Do No Harm – Olive Howell

DO NO HARM Seminar 11 September 2018, House of Commons

My name is Olive, I am mother to my 13 year old daughter. She was taken from me aged 9. We had unwarranted intervention from Social Services since my daughter was aged 8 after my mother died and we had to go to Jamaica to deal with things. My daughter was out of school for a period and I was home schooling. Despite having authorization, social services started a campaign of harassment: bullying, slander, embarrassment, threats, and finally imprisonment for contempt of court, which was then used to make me sign a Section 20 so my daughter would be ‘looked after for the few days I was in prison.

It became four years. That’s how long it took to have her returned to me despite the court stating they wanted us reunited.   I believe this was institutional racism as we were never given a reason why she was taken and kept from me. Even now upon her return, still no reason given.  They separated my child from me, isolated her from her family, friends, the area we live, and even stopped her from going to the secondary school of her choice with all her friends.   My once confident, bright and healthy daughter, became very tearful, withdrawn and clingy.

Before she was taken from me, social services used to come to our home almost every day to check up on us, wanting to walk in as it was their home. When I refused them entry or wasn’t home they called the police. As a result of all the pressure, my daughter started to suffer terrible headaches and losing sleep. The social worker stated in her report that she was being affected by theirs and the police intervention, but they continued.  The “SIGNIFICANT HARM” they claimed she was at risk of is exactly what they caused her by removing her from me, and isolating her so she was in the hands of strangers with absolutely no protection. That was the SIGNIFICANT HARM and we live with the consequences today.

We had to endure meeting up in a horrible contact centre under supervision. My daughter would be sobbing her heart out at every session just hoping she could come home with me. She would cry on the phone so much that it caused her to catch her breath.   But I was helpless, I couldn’t comfort her nor protect her, as I didn’t even know where she was. No value was put on her relationship with her mother and how important it was for her well-being and happiness.  I objected to the contact centre as it was upsetting her so contact was terminated. I didn’t see my daughter again for 1.5 years. They tried to eliminate me out of her life. The social worker constantly said “You are not getting her back until she’s 18.” “I’m keeping her.” “I don’t want her to have any contact with you, I don’t want her to know your address or where you live.”  I was told that she was always crying in school, and asking her friends’ mothers to please speak to the social worker as she wants to go home and she wants to see her mum. Some of the mothers wrote to me, to social services, one even offered to foster my daughter so she could stay local. All to no avail.

We used to communicate secretly via her iPad. But when they realized that they punished her and confiscated her iPad. I didn’t get to speak to her for 4 months. The social worker even made her give him the passcode and passwords to her iPad and it was not returned to her for two years.   She was told not to speak to me or she would be moved to another placement and to call the police if she saw me.   I kept hearing the words, “It’s in her best interest”. But what I saw was that a once happy and confident child had become terrified.

With help from LAW, I managed to get the case back to court, to get the social worker off the case, and nearly a year later, in July, she finally came home and without a supervision order.

The child I knew is now:
Our lives and our relationship nearly destroyed
Fearful, Insecure, Manipulated . .
She was also physically uncared for: her hair and her general appearance which we had always taken such pride in. Her dreadlocks not washed or seen to for 9 months. They kept lying about non-appointments to the hairdresser. She’d be wearing badly torn tights to school.  A social worker later told me that the foster lady was cold and unloving. That she shouldn’t be looking after children anymore. She said that my daughter had been neglected.

The court agreed that we should get support with the transition but so far we’ve got nothing. We’ve been left without any help or support from social services to deal with the significant harm they caused, which could take a very very long time, if ever. But at least we are together and I can help support her so she can deal in her own way with what was done to her.