Last week, as I do most weeks, I met with a range of people within our sector. This
included a regular national Family Justice Board meeting, the Family Justice Council
memorial lecture to honour the work of Bridget Lindley, given by Lord Justice McFarlane,
and a Women’s Aid national conference.
It is always hard to find time to get out much, as pressure of the day job keeps most of
us fully occupied inside our organisations. But to stay inside all the time means you don’t
so often find out what is going on in the rest of the sector. Often the knowledge I gain
from this, I can link back into my day job and hopefully be better as a result. Some
examples last week were finding out about the work of GlobalARRK and the work of DefendDigitalMe.
GlobalARRK is a charity supporting ‘stuck parents’ – parents who moved abroad with their children but who after a relationship breakdown find they cannot return to the UK. This is because their children have become habitually resident in the new country and subject to the laws of that country. This issue will inevitably become more complicated with Brexit.
DefendDigitalMe is a charity campaigning to protect children’s personal data from ending up in the wrong hands. While it focuses on large scale databases like the National Pupil Database, it also draws attention to other safety concerns for children in the digital world. They told me about a new generation of smart toys, like dolls and animals, which through either fault or design can act as conduits for people to contact, track or monitor children. This digital development can be misused by anyone wishing to groom or exert coercive control over a child. It is an example of how technology and social media, without proper awareness and adequate privacy and security settings, can facilitate invasive contact even if it has been barred by a court.
Both charities, like so many others, are run by committed parent volunteers, who have experience themselves of the issues.
At the memorial lecture, Lord Justice McFarlane questioned whether our model of adoption was fit for purpose in 2017, especially for children adopted today who will in all probability live into the 22nd century. Law and policy lag behind social and digital trends, and we have to get ‘out there’ to find out what’s going on if our practice on individual cases is to be relevant and up to date.