Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
What if something very bad happens to a child or young person flowing from a decision made by the local authority? What rights do families who do not have parental responsibility have, to be told about the very bad thing that has happened to their family member?
I’m going to respond to a tweet :- ''Am horrified and aghast that Elsie Scully-Hicks' birth family was not informed of her death for EIGHT months afterwards'' in this post.
I only have my own experience where our son is a careleaver to call on. I am going to be very non-specific for this reason. I'm not surprised that Shayla's family (Shayla was the name given to the infant by her mother) including her mother and her grandmother who wanted to become her guardian, were not told of her death until eight months after her murder, because I believe things often play out something like this:-
If something bad happens, the local authority will tell the police or the police will tell the local authority depending on who becomes aware first.
Either way the police will be the lead agency. The police’s role will be to investigate and they will call in whoever they think they need for this, including families, but only if that helps their investigation. They would, even where they involve the family in their investigation, most certainly see it as the local authorities' role to support the family.
The local authority will want the issue resolved and if the family could help with this, they are likely to contact them. They might, but I’m sure some would’ent, feel an obligation to support the family. Remember the police are the lead agency and they may be looking critically at the local authorities' decision-making, so the local authority is likely to be getting legal advice. If so, legal advice is very unlikely to recommend engaging with a traumatised family where the local authority have to explain how the bad thing happened. The family, for example, may want a genuine apology and to see change. They may be very vocal about their views. It is not always 'controllable' from the local authorities' perspective and they have no legal duty to tell them anything.
There is another consideration - rules about sharing of information mean that families are ‘third parties’, Local authorities may want to involve families but they would want the police to work with the family so that no blame could come to the local authority for sharing of confidential information. The police may or may not realise this, but their role is to carry out an investigation – nothing to do with families.
It depends who is 'sitting around the table'. Multi-agency meetings when they happen, are just that - multi-agency. Parents are irrelevant. Many at the table will be concerned only with their own area of responsibility - responsibility for the investigation (police), responsibility for the child/young person and their own decision-making (local authority).
People within the various agencies need to think holistically and behave with humanity to the family. Some will be able to and some will not. Some may want to but not have the authority to do so. The culture within the local authority will really matter as to what happens. In Shayla's casethere was clearly a dreadful problem with the culture. I’m describing what happens rather than quoting relevant law – I’m not a lawyer just a parent.
Rest in Peace Shayla. For her family I cannot imagine how they can come to terms with any of this. I hope they manage to give their family member a funeral so they at least know where she is laid to rest. It is probably "the law'' that this will not be possible if the adoptive parents (including the man who renamed and killed her) object - often horribly inhumane things involving parents and their children are ''the law'', in my experience.