November 26th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The fathers surveyed by the study done by the Scottish charity, Circle, and the University of Edinburgh reported social workers’ refusing to listen to their complaints, a readiness to believe that fathers are bad actors and continuing sanctions against them even when proven to be innocent of whatever charges. Here’s my first piece on this important study and here’s my second.
The survey finds that,
The data as a whole is imbued with a sense of men not being listened to by professionals and of being marginalized from processes which impact on their family life. Reports can be written without the need to meet with or consult the father once he has been labelled a perpetrator or troublemaker. Double standards are highlighted as a recurring issue.
We see this commonly. Allegations alone are sufficient to brand a father an abuser and result in his losing his child for months at least. Even when the allegations are found to be unsubstantiated or outright fabricated, he still must fight an uphill battle to reestablish a relationship with his child. Meanwhile, false swearing by mothers is treated as par for the course by social workers.
Martin took over full parenting duties for his child when his wife’s post-partum depression rendered her incapable of performing even basic childcare. Daunted by trying to deal with both his wife’s problems and raising a newborn, Martin naively turned to social workers for assistance. Instead of helping, they perceived him as a threat and incapable of harboring nurturing feelings.
There was a professional lack of willingness to engage and support vulnerable parents or to recognize a caring instinct in a young father carrying out a role more commonly associated with the mother.
Keep in mind that these are social workers. How, you might ask, is it possible for people who are supposedly trained professionals to not know that fathers care for (and about) their children? I believe that only the most radical anti-father training could dissuade people from what they should know simply from their everyday observations of friends, relatives, neighbors and even strangers. Face it, fathers caring for children in loving, capable ways, is just not that rare an occurrence. Open your eyes, and you’ll see it everywhere you go. But somehow, schools of social work have convinced their graduates that the opposite is true, that fathers are presumptively dangerous to children and therefore, any claim by a father to the contrary is to be viewed with suspicion. The myth of the dangerous father seems so pervasive among these social workers that they go to considerable lengths to avoid facts that plainly contradict the mythical narrative.
In Kevin’s case, the myth of the abusive father proved so powerful that it overcame, in the mind of the social worker, the fact that Kevin physically could not have committed the abuse against his son. The 11-year-old boy was sexually abused by his 15 year-old brother, but Kevin was nowhere near when it happened. He lived elsewhere. But somehow the social worker concluded that he must have been at fault in the matter. Because he was the father, Kevin “felt like I was up against a brick wall from day one.” His experience and frustration at the denigration he received from social workers left Kevin feeling suicidal, an urge he resisted because of his children.
Once an allegation against a father is made, child protective agencies take it as the Gospel, even when it’s been disproven in court and the mother has admitted to fabricating it. Alex was falsely alleged to have abused his child. He was acquitted of the charge by a criminal court and later by a civil court, but the child protective agency continued to marginalize him in the life of his child based solely on the allegation.
Having read the files, the author (of the study) was struck by the lack of objective fact which could be held as evidence of wrongdoing; in fact, on the contrary there were various inaccuracies and opinions presented as objective fact which, once preserved in the case file, were impossible to remove and continued to haunt Alex and his family…
After his appearance in court, Gareth was told by his daughter’s social worker that the domestic violence charge would always be held against him despite the assault charge being dropped.
Needless to say, the radical and entirely misplaced distrust of fathers by social workers does great harm to the children themselves, their fathers and families.
The immense frustration felt by all the men interviewed in their dealings with child protection workers has been immeasurably increased by this fog of suspicion, which can seem impossible to escape despite a lack of evidence. The lack of engagement from the professionals due to the apparently immovable assumption of risk from these fathers does a huge disservice to the children involved.
The anti-father bias begins at the beginning of a case and continues to its end.
The social worker (in Michael’s case) had adopted a position at the outset of the case which made it difficult to apply a rational judgment based on all available evidence. This is also the case for Eddie and Alex who seem to have fitted a biased gender construct held by the professionals they encountered and who consequently failed to protect the children involved from those who would do them harm. Reports were produced in Michael’s case almost entirely from the viewpoint of the mother. This is justified professionally through a dominant professional rationalization which dictates that women must be believed when they disclose domestic abuse. It seems that although, throughout social work training, students are required to pay heed to anti-oppressive practice and foster a reflexive approach, once in practice, bias against men is commonplace.
Social Workers Back Down When Confronted by Fathers’ Advocates
Interestingly, the social workers seem to back down when confronted, not by fathers, but by an organization that knows their rights and is willing to fight for them. That organization is Circle that intervenes when child protective agencies are involved in an effort to get fathers a fair hearing. Often Circle succeeds. Both Kevin and Donald report a “completely different atmosphere” in meetings with social workers when Circle was present from those from which it wasn’t. That strongly suggests to me that social workers know exactly what they’re doing in sidelining dads, know that it’s wrong and count on institutional secrecy to keep their anti-father bias from the broader world. Like bullies the world over, they know whom they can push around and whom they can’t.
To those who have dealt with and studied fathers’ experiences with family courts and child protective services, this comes as no surprise. Just when those courts and agencies will start to change their anti-father, anti-child ways remains to be seen. We have enough studies; it’s time lawmakers started paying attention to them.