite frightening.
“What is not paid any attention is the impact on children of the trauma of being separated from their parents
“The burden these children carry for their lives and feeling of rejection is shown by the outcomes for many in care who end up in the criminal justice system.
“In cases when they are being breast-fed they are being taken away. We’ve started a Support not Separation coalition.
“There’s a big government push for adoption which would mean fewer children in care but it’s had the opposite effect.”
A Derbyshire County Council spokeswoman said they could not comment on the Courtnage family’s case because of “ongoing legal proceedings”.
Wokingham Borough Council refused to comment on Jill’s case while a spokesman for the Department for Education, in regard to the huge leap in care orders last year, said: “The decision to issue a care order rests with the courts and is always made with the best interest of the child at heart and based on their individual needs.”