When young couple Leonardo Edwards and Iolanda Menino discovered they were expecting their first baby they were over the moon. Leonardo, a businessman and Iolanda – a fiery Portuguese woman who works in cardiology, planned a homebirth and looked forward to a bright future with their new baby.
What should have been a straightforward homebirth went downhill quickly when their midwife showed up just ten minutes before the birth and was allegedly more concerned about getting a parking ticket than assisting the delivery.
Iolanda lost two litres of blood after a botched attempt to deliver the placenta (or after birth) after Santiago was delivered and was rushed to hospital by paramedics. In the hospital Iolanda went straight into “theatre” (as they call it there) and delivered the placenta (baby Santiago wasn’t even a patient as the hospital didn’t deliver him!). His father was just holding him and waiting to see his wife would be alright.
At this point it became clear the hospital was behaving in a hostile manner towards the couple, repeatedly asking for a name for the as yet un-named baby and generally behaving in an unkind and unprofessional way towards them. It’s hard to know at this point if the couple’s baby had already been targeted for adoption, but certainly at best there was a cultural and personality clash occurring. Iolanda was eventually discharged and they returned home with their baby to begin a new life as a family of three.
Their happiness was shortlived. The following day a midwife arrived to their door demanding to be allowed in to see the baby. Iolanda, exhausted from having not yet slept turned her away telling her to come back with an appointment. This may have been her first big mistake; it is implicitly understood by women in the UK that it is a midwife’s Godgiven right to be allowed access to your home and baby following birth and only the bravest would turn her away. Being Portuguese, Iolanda was not aware of this and so wasn’t intimidated.
Shortly afterwards a policeman arrived at the door demanding to see the baby, when Iolanda once again refused he asked her to simply hold the baby up to the window for him to see. This she did and satisfied he went away. A couple of days later they were instructed to return to the hospital with their baby to have him checked. Wary after the previous incidents, the couple had already taken the precaution of having an independent midwife assess the baby and declare him to be in perfect health. However, the hospital disagreed and claimed the baby was suffering a serious case of jaundice and hurriedly removed him from his parents for his own safety, placing him in foster care.
That was three months ago and apart from them being allowed occasional supervised contact meetings, the couple are still without their beautiful little son, Santiago.
In an interview on The Richie Allen Show Leonardo tried to make sense of what might have led to this nightmarish situation. Full disclosure: Leonardo’s business involves selling the controversial alternative health treatment MMS (miracle mineral supplement) and last year was the subject of an undercover report by the BBC where Leonardo was portrayed as a charlatan, selling ‘bleach to babies’ (I won’t try to defend or condemn the product here, but I recommend doing a little reading on the topic before jumping to conclusions).
Leonardo feels this story had an impact on their baby being taken.
“I do believe it has a big part to play in this. MMS is not illegal in any country. MMS is not lethal, no one’s died from it. People can go and check the environmental protection agency’s own bureaucracies which show it’s safe and also the poison index will show it as safe.”
So if MMS is legal, which it is, what could the objection be? Were authorities afraid the couple would give their baby MMS? Iolanda reasonably points out, “a person that sells alcohol is not going to give alcohol to their babies!” She added that she doesn’t believe MMS plays any part in the theft of her baby: “Last year 30 children were taken from Portuguese parents [in the UK]. Until April 2016, 17 children taken from Portuguese parents – are these people selling bleach?”
he couple talked about the 90 minute contact meetings they are permitted with their baby where they discovered to their utter shock that the ‘contact practitioners’ – those charged with assessing their behaviour with their baby – were also the foster carers. “The very people that are sitting there assessing us are we good enough parents are the people that get paid £400 to £500 a week to foster the children!”
A foster carer can foster up to four children which means potential earnings of £2,000 per week, tax free. “Why have I studied cardiology?” says Iolanda, “when I could be taking care of babies!”
In Britain more than 25,000 children are removed from their parents each year by secret family courts and the figure is rising year on year – roughly 97% of these children are never returned. There are almost 70,000 children in care at present and it is estimated that annually, 10,000 of these children simply ‘disappear’.
The UK is unique in that children can be removed from parents for ‘risk of future emotional harm’. In other words, a child’s life can be utterly destroyed by being removed from their loving parents due to a vague prediction of future possible behavior. As a mother of six, I can think of few situations a child would find more traumatic or ‘emotionally harmful’ than being removed from the family they love – possibly forever – particularly if the reasons are unfounded.
But when it’s an industry which generates £3 billion year – as the UK ‘care’ industry does – it’s unlikely the child’s well being is a priority. Local authorities pay voluntary adoption agencies in excess of £27,000 for each child placed in an adoptive family and there’s a long list of so called experts who are paid large fees to declare parents unfit or emotionally abusive, often without even meeting them at all, but simply by reading the social worker’s report. The assumption of innocence until proved guilty, one of the core principles of British justice, is absent from the family courts where hearsay is treated as evidence against a parent and by the time it reaches the judge is treated as fact, regardless of how unfounded it might be.
Once it has been established that the parents are a risk to their child – a conclusion which has almost always been reached from the outset the order is put in place and the wheels are set in motion to have the child adopted. This all happens at such speed that often the parents have no time to learn the necessary legal ropes or realise they need to speak up in their own defense. Again, the system relies on this ignorance.
Each year more than 200 desperate mothers and fathers are jailed for ‘contempt of court’ for breaking the gagging order placed on them by the family courts. What parent wouldn’t try everything in their power to let people know of this horrifying event in their lives?
Every year 5,000 children are adopted and 96% of those have been forcibly removed from their parents. Mother of three Emma Ibbitson, runs a production company with her partner Pete. Every year they make a drink driving video for the West Yorkshire police force. In 2012 she fell foul to social services when her nine year old daughter – who had begged to be in the video – played the role of a victim of drink driving. Emma was accused of emotional and physical abuse and of –unbelievably – having her daughter run over by a car! A three year old could tell you the ‘accident’ in the film wasn’t real, but they came for her kids anyway.
“We were in shock for days [after the children were taken], for five hours we didn’t speak a word to each other.” Emma was ordered to visit her youngest daughter’s school and tell her she couldn’t come home. “I couldn’t wish that pain on any mother, it was heart breaking. To have to tell your little girl that mummy says you can’t come home…”
Her children removed and nothing left to lose, Emma did what came naturally to her, she made a film, Traffic, which is a powerful documentary revealing the truth about social services. It is banned in the UK. There are several groups in particular who seem to be targeted more than others – single mothers, non English speaking families, families where the mother has reported her partner for abuse – domestic or sexual towards her or her children and women who spent their own childhood in care. There are other things that can mark you out as a target such as unexplained bruises on a child or being aggressive or resistant to the interference of social services – as Iolanda discovered the hard way.
However, as the story of Tory MP Lucy Allan proves, unwanted attention from social services can happen to anyone. Back in 2011 Lucy was suffering a mild depression (as reported in Sue Reid’s article in the Daily Mail) and visited her GP in the hope of being prescribed some anti depressants. It was a decision she lived to regret when the GP – a female locum told her she would be referring her to social services to see if the family needed support.
The locum consulted a Dr Peter Green, a consultant forensic physician and head of child safeguarding in the area Lucy lives. Dr Green concluded that Lucy was ‘very self centred’ despite the fact he had never met her, he elaborated by saying his conclusion was a ‘gut feel’. Green has written thousands of reports for the family courts.
Based on Dr Green’s report, Lucy was reported to social services as being of significant risk of harm to her son. They hired a private psychiatrist to write an ‘expert’ report, despite meeting neither Lucy or her son, which concluded there was an ‘urgent need for Lucy to be assessed and treated’, and that there was ‘no way her depression would not have a significant impact on her parenting’. This was in spite of the fact that her son’s school reported him to be happy and thriving.
Meanwhile Lucy visited an independent psychiatrist for assessment who concluded she was neither a risk to herself or her son. Despite this she was subjected to many more interviews and assessments by social services and experts who twisted her words or took them out of context. For example, the confession that she shared a bottle of wine with her husband most nights was reported as ‘alcohol abuse’ and the prescription drugs she took for insomnia and anxiety would, they claimed, render her ‘barely conscious on a daily basis’. Remarkably, throughout the entire process Lucy’s husband was not interviewed once by social services.
It took a year and £10,000 for Lucy to finally clear her name and be rid of social services for good. Lucy is one of the lucky ones, she had the resources to fight the system and lived to tell the tale. She can also talk about her case as it never got as far as the closed family courts. Most are not nearly as fortunate.
In the same article Reid writes, “In another extraordinary case, after a woman was found by a psychologist to be a ‘competent mother’, the social workers are said to have insisted on commissioning a second expert’s report. It agreed with the first. They then commissioned a third, which finally found that the mother had a ‘borderline personality disorder’. All three of her children were taken away for adoption.”
Another woman was deemed ‘mentally unfit’ by experts for burning the toast. She lost her child too. Being removed from loving parents will have life long consequences for these children. Psychologist Rebecca Eyre (www.theearlyhumanhandbook.com) says, “Babies and children are highly vulnerable and they desperately need a safe and loving maternal attachment. Any separation or feelings of abandonment will be experienced as intolerably painful and these feelings and subsequent defenses can last a lifetime. The baby is highly likely to become deeply traumatised and terrified and they will shut down emotionally as an act of selfprotection which unfortunately will have lifelong repercussions.”
There is a network across Europe which aims to help these mothers escape from the UK before their children are taken – in many cases before they are born. Ian Josephs (www.forced- adoption.com), a British businessman based in Monaco helps women flee the UK, offering legal advice and sometimes assisting with their ferry ticket to France to begin a new life. Brian Rothery (www.ectopia.org), an ex journalist and author based in county Wexford in Ireland also helps many women escape to the safety of Ireland’s shores.
Between them they have given hundreds of women the opportunity to be a parent to their children. Forced adoption is a national scandal, perhaps the biggest of its time and must be stopped. This issue should have us out on the streets in protest. The institutionalized theft of children is not just wrong it is horrendously cruel. How many parents are out there right now, heartbroken for life, wondering if their baby is alive or dead, and wondering if they will ever lay eyes on them again.
These people deserve better from the UK government, we must demand change from them. We must write letters and refuse to vote for those who won’t address this issue. Because make no mistake, nobody is safe from this because no parent is perfect; the next baby they come for may be yours.
In Iolanda and Leonardo’s case, they are not taking the theft of their baby lying down. They’ve created a Facebook page ‘Our baby was snatched by social services’ and despite the judge in charge of their case warning them that their publicity campaign to win their baby back might be the very thing that prevents this from happening, they are not backing down. They’ve given many interviews on Portuguese TV and radio and have served legal papers to The Hague. They remain optimistic that if they steadfastly keep up the pressure and remain in the spotlight, they will eventually get their baby back. Please help them by signing their petition.
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