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Cafcass \"co-ercing\" the children - saw them alone?

  • paula1234
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17 Feb 10 #186024 by paula1234
Topic started by paula1234
Now an update - Cafcass are involved to do an intial report (not full welfare due to court/legal bad handling - words of the Cafcass officer not mine). When I spoke to her on my own she said this was only about the children and their wishes/needs/best interests - and I said with much relief - finally, that is all that I ever wanted it to be about!!
She then saw the girls (7 and 9) at home with me - briefly so she could introduce herself to them.
Then they went to an appointment at her office - she never said what that would entail but after we arrived she settled us down into a room, got out the colouring stuff - then asked me to go and wait in the waiting room - for an hour. In principle I have not got a problem with this (SS spoke to them alone) but I now have a few concerns after the girls came out and the older one said things that do concern me:

1. Is it normal for the children to be spoken to alone by Cafcass?
2. Presumably their session was not recorded so she is in there with not even another colleague to verify anything she says - she could be saying anything to them

My 9yo is v protective of the 7yo and apparently she says the lady told them to stop arguing when she told her younger sister to stop lying about something that she says was not true. Now my 7yo is very upset and has been ripped into by my eldest one for saying something "that may mean we now have to see him"
The eldest one said something to the lady and said that the lady said "oh well we will see if that is true next time" - what she told her was very painful and I am annoyed that it was dismissed like this - as almost a lie. But I can't do anything to help and there are no witnesses to any of this.
Apparently she was trying to get them to draw pictures and insisting they put "Daddy" on their drawings - and then when the 7yo wouldn't, she put it on there herself.
When I had my meeting with her alone she said that she wants to assess whether or not the children can be encouraged to attend a contact session with her there to supervise it. However I did not realise that she would be using tactics like this to almost brain wash the girls into doing it - will she be there afterwards to deal with the aftermath of what she is doing? No, I don't think so - that will be down to me - as usual!
I know she is planning to suggest in her report that a full welfare report needs to be done - but what exactly will this involve (if indeed she does suggest it). I thought it was an investigation into everything - what the children say/feel/have experienced - as well as speaking to school/teachers, social services, police etc etc. If it is simply going to be an extended opportunity to emotionally work on the girls to see a man who has never had any relationship with them when we lived together, abused them etc - I cannot understand how this benefits them and she hasn't explained either why she thinks that it will?

  • nbm1708
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17 Feb 10 #186025 by nbm1708
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Sorry I'm a bit confused on this one?

What you've described is in fact normal CAFCASS procedure.

They interview the children on their own rather than with a parent as a parent will sometimes unintentionally compromise an interview for their own agenda rather than as best for the child.

By interviewing a child on their own or with siblings they can then assess what the child really wants however if the reason you're upset is because the children have been encouraged to talk about daddy then I'm afraid it is something you'll have to get used to.

No organisation is likely to write daddy out of the picture altogether because at 5 and 7 they are too young to know whats best for them and children need to know both their parents so as to prevent later insecurities.


  • .Charles
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17 Feb 10 #186026 by .Charles
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Yes, it is normal for CAFCASS to see the children alone if only to confirm that the children say what they think whether in front of their parents or not.

Children understand a lot more that parents give them credit for and they very often 'temper' what they say to ensure they do not hurt their parents feelings.

The drawing of the family unit is an inportant tool to ascertain how the children visualise their family. The reaction of the children to the task gives the CAFCASS officer lots of information.

With respect, you sound as though you have determined the outcome of the process and you are waiting for everyone to agree with you. If the evidence is as you say, the CAFCASS officer will reach the same conclusion using his/her own methods.


  • paula1234
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17 Feb 10 #186030 by paula1234
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Sorry - I think you both have misunderstood what I was saying?
(The children are 7 and 9 years old BTW)

I was asking firstly for clarification as to whether this was normal procedure - not having done it before I have no way of knowing what "normal" procedure is.
Like I said - I have not got a problem with the girls being spoken to alone - social services did and I encouraged that because I am aware that they want to speak freely.

My concern is that there is no record of what is said to them - which should not be a problem in itself but when the 9yo says to me that they are forced to include him on pictures then surely that is wrong if they don't want to do that?

I am not upset that they are encouraged to speak about him - they have done this with teachers, social worker, counsellor etc. As for growing up with insecurities - in our situation, counsellors have disagreed in our particular circumstances. They also disagree that at their ages (7 and 9) they are too young to know what they have experienced.

So, thank you for your replies but I was just asking for advice on the procedure - not asking to be shot down for "having determined the outcome" or "being upset" - maybe I was wrong to look on here for a bit of simple advice.

I want to protect my girls - I want them to be honest and truthful and to say whatever they want to say. I want them to be happy wherever they are and with whatever they do - whether they see their father or not. BUT I do not want them to be co-erced by a professional playing mind games - which is how it sounded. I could be wrong but I have no way of knowing.

  • eyes on horizon
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17 Feb 10 #186031 by eyes on horizon
Reply from eyes on horizon
Have to agree with both replies.

This sounds perfectly normal.

It's the children's reactions that CAFCASS are truly interested in if there is to be contact introduced.
Family unit drawings are very helpful in asscertaining hidden feelings and emotions. The fact that one didn't draw Dad shows a lot. But the Cafcass officer putting him on the picture wouldnt be brainwashing.

My OH ex stated for over 9 MONTHS that his middle child hated him, was mad at him and didn't ever want to see him again, and in fact eldest did repeat some of the things he said about him. Not great.
He finally got to see him and he was the first one out the door for hugs and snuggles.
Children say and do lots of things to ensure that they do not upset either parent and are more protective than you think. But they are also far more resilient than adults when it comes to forgiveness and rebuilding relationships as they do not carry an adultsworth of emtional baggage.
If you are dead set against them having contact then I suppose you are going to find fault or blame anywhere you can to ensure this happens. But Cafcass are certainly not brainwashing your children.

  • mumtoboys
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17 Feb 10 #186034 by mumtoboys
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Hello Paula,
I have just been through teh CAFCASS process and just wanted to reassure you if I can. There were issues with my ex in relation to the quality of care the boys received whilst with him and given the age of our children, I wanted them to spend more time with me (we had a 50/50 arrangement in place which I was unhappy with - largely because the children were unhappy and complaining of being left with the girlfriend's older child all the time whilst daddy was at work or out with the girlfriend) but I was also looking to move away from the area and he was trying to stop me doing this.

The CAFCASS officer, frankly, put me through hell. Some of the questions she asked felt like personal attacks on my parenting, my personality and almost my reason for breathing! At one point I was told that there was a possiblity that my children would be separated with the older two living with their father and the younger with me and what did I think of that? And then there was the 'well, obviously you can move where you want to move but I'm not so sure it would be in the boy's best interests to be away from their father. Would you go with out them?' question...and then the 'your ex would like the boys every Monday - Thursday and you have them every Friday - Sunday). What do you think? You would get all the quality time with them?' (Oh yes, I'd work all week to keep a roof over our heads and then never get a lie in or time off to meet with friends or develop a new relationship and the boys would be with a father who never reads with them, never does homework or communicates with the school...very balanced!)

I came away from two interviews with them wondering what the hell he had told her and was genuinely terrified that I was about to never see two of my children again.

My eldest child was seen in school (to avoid accusations by the ex that I had somehow knobbled him on the way to the 'interview') and he did the drawing exercise too, teachers were spoken to, my health visitor was spoken to, the girlfriend produced a clear CRB check and all sorts of other stuff!

Come the day of the report, it was possibly the most balanced thing I have ever read, she had understood all my ex's tricks and seen his lies (not that she put this in the report - you can just tell by what is/isn't said) and the recommendations were exactly as I wanted and were a reasonable conclusion given the content of the report.

With hindsight, what the officer was doing was covering all bases - testing me, almost. Making sure my plans to move were sound and that I wasn't trying to frustrate contact with the ex. Had I jumped at the opportunity to have the boys every weekend, I am pretty sure that would have been a black mark - recognising the need for balance for all of us was important.

Hope this helps in some way and you get the outcome for the children that they deserve.

  • nbm1708
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17 Feb 10 #186037 by nbm1708
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Apologies for getting the ages wrong however the principles remain the same.

If my children said they didn't want to do something such as go to school, doctors, hospital, see or talk about the other parent I'd concentrate more on working through the reasons why and helping them through it. What I wouldn't do is just say thats ok and start saying they no longer have to go because they don't want. Sometimes in life we have to face things that upset us and work through the issues.

Cafcass are trying to help by finding out what the issues are and if they don't talk about him with the children then they can't get to the bottom and find out what the issues are. With young children it just happens as they are not articulate and could have been brainwashed that they use drawing and pictures and story books. With older children it's words.

As CAFCASS usually are on the side of resident mothers rather than fathers (in my experience before anyone jumps on me)I would have thought you'd be more than happy with them as they'll work fully with you if you let them.


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