28 Feb 09 – Grey protesters hold rally to stop ‘forced adoption’ of grandchildren

Source: Scotland – Sunday Herald – Saturday 28th February 2009

Elderly activists will stage a protest in Glasgow this week to demand that no child should be put into care if they can live with their grandparents.

Grandparents Apart UK believe that social workers are too willing to place children with strangers. The group’s “war cry” is the recent case of an Edinburgh child sent to live with a gay couple – but they insist their grievance is not homophobic.

They have previously campaigned for automatic access rights for grandparents after custody battles and were involved in writing the Grandparents’ Charter, which sets out the rights of grandparents but is not legally binding.

Grandparents Apart urged the SNP to listen to their demands and warned failure to do so could cost them the “grey vote” at the next election.

Jimmy Deuchars, manager of Grandparents Apart UK, said: “We’re challenging the social services’s and the government’s policies regarding children and adoption, particularly when grandchildren are adopted to strangers. Social services used to be an organisation that cared and protected, but now they snatch the children and adopt them forcibly, alienating them from their family. Evidence from our members indicates that if grandparents then put up a fuss, they are threatened with the removal of all contact rights. What sort of a democracy is this?”

In response to a questionnaire, 33.6% of Grandparents Apart’s 500 members said they had experienced “falsified” reports from the social services, 43.5% said they had been bypassed by social services on child welfare issues, 79.4% said their grandchildren had been used as “weapons” against them in arguments, and 78.6% felt their grandchild had been “brainwashed” against them.

The daughter of one member of Deuchars’s organisation, who would not give his name, died of a drug overdose, leaving three children. Two were taken in by family members but one was taken into care aged 10 and his grandfather did not see him for another seven years.

When the grandfather finally managed to get a meeting, the boy said social workers had told him his grandfather did not want to see him. His hair was matted, he was dirty and he was dressed badly.

In care, the boy attended five separate schools, lived in eight foster homes and said he had had soapy water poured into his mouth for swearing. By the time of his standard grade exams, his self-esteem was so battered he didn’t feel “good enough” to take them.

The grandfather said: “You’ve heard that children in care are low achievers, that they end up running with gangs to take the place of their families. It’s all true. That happened to my boy.”

Since the two got together, the young man has become an apprentice mechanic and is more optimistic about the future.

Kathleen Marshall, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, favours children staying with their families. She said Scottish law, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and European Court of Human Rights case law, all recognise children’s rights to benefit from the care of their wider family where it is in their interests.

She said: “Courts should look to the child’s extended family before considering placing a child with strangers. Grandparents can also apply to the courts for contact with their grandchildren and the court will decide what is in the child’s best interests, taking account of the child’s views, where the child is able to form them and wants to give them.”

The Scottish government and children’s minister Adam Ingram said in a letter to Deuchars he was “very aware of the important role that grandparents can play in development of young people”. He denied social services had a policy of forced adoption.

A spokesman said: “The removal of any child from their natural parents is always a difficult decision and one that is never taken lightly. We firmly believe that, if a child cannot live with their birth parents, the first option should be to consider the ability and capacity of kinship carers in the wider family.”

Related Link: www.grandparentsapart.co.uk

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