the courts, parents, and jehovah’s witnesses cooperate to ruin a little boy’s life: a case study

As context for the rest of this post, this is a girl’s school presentation on the cruelty of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and losing most people in her life for saying something about it:

The video gives a sense of how intense the religion is. The world is full of demons. Everything is bad. Obey 100% or God himself will hate you and so will all of your loved ones. It’s absolutely uncompromising. This is their depiction of God’s reaction to original sin, which you’re definitely guilty of:

Adam-and-Eve

Man is imperfect and will only return to perfection after Armageddon. This is the reason we all die. When you disobey Jehovah, you die.

You can’t reason with them. It’s impossible. Thinking for yourself, specifically and in those terms, is a grave danger to be avoided at all costs. When people talk to therapists or go to college, they stop following Jehovah. Best to avoid anything that might improve your life besides Jehovah. If it’s not working for you, you’re not doing it hard enough.

Oh, and they take your birthday away and you’d better hope you don’t have a serious medical problem because they’ll let you die on purpose if you need a blood transfusion.

You can’t defend yourself against this when you’re 8 years old, which is the point of this blog post. In the UK, there was a family court case in which custody hinged on the parents learning to get along, and whether the mother was harming the boy simply by raising him to be a Jehovah’s Witness. The judge has ordered the boy placed in interim foster care. From the judge’s decision, it’s clear that everyone failed the boy and he’ll have lifelong psychological problems. It’s hard when you believe what your mom and the elders at the Kingdom Hall tell you, and it implies that your dad is helping Satan and his demons destroy everything good. But Dad’s nice? Figure that out when you’re 8.

It’s apparent that none of the authorities in the kid’s life understood his beliefs at all. It’s also apparent that the state is kidnapping the boy in part for resistance to the unreasonable religious indoctrination the state is trying to impose. There was an earlier ruling about the same family here. I’m going to comment on excerpts in chronological order, starting with the older ruling. It’s very long because it’s a real family, and real life is complicated.

The summary of the older ruling states:

A parent’s right to enable her child to learn about and experience his or her religion is not an unconfined right. Where the practice of that religion involves a lifestyle which conflicts with the lifestyle of the other parent and the court is satisfied that that conflict has had or may in the future have an impact on the child’s welfare the court is entitled to restrict the child’s involvement in those practices.

That’s where they get off, basically.

The learned Judge invited the parents to submit drafts of the orders they sought which narrowed the issues and each parent made concessions. The mother conceded, inter alia, that she would not take N with her in house to house ministry; that N would spend every Christmas Day with the father; and that the mother would pass on to the father invitations for N to attend celebrations which her religious beliefs precluded her from accepting.

The learned Judge held that:

There was no reason why N should not continue to attend both the Kingdom Hall with his mother and the Anglican Church (including Sunday school) with his father and grandparents. There was no reason to impose a limit on the frequency of N’s visits to the Kingdom Hall as the father had sought.

• It was both proportionate and in N’s best interests to restrict the parents’ right to “instruct” or “give lessons” to N concerning their Christian beliefs.

In December 2010 the mother had known that N had a part in the school nativity, allowed him to take part in rehearsals, and subsequently withdrew him without consulting the father. There should be an order that “neither parent shall prevent N from taking part in school activities, including Nativity plays, other plays, performances, concerts, after school clubs, sports and field trips”.
It had initially appeared that medical treatment would be the most difficult issue in the case, but in the end there was little difference between the parents. An outline of the position at law was agreed (paragraph 99), and it was agreed and accepted that where consent was required for medical treatment of a child, the consent of one parent alone would be sufficient.

The learned Judge:

The mother is being compelled by the state to make what looks like all of the concessions, each of which individually is an excommunicable offense of her religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses must proselytize. Jehovah’s Witnesses may not set foot in an Anglican church. The fact that the other religions don’t care where else you go to church is just evidence that they aren’t serious. Are we obeying the orders of God Himself or not, here? Jehovah’s Witnesses most definitely may not participate in “pagan holidays.” The mother is placed in the position of handing the child invitations to really fun holiday things, which she’s made extremely clear are evil. The child can’t win, and it’s harmful. Hence the court proceedings.

Moving overseas to a military base is certainly a family-destroying type of stressor:

In March 2009 the father was posted to Cyprus. He had expected the mother to move to live in Cyprus with him. She didn’t. It is clear that her reluctance to join him in Cyprus was the primary cause of the marriage breaking down. When the reality of this became plain to the father he sought a compassionate posting back to England. He returned to England in March 2010. By then it was too late to rescue the marriage.

This was the first time she had ever been onto a military base and the first time she had experienced army life. She did not like what she saw. She did not consider a military base to be a suitable place to bring up a young child. She said that whilst in Cyprus she was ‘shocked‘ to realise what the father was involved in. I find that if she was in any doubt about whether to join the father in Cyprus when she arrived there in April 2009 she was not in any doubt by the time she flew home. I am equally satisfied that this was not apparent to the father and that she did not make her position clear to him.

None of this military stuff is in the press coverage I’ve seen so far. That’s because the recent court document refers to the older document for the prior history. It’s a significant omission. The mother disingenuously agreed to come to Cyprus:

15. A few days after the mother’s arrival in Cyprus she purchased a return air ticket. She used her own bank card. She did not tell the father that she was going to buy a ticket back to England. She accepts that she purchased it first and told the father about it afterwards. It should not have been difficult for her to anticipate that he would have been upset, as indeed he was.

16. Although the father’s distress at learning that the mother and N were to return home was understandable, his response was inappropriate. The mother says that he tried to trap her in Cyprus. He took her passport, her bank cards and her house keys. She was scared by his behaviour. She had to seek assistance from a senior officer. The officer escorted them to the airport. At the airport she asked the father for money for the journey home. He gave her ten euros in cash.

17. Not only did the father make it difficult for the mother to leave Cyprus he also took steps to make life difficult for her when she arrived back in England. Whilst the mother and N were airborne he contacted his father and asked him to go to the matrimonial home and put a deadlock on the door to prevent the mother from getting in. When she arrived home she could not get into the house. She had to call a locksmith.

18. The father accepted that he had arranged for his father to go round to the house to prevent the mother from getting in. He says that he had told her not to go to the house. He conceded that he could see how his behaviour might be construed as being controlling, though he asked rhetorically, ‘why should N have been taken away from me. I was reacting to circumstances’. The truth is that he was over-reacting to circumstances and was trying to impose his own will on the mother. He was being controlling. Given that the mother had N with her he was also acting in a way that impacted adversely on his own son.

19. The mother says that after her return to England the marriage deteriorated because ‘there was no trust between us’. I am satisfied that the mother’s lack of openness about her unwillingness to relocate to Cyprus was a key factor in engendering mistrust between them. I am also satisfied that the father played his own part by the way he responded. The reality is that by the time the mother left Cyprus the marriage was effectively at an end.

It’s not just the American military.

This reminds me a lot of my own mother. She had prior exposure to the religion through my aunt, but sent my dad a letter about her baptism when she was in Vietnam. “She ain’t been the same since.”:

The mother’s religion
34. The mother was brought up in a Jehovah’s Witness household. Her parents used to take her to the Kingdom Hall. In due course she herself became a Jehovah’s Witness. She was baptised in 2002, the year she met the father. Although in evidence she said that at the time she met the father she was not a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, the fact that she was baptised that same year suggests that she is not being completely open about that issue.

The mother’s relationship with the father
35. The mother accepts that she did not tell the father that she was a Jehovah’s Witness until they had been in a relationship for some six months.

36. Cohabitation before marriage is contrary to the teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The fact that the mother moved in to live with the father before they were married is an indication of the extent of her commitment to her faith at that time. It is also notable that she maintained her relationship with him notwithstanding the fact that he is a member of the Armed Services. She had not told him that Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with military service. When asked how she squared all of this with her beliefs she said that her heart had overruled her head.

Teaching the faith to N
37. Until the present arrangements for contact began in September 2010, on Sundays the mother would regularly take N with her to meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Although, because of the contact arrangements, she is no longer able to take him on a Sunday, meetings are also held on Thursday evenings and she takes him to the first hour of those meetings. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have separate teaching sessions for children. Children stay with their parents throughout the meeting. It is part of the process of bringing them up in the faith.

38. The mother says that she spends time in prayer and studying the Bible each day. She also ensures that N spends time each day watching DVDs or reading books produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She says that this is a very minimal part of his day.

A recurring theme is the mother’s inability to understand how sticking to the Bible could possibly be harmful:

Social isolation
46. The mother does not accept that her commitment to the Jehovah’s Witnesses means that N is socially isolated whilst in her care. Although she accepts that her own friends are also Jehovah’s Witnesses, she believes that N is likely to develop his own circle of friends at school. She said that in principle she had no objection to him visiting his friends’ homes even if their parents were not Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, it was clear that she had not really thought this through. When asked whether, for example, she would agree to N visiting a friend’s home if his friend’s parents were a same-sex couple, she said that she would not consider that appropriate.

The other parent and his version of Truth:

The father’s religious convictions
47. The father says that he is ‘not a great religious person’. However, he does go to his local Anglican church most Sundays, with his parents. He has been going there all his life. N goes too. He goes to Sunday school.

48. The father accepts that the mother had a degree of commitment to the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the time they were together. She attended a book group during the week and went to meetings at the Kingdom Hall on some Sundays. He says that her religious beliefs and practices were ‘never an issue’. In his opinion, since their separation the mother’s commitment to the Jehovah’s Witness movement has increased. He says that she now practices her religion ‘more overwhelmingly’ than had been the case when they were together. He said, ‘I don’t know who she is’.

49. From the father’s perspective, he considers that the mother’s commitment as a Jehovah’s Witness is ‘overwhelming and extreme’ He is concerned that if N is over-exposed to the mother’s lifestyle then it won’t be long before that is all that N focuses on. He is anxious that when he gets older N should be able to make his own mind up about religious matters.

50. When challenged, the father denied that he had a ‘deep-seated loathing’ for Jehovah’s Witnesses. He said that he accepts the mother’s right to practice her religion as she sees fit and that he is not seeking to deny her right to do so. He is not seeking to prevent the mother from taking N to the Kingdom Hall but rather that he believes N’s exposure to the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be limited. If that is not the case he is fearful that as he grows up N is likely to follow in the mother’s practice of her faith in order to try to please her.

I’m guessing some elders had a talk with her and gave their wise counsel:

53. The guardian’s final report is dated 21st July 2011. By this stage it is clear that she was beginning to have concerns about some aspects of parenting and in particular some aspects of the mother’s parenting. Her concerns had largely arisen from contact with staff at N’s nursery. She had been informed that N’s behaviour in nursery had regressed. He had become clingy to his mother. She records that

It was also reported that prior to Christmas N had been excitedly involved in preparing for the festivities, including rehearsing his role as a shepherd in the nativity play. It was reported that [mother] was fully aware of N’s [part] in the nativity and had raised no objections. However two days prior to the performance taking place staff were informed that N would not be attending due to other commitments.

54. I referred earlier to the mother’s unilateral decision to move N to a different nursery. The guardian confirms that the nursery was given only two day’s notice by the mother of her intention to remove N and that the mother had proceeded to move him notwithstanding the fact that she herself had ‘strongly advised’ the mother to await the outcome of the following week’s court hearing.

And it all came to pass:

58. The guardian expressed concern about the messages N receives from one parent about the other. She made the point that the fact that the mother is a Jehovah’s Witness is an important part of her identity and the fact that the father is in the army is an important part of his identify. She is concerned that N should not come to reject either parent because of their identities.

59. As for the implications for N of the mother’s beliefs and practices as a Jehovah’s Witness, the guardian expressed some concerns. She said that N needs to know that he can socialise with other children. She expressed concern that he is likely to become isolated if he is not allowed to socialise freely, for example, by being allowed to go to other children’s parties. She is concerned about the clash of lifestyles. The mother’s decision to follow the beliefs and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses affects the way she leads her life. She is concerned that the more time N spends with his mother the more he will become immersed in her religion. When challenged about this by Mr Daniel, on behalf of the mother, the guardian made the point that a child of N’s age does not need to be subjected to overt pressure in order to shape their views. A child’s views can be shaped by quite subtle behaviour by a parent.

60. The guardian is concerned that N should understand that he has two homes. She described how when she spent time with him he had used smiley faces to describe how he felt about meeting each parent and sad faces for saying good-bye to them. At the moment, she is concerned about the risk that both parents will compete for N’s sympathies, especially when it comes to religious and spiritual matters.

By the end of 2014:

14. Upon issuing these proceedings, in compliance with Family Procedure Rules 2010 Practice Direction 12A, the local authority filed a threshold document indicating the basis upon which it asserts that the threshold set by s.31(2) of the Children Act 1989 is met. That document relies upon three key findings made in my earlier judgments, asserting that,

‘1. N has suffered emotional harm due to being exposed to the ongoing conflict between his parents.

2. N has suffered emotional harm due to his immersion by his mother in her religious beliefs and practices, with the intention of alienating him from his father.

3. Neither parent has been able to meet and prioritise N’s emotional needs’

15. Both parents have filed responses in which they accept that the s.31(2) threshold is met. The father accepts the three grounds set out in the threshold document. The mother accepts grounds 1 and 3. She does not accept ground 2. In her response she says that,

[It] is not accepted that N has been harmed by immersion in the religion of the Respondent Mother. She does not accept that she has introduced N to her religion with the intention of alienating N from his father. Notwithstanding His Honour Judge Bellamy found that to be the case, but the Mother does not accept that.

The father says he’s “not a great religious person,” yet he insists on bringing the son to places the mother has taught him are Really Bad, like the Anglican Church. The child, having done the best he can as a child, believes in the religion for now. That ship has sailed, and the father lost the battle, until the kid is old enough to think for himself. Yet the court needs to make an official pronouncement that her faith is disingenuous. In her mind, Satan controls “this system of things,” and she has to fight with everything she has to prevent her precious child from being led into sin. Are the Anglicans saying you’ll burn in hell if you skip Christmas?

Would it be acceptable to deny a Muslim parent the right to raise their child as Muslims, because it’ll mark them as “different,” and there’s extreme, obvious religious persecution of Muslims. Is she not putting the child at risk? Is that not a fucked up question?

Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t supposed to bully people outside the religion. They just exercise their freedom of association in a way that doesn’t involve normal people. The judge is making the assumption that there’s something so great about associating with the normal people…that make it hard for a kid to be “different.” Like the document says above, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have separate meetings for children. Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught from a young age to expect religious persecution, and normal people prove the elders right! In my opinion, the rest of society could learn a lot about integrity from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The absurdity of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, like the absurdity of vegans, is that they take moral responsibility seriously. If people actually lived by their stated moral standards, we would obviously have to dismantle nearly 100% of society and start over. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are people that are capable of hearing bad news and dealing with it. “I guess you’ll just have to behead me before I fight for the Nazis.” And beheaded they were.

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, God is not somebody who’s going to listen to bullshit like “but everyone else was doing what You commanded me not to do.” The JWs observe, correctly, that society is profoundly hypocritical. They’ve chosen their beliefs poorly, but they take them more seriously than everyone else takes theirs. The horrible thing about the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the way they destroy families by putting the religion first. They did NOT invent this. It’s in the Bible. This is not produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses:

That’s in the Bible. You’ll read about it in the Watchtower. There will be tons of Biblical references, like academic citations. You’ll look up passages all over the Bible and read a paragraph here and there. Your parents are proud of you when you can find Ephesians by yourself. You personally read these things in the Bible, at the meetings, over and over. The passages they have you read support what they’re saying, with more or less distortion. I later became very good at citations, and I can honestly attribute it to all the meetings. You can see it in the images from their adolescent literature.

It’s not just the Jehovah’s Witnesses that are brainwashed or intolerant. The hypocrisy of the world is a lot of what makes the religion convincing, as a lived experience. As prophesied, we’re in the end times. We’re abandoning traditional morality. You’re taught that if you fuck up, you’ll be around for Armageddon. Like a Hobbesian nightmare zombie apocalypse, with Satan. It feeds on anxiety. Everything about society that promotes irrational fear of the world is helping people stay Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Their view of what’s going on is full of intense supernatural drama. There aren’t highly-specific conspiracy theories, but it’s understood that demons are influencing people to cause all the world’s evil. For this reason, you mustn’t meditate. If your mind is empty, demons might come in. Nobody wants that. They’re Jehovah’s Witnesses in the final war between the forces of Satan and Jehovah. They don’t have everyone else’s anomie, ennui problems. These are people that stayed in concentration camps voluntarily.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are crazy people everybody makes fun of, but here we are, today, and the state took away a woman’s child because she obeyed the direct commandments from God in the Bible.

The absurdity is that the JWs are more or less justified in their persecution/martyrdom complex. The religion would have no converts if “this system of things” wasn’t actually wicked. These are rather weighty matters in elementary school:

On 9th December Ms C e-mailed the guardian as a result of concerns surrounding what she describes as ‘a strange conversation’ she had with N following a referral from his class teacher. She says that in this conversation N ‘depicted imaginary as being real’.

On several occasions during January and February N was reluctant to leave his mother and come into school despite his mother’s encouragement. On one occasion he said, ‘I do not want to go to Dad’s’. On another he said that he does not trust anyone. Ms C reports that on 26th February N had been distraught and was refusing to leave his mother. He said that he could not be with people who didn’t believe in Jehovah ‘and that he did not want to go to Daddy’s because he…was not a Jehovah’.

Mr Livock reports that in his discussions with Ms C she had informed him that

N’s beliefs seem to be his main preoccupation. In a Religious Education lesson, N had deliberately cut up teaching materials. Ms C told me that N had showed a Jehovah’s Witnesses website to a colleague and he seemed to, “shut down if things don’t accord with his beliefs”…Ms C said that she viewed N as “one of the most worrying children in our school. He presents as a very confused boy”. She identified N’s singular focus upon Jehovah’s Witness beliefs as impinging significantly upon his relationship with his school: “In my opinion, it’s affecting his life.”

In her written evidence Ms C says that recently N,

has presented as anxious, confused, distressed and distracted. This has impacted directly on his learning capabilities. He appears pre-occupied and slow to engage with the learning activities and social elements within school. On many occasions he does not wish to leave his Mummy when he arrives at school. At this point he has stated that he does not want to go to his Daddy…there can be challenges during some religious lessons as N has very clear beliefs about Jehovah which seem to challenge him about his learning of other faiths. He has a very small friendship circle consisting of one or two main friends.


With respect to the impact of religious beliefs, Mr Livock says,

5.14 I asked N if, as I had been told, he had cut up the materials that the class was using to complete an exercise about the Crucifixion story. N said that he had. I asked him why he had done such a thing. N said, ‘because nobody’s telling the true stories about Jehovah. It’s a big fat lie. Jesus didn’t die on the cross – he died on a big tall stick. That’s what the Bible says. I said that I thought that I remembered from my reading of the Bible that Jesus dying on the cross was mentioned several times in different accounts. N replied, ‘the person who wrote that Bible made that up. Bethan (?) wrote our Bible.’ I asked who ‘Bethan’ was. N seemed to correct himself and said, ‘That’s where our Bibles come from.’ I asked who wrote the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible. N said, ‘Witnesses. They get messages from Jehovah and they put that in the Bible.’ I noted that when N spoke about the Cross and the non-Jehovah’s Witness Bible, he presented as contemptuous, grimacing somewhat theatrically.

5.15 I asked N what he hoped would happen in the future. He said, ‘I want the Judge to make me and Mummy worship Jehovah again and live with Mummy forever and never see Daddy again.’

This is another case of using a young child’s explanation of adult controversies to make a socially persecuted group look bad. Prince was outspoken about the stake thing, too:

The JWs say that it was an old phallic symbol, and it got grandfathered into Christianity along with the pagan holidays. The kid is grimacing “theatrically” because the world has gone around celebrating the painful death of Jesus with a dick symbol. If Jesus were shot with a machine gun, would you wear gold machine guns? He’s 8.

heathen_cross

“Bethel” is the Jehovah’s Witness equivalent of the Vatican. They made their own apparently-dubious translation called the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. As a kid, I heard a lot about how “Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own Bible.” No, it’s not like the Book of Mormon. Gosh. People go around slandering your religion all the time. They’re the ones using King James or something. Why should anyone trust that?

I’m not saying the Jehovah’s Witnesses are experts on ancient Hebrew and the history of Christendom’s rituals. I’m saying that the child is being exposed to rational arguments, and outsiders rarely have convincing things to say in response. Oftentimes, they haven’t heard of major Biblical events. In high school, long after I stopped believing, the people distributing New Testaments across the street hadn’t heard of the 10 Plagues of Egypt and the firstborns, and the prayer circle people hadn’t heard of Isaiah 13:15-16 (I still remember the verse!):

15 Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.

16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.

When confronted with things like this, Jehovah’s Witnesses respond with “Well, that’s what the Bible says. The Bible is always right. You just need more doublethink. In that case it was certainly acceptable to dash the children to pieces.”

Why is it necessary for the school to make the kid participate? Why is the school declaring which interpretations of the Bible are orthodox? For the most part, I just sat outside in the hallway with some kind of activity while everyone traded Valentine’s Day cards or made Thanksgiving turkeys out of construction paper or whatever. In adulthood I have issues with avoidance and self-isolation. Can you imagine?

Whether anybody likes it or not, N knows more about the Bible than many of the adults around him, and they betray it more than they know. It’s like the Frantz Fanon quote about how a normal black child will become neurotic upon exposure to the white world. It’s extremely confusing when you’re a child. It’s difficult to come to terms with how your mother could put you through all that with semi-good intentions, even as an adult. Is that Isaac video not the creepiest thing you’ve ever seen?

The dad’s not right, either:

With respect to concerns about N’s feelings towards his father, Mr Livock records that,

‘5.9 I told N that I wanted to talk about his feelings at the moment. N said that he’d already spoken with, ‘a lady – and another lady’ about this. I told N that I understood that he had been upset in school recently. N said, ‘Daddy’s really mean to me. I love Mummy more than him.’ I asked N what he meant by ‘mean’. He replied, ‘he blames me when it’s not my fault. I don’t love Daddy at all.’ I reminded N that he had said that he would tell me why he thought that he was a ‘bad person’. N said, ‘because I made the biggest mistake of my life.’ I asked N if he would tell me about his ‘mistake’. N said, ‘I told Daddy that I love Mummy more than him. It’s a secret. I’m not supposed to tell him. It was the biggest mistake of my life.’ N said that he was a ‘bad person’ because he had not kept the ‘secret’.

5.10 He continued, ‘I wasn’t supposed to tell him. He forced me to say it.’ I asked how his Daddy had ‘forced’ him. N said, ‘because we had a chat. I want to be happy and because of the BM [‘big mistake’] I can’t be happy for the rest of my life. If I lived at Mummy’s every day that would never have happened. It’s because he has chats with me.’ I suggested that it was normal for fathers to talk to their sons about all sorts of things. N said, ‘I liked to chat with Daddy – until that happened. I will just be sad for the rest of my life.’

5.11 I asked N what had made him tell his Daddy that he loved his Mummy more. N said, ‘He asked me why I was sad and I told him. I shouldn’t have told him. It’s supposed to be a secret.’ N added, ‘I want to live with Mummy and not see Daddy. Ever.’ I asked why he had said this. N replied, ‘If I lived with Mummy, I wouldn’t have to have chats and no one would mention what I’d said – the BM.’’

Later:

The social worker considers that the mother’s undertakings to the court are themselves having an adverse impact on N. Not being allowed to pray with his mother is a difficulty because he has done it in the past and ‘it is part of his identity, part of who he is’. N thinks that Jehovah ‘will be mad’ with him for not praying. She said that the Jehovah’s Witness beliefs are ‘intrinsically part of who he is’. In her opinion ‘we need to give certain things a go’, by which I took her to mean that there ought to be some relaxation in the scope of the mother’s undertakings.

44. So far as the impact of parental conflict on N is concerned, the social worker accepts that this is causing N ongoing harm though she appeared not to accept that the impact of the emotional harm N has suffered has got worse since November. She reported that the day before she gave evidence N had said to her not simply that he wanted to spend more time with his mother but that this would mean that her happiness would be ‘absorbed’ into him and he would have ‘more happiness’ to give to his father because his father is angry and it is his (N’s) responsibility to make his father happy.

45. The social worker does not accept the guardian’s assessment that the parents have made only slow progress since the hearing last November although she accepted that ‘it would appear that there is work still to be done’ with the mother.

46. On the key issue of removal, the social worker said that in her opinion ‘N’s immediate safety does not require separation’. On the contrary, she considers that any changes in the current care arrangements ‘will be detrimental to N’s well-being and emotional safety’.

She changed her mind:

During the course of the hearing in November 2014 the guardian changed her position, coming to the view that it was appropriate for the court to make an interim care order on the basis that N should immediately be placed in foster care. I accepted both her evidence and her recommendation.

63. In her most recent report the guardian describes the changes in N’s presentation since the hearing in November 2014. She says that,

’21. N’s presentation has deteriorated since I have known him over the last 2 years. His views have changed from wanting to see both parents to only wanting to live with his mother. When he speaks about his mother, he now also includes Jehovah in this. He will now describe himself as a Witness and will say this is the only thing that makes him really happy. He is very focused upon the beliefs, stating he does not wish to celebrate birthdays and is clear that every other faith is wrong. N is very preoccupied about not being able to attend the Kingdom Hall and feels he is a bad Witness. He is also fearful of what will happen to him, his father and other family members who are not Jehovah Witnesses.

22. Over the last 10 months N has changed from being a happy, smiling, friendly, enthusiastic and caring little boy who used to love being in school. He is now a very confused, angry, unhappy, troubled little boy and whilst he can still be enthusiastic and entertaining, there is a very evident underlying sadness and anger in his presentation.’

64. The guardian accepts that that deterioration has taken place against a background of some modest progress in the parents’ own relationship. However, she regards that progress as ‘fragile’. She acknowledges that so far as the father is concerned, as a result of cognitive behavioural therapy ‘there is some genuine progress being made’. She is less positive about the mother’s progress. Although she notes that the mother has responded positively to the improvements in the father’s communication style, overall she detects little change in the mother since the hearing in November 2014. She says that the mother,

‘was completely unable to identify anything that she did differently and was unable to explain what impact her own parenting had had upon N’s distress…I believe she is quietly resistant to change and does not believe her behaviour has in any way impacted upon the emotional abuse N is continuing to experience.’

The Last Judgment:

At the hearing in November I came to the clear conclusion that in light of the emotional harm N had suffered and was continuing to suffer it was proportionate and in N’s best welfare interests for him to be removed into foster care under an interim care order. As a result of the mother’s appeal against that order (an appeal which was subsequently withdrawn) N has remained in the care of his parents. Six months later, I find that N has continued and still continues to suffer emotional harm in the care of his parents. I am in no doubt that the child-focussed approach required by s.1 of the Children Act 1989 requires that he be removed from the care of his parents and placed in foster care without further delay. I accept that steps which may now be taken by the local authority and/or the parents may have the effect that my order may not be implemented ahead of the final hearing in August. I am satisfied that that possibility should not deter me from making orders which I consider to be in the best interests of N’s immediate welfare. I shall, therefore, make an interim care order. I make it clear that that order is premised upon an expectation that the local authority will immediately remove N and place him in foster care.

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