A recent judgement from the UK Supreme Court concerning a case where a child was taken at birth by West Lothian Council sheds important light onto the role of courts and social workers when dealing with children and families. The judgement is well worth reading in full, but I would like to briefly highlight one important issue; the role of the social worker.
Lady Hale emphasised that the decision whether to make an order interfering with individual rights must be taken by an independent and impartial court. In order to bring home to judges that their role is not merely supervisory, she drew an analogy with criminal proceedings:
Social workers are the detectives. They amass a great deal of information about a child and his family. They assess risk factors. They devise plans. They put the evidence which they have assembled before a court and ask for an order. ... The court subjects the evidence of the local authority to critical scrutiny, finds what the facts are, makes predictions based upon the facts, and balances a range of considerations in deciding what will be best for the child. We should no more expect every case which a local authority brings to court to result in an order than we should expect every prosecution brought by the CPS to result in a conviction. The standard of proof may be different, but the roles of the social workers and the prosecutors are similar. They bring to court those cases where there is a good case to answer. It is for the court to decide whether the case is made out.
Social workers are like detectives, they are there to build a case to be presented before a court.
Next question: should you talk to them?
I will continue the analogy used by Lady Hale and allow Regent Law Professor James Duane to provide the answer (a glorious, funny entertaining and memorable answer). Please watch this; especially if you are law abiding and have not been in trouble with the law before:
Got that? You do not talk to the police and by extension you do not talk to social workers. For more examples of why this is vitally important go to Ian Josephs' web site, forced-adoption.com.