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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

07 AUG 2012

Setting parents up to fail: punishing hopeless parents is integral to care proceedings

Charlotte Rachael Proudman
Pupil Barrister

Frances Trevena
Pupil, Garden Court Chambers

It has become increasingly apparent that public law care proceedings are undergoing significant change. One aspect of this refiguring of care proceedings involves the emergence of punitive attitudes and varying kinds of punishment imposed on parents and their children in such proceedings. Punishing parents and child result in a cycle of inter-generational problems and further care proceedings.

The first part of this article argues that punishment imposed on parents in care proceedings stigmatises and marginalises them and serves to reinforce class based processes of social, familial and economic regulation. The second part argues that the reforms outlined in the family justice review: a system with children and families at heart, serve to uphold a presumption of adoption at first instance at the expense of children's welfare needs and parent's rights to family life.

This article concludes by raising a number of potential solutions to a family law system that is in need of overhaul to support parents in caring for their children at home rather than punishing them for their perceived failings. Proposals include identifying troubled parents through the use of the Children In Need framework, long-term support provided to parents and children by trained social workers, s 17 of the Children Act 1989 support and therapeutic support and assessments ordered by s 38(6) of the Act.

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