Do No Harm – Donna Mason

DO NO HARM Seminar 11 September 2018, House of Commons

DONNA MASON

In the name of child protection my only granddaughter suffered great harm and was deeply traumatised. She was forcibly adopted using the spurious and impossible premise that she was at “possible risk of future emotional harm”.

People believe that because cases go through the court that there are safeguards. In fact this is not how it works. If you are poor, working class, in need of support, services, housing or have been in care it can be used as proof that you are not fit to be a parent. My granddaughter’s young, poor, vulnerable parents were never given a chance. There was no support for a young mum who had herself left home as a teenager and so was vulnerable, no help, only a drive to remove our little girl from us. No crime had been committed, no abuse, no neglect. She was happy and thriving even though her mum had been isolated and set up to fail in a mother and baby unit.  We were not a threat. Using our past and our poverty the social services set out to prove that she needed protecting from her loving parents and grandparents.  And even when her foster carer wanted to adopt her (which would at least have meant she only suffered the trauma of separation once) it wasn’t possible because of finances, and also because the social worker lied to the judge and said she couldn’t contact the foster mum, when I know that she didn’t even try.

Throughout this brutal process we were told it was being done in the best interests of my granddaughter. Our objections and disagreement were used to further prove we were unable to put her needs first. We were blamed and shamed, investigated and judged. We had to cooperate. They had all the power. We had only our pain and anger. And our fear for her. To take an infant and display her on a video like a commodity, for her to meet only once with the couple who were to raise her, to be ripped from all she knew, for all relations with those who loved her severed was not in her best interests. It was cruel. Everything she knew, her security gone. New parents, new home, new sights, smells and sounds. She had no choice, no voice, no comprehension. I was terrified for her. If it happened to us as adults, to be taken from all we know, from our family and friends, to be transplanted to an alien environment without a voice or a choice we would be lost and afraid. We would be traumatised.

The authorities would not acknowledge that my granddaughter would be traumatised. In desperation I rang the NSPCC because I wanted to protect her from that harm and suffering. The NSPCC said they could not help. They did not want to talk to me. Eyes were closed, ears were deaf, heads buried deep in the sand of denial. But what my granddaughter suffered and the life long consequences cannot be erased even though they were buried and ignored.

I worry about the questions my grand-daughter will have.   Will she wonder why was she adopted?  Will she think she wasn’t wanted or that something awful happened which meant she was taken away?  What is she being told about her family?   Are we being demonised in her eyes so that she will be angry or frightened to try to find us when she gets older?

I have three grandsons. They are thriving. Because of what happened to my granddaughter I am acutely aware of how easy it is for the state to take children from their loving mothers and families. And once you have had a child removed it is proof in their eyes that you cannot be trusted to be a parent. They will come after you again. The threat and stigma follow you.

The whole process is inhumane and antiquated. It blames and punishes individuals for the fault that lies in the uncaring, unequal and unfair society we live in. For the sake of the children the system has to change. And that is what we aim to do.