Social workers praised by judge for professionalism amid Facebook abuse campaign

A child's paternal grandfather named social workers online and called them "child traffickers"

Photo: Monkey Business Images/REX Shutterstock (posed by model)

Social workers have been praised for “going the extra mile” in care proceedings where they were hounded by a child’s paternal grandfather.

A Facebook campaign against social workers led by the grandfather of a child who was eventually placed for adoption called social workers “baby/child traffickers who are operating in Southampton”, and “evil baby stealing bastards”.

Judge Helen Black praised the social workers, however, and said they remained professional despite the “abusive and cowardly” campaign.

The unnamed local authority in the case had concerns about the parents’ violent past, the father’s convictions for sexual assault and allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour. It also had “well-documented concerns about the neglectful parenting that both parents had subjected their first child to”.

‘Secret Family Court’

The second child, referred to as C, was placed for adoption with both of the parents’ consent after the assessment process. They had had an older child placed for adoption previously, and although the mother was making progress in a mother and baby foster placement, she told the local authority she would rather C was adopted.

The paternal grandfather of the two children named social workers on Facebook pages and alleged that the “Secret Family Court” wanted to traffic children for money.

Judge Black said: “The social workers in this case have gone the extra mile to support this mother in caring for her child. They have done that against the backdrop of persistent allegations and abuse from the paternal family. They have however remained professional throughout and have remained focused on trying to support this mother in caring for her child. It is important that is recorded. It was not their decision to separate this child from her baby, it was the mother’s choice, supported by the father.”

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4 Responses to Social workers praised by judge for professionalism amid Facebook abuse campaign

  1. Adam Birchall October 27, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    Good for them, and good for the Judge for recognising this publicly.

  2. Liz Humphries October 28, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    It’s about time there is a campaign to stand up for Social Workers. We all know too well the damage that has been done to the profession by negative press. Social Workers regularly face abuse and it is not uncommon for them to do so professionally! This is not a new thing, it just usually goes unnoticed. Well done to those Social Workers and to all those who bear the same without acknowledgement.

  3. Geana Smith-Wallace October 28, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    Good on the judge for acknowledging the difficulties the social workers have faced. good on the social workers who did not back down from their commitment to safeguard children. that’s one in the face for the war mongers against social work practitioners and the profession as a whole.

  4. Ellie October 30, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    It’s about time that more articles like this were published – they really do highlight the difficulties faced by social workers, who are often stereotyped by the media and, as a result, by society in general. I firmly believe that this cruel and misleading image of social workers as “baby stealers” has been presented for far too long, and that the media are largely responsible. How many times do we see TV soap-operas like “Eastenders” featuring scenes in which some apparently cold-hearted social worker takes away the child of a seemingly desperate but caring parent? How many times have we seen documentaries, which should by nature present a well-researched and fully-rounded picture of the social work role, show social workers in a negative light?

    If we accept that the media show this skewed image of social workers, then we must also acknowledge that it reaches the general public, and influences their opinions. Add to that the fact that child protection work, and social work in general, will always be contentious because workers are working with people who have problems. Thus, workers work with life’s difficult issues. Child abuse is definitely a difficult issue. The fact that there are many sides to the story adds to this difficulty. Put simply – the child sees one thing (abuse), the social workers another thing (hidden abuse going on within a family that may well have other problems), and the parents/abusers another (a need to hide the abuse). It is never going to be easy to resolve such clear differences of opinion.

    The press and the public need to understand that it is difficult for anyone to judge a situation where there are multiple different stories, and where some people may be deliberately hiding the truth. It is also important to note that some abusers, when uncovered as abusers, like to try to get sympathy by playing a “victim role”. Child abusers will sometimes turn round and feign victimhood when faced with the possibility of getting caught and punished. It is all too easy for them to blame the social worker for “not understanding” or for “being judgmental and heavy-handed”. We need to understand that child abuse and its after-effects are VERY emotive issues within a family, and that family members will all react in different ways. Some, even though they are clearly abusive, may react by denying responsibility, and by shifting blame elsewhere. Abusers often prefer denial, and abdication of responsibility, so it must be very easy for an abuser to deny the reality of a situation, and to blame social workers for getting involved. Furthermore, where child abuse occurs within a family, it is all too easy for the abusers to try to hide the abuse from other family members. Sadly, these family members get hurt when the abuse comes to light, and when a child may be removed from the home. Loving grandparents may be shocked to hear that their grandchild was abused. They may refuse to believe that their own son or daughter could be an abuser. So (as may have happened in this case) they lash out against the social workers instead. This is not excusable behaviour, but it is understandable behaviour. Perhaps in abuse cases, there is a need for counselling and support throughout the extended family, to take account of any aftermath?

    Perhaps it’s time that people got to understand more clearly just what it is that social work involves. My personal feeling is that many people do NOT have a clue as to what social workers actually DO on a daily basis for their job. They do not understand what it is like to work in situations dealing with conflict, misinformation, abuse, mental illness, substance misuse, learning disability, divorce… ALL the complex human problems that social workers work with. Stereotyped images of social workers are damaging people’s understanding of what the job REALLY entails. The myth needs “busting”!