Do No Harm – Nina Lopez

DO NO HARM Seminar 11 September 2018, House of Commons

Introduction by Nina Lopez

Good evening everyone. You are very welcome here.  We are very glad that so many people have come.  My name is Nina Lopez from Legal Action for Women and also from the Global Women’s Strike.  Legal Action for Women coordinates the Support not Separation coalition whose banner you see here at the back.

Before we start, I would like to ask people not to take photos or to film.  We have somebody filming so the stuff will be made available… but because we are discussing children, legal cases and all that…Niki will be here shortly and so there will be some photos taken… but we just want to make sure that if there is sensitive information it doesn’t get out there in the world.

The purpose of this meeting as you’ve seen from the leaflet, I hope everybody has one, is to gather and present evidence of the harm caused to the children by social services, by the authorities taking children away ignoring the trauma that the separation from their mother causes them.  And, in fact, inflicting more harm than those children would have gone through if they hadn’t been separated.  There is very little recognition of that and we intend to change this so that we can actually change the situation for children and for families.

Now, because there are so many of us and because time is always limited, we’re not going to able to go through everybody’s experience of who is here.  I’m sure many of you have your own experience of the battles you have made to keep your children or to get them back, and I hope that many of you have won.  Some of us have won and some of us have lost but we are determined to change the situation so that none of us lose anymore and so that our children, especially, don’t lose.

So we have a form.  We ask people that when they’ve heard all the speakers, please keep your questions and comments brief.  And we have some forms at the back for people to actually leave more information about your cases, which we would love to have – you can do it anonymously or you can put your name, as you wish – as it’s very important information that we hope to use in our campaigning, and also to stay in touch with you.

Now, just to say briefly where we stand as a coalition.  The law doesn’t recognise the primary relationship between mother and child.  It treats the child as some kind of independent person who more or less comes out of a cardboard box, becomes this legal entity, and therefore the welfare of the child becomes their primary concern – so they say – but without real recognition that the child is dependent on the mother, and that in order for the child to be, to have wellbeing and happiness, the child needs the mother.

And I do say the mother because in the age of equality, where everything has become gender neutral, all of a sudden it doesn’t really matter whether it’s the mother, the father, the ‘corporate parent’, whoever it is somehow, somebody is going to take care of this child. But life is not like that and the fact is that until recently it was assumed, and I think every single civilisation had assumed, that the child needs, first of all, a mother.

Now it’s not always the mother, there are other primary carers and, of course, we very much recognise that and we work very closely with the Scottish primary carers, the kinship carers who are fighting for recognition, including financial recognition.

Also, there is very little recognition of the fact that in many court cases the father is actually violent.  And there will be more said about that, which is another reason why we can’t be gender neutral and equate everybody and put us all in the same bag.

Now, in the age of women’s liberation… and of course we are all in favour of being liberated and of not being stuck in a position where a woman is just supposed to be a mother and that is her role in society and nothing else.  In that age, somehow to be identified as a mother has become unfashionable.  It’s something that’s looked down on.  It’s something that’s no longer recognised, despite the fact that mothers are fighting for their children every day.  There are tens of thousands of mothers out there, and we meet them on our picket every month, who are absolutely desperate because of what has happened to their children and because of the worry about how their children are managing.

We don’t want anybody’s liberation to be at the expense of children, at the expense of anybody else.  It cannot be like that and we stand against it.

The people like [John] Bowlby, people like Oliver James and Sue Gerhardt who have spoken and written and researched about the fundamental importance of the relationship between mother and child, have been attacked because somehow that doesn’t go together with women going out to work and prioritising their careers over their family life.

Now, if you ask the majority of women, and Mumsnet and others have done that, and you ask mothers with young children ‘what do they want?’, you will find out that the majority do not want to be working full time because the majority do want to have more time for their children.  Now that is a reality which is not acknowledged and which we want to put on the agenda.  Because our happiness depends on it, the health of our children depends on it and we as a society depend on it.  If you downgrade the relationship between children and mothers then you leave children in a very vulnerable position.  And that is what we are trying to get the evidence for so that it can be taken into consideration when people are fighting their cases, and hopefully many, many less cases end up with children being taken away and families having to go to court.

Now, the other issue that we will be speaking about is the issue of poverty and social engineering.  Because it is largely poor families that are being targeted, it is largely single mothers, it is largely women who come into contact with social services because they are on benefits, or something has happened along the way where they may they needed support and instead they got their children taken away.

Also, mental health.  There’s a lot of talk about mental health and nobody looks at the connection between mental health and what has happened to children and whether they’ve been taken from their families, whether they’ve ended up in care, whether they’ve been forced to be in contact with a violent father.  What is at the root of the mental health that we can now stop?  Instead we create another industry of professionals to deal with mental health.  But the root causes are not addressed.

Now, we are here not to make careers, not to promote research for the sake of it.  We are here to get whatever evidence we need in order to make our case stronger, our campaigning stronger, to enable people to fight their corner and to win their cases, and to stop this horrendous situation, where tens of thousands of children are being unjustly taken from their mothers, and their families, and their grandmothers, and sometimes fathers too… are being taken from their families and many of them put up for adoption against the will of the birth family.

I think the UK and the US are the only countries that use adoption, forced adoption, in the ways that they do.  Some of it is going on in Europe but it’s nothing on this scale, absolutely nothing on this scale.  And when people come here from abroad, they are absolutely astonished by what’s going on.  So, we want to deal with that as well.

I want to say that Jean Robertson Malloy from the Movement for an Adoption Apology is here and part of the coalition, and that she will hopefully say something from the floor afterwards.  Because they are fighting to get an apology from the forced adoptions of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and there’s been some acknowledgement about that, but there’s been no acknowledgement of the fact that forced adoptions are still going on, in their thousands, and have become, in fact, a private industry – and we want that stopped.

So without further ado, I am going to start with my first speaker who is Anne Neale from Legal Action for Women, co-author of our dossier Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers, and she will be talking about the updated findings for the past 18 months.