Headlines: February 17th, 2011

Half the children in care questioned about their attitude to the Family Justice System said they did not trust the courts to make the right decision. The Children on Family Justice report, published by the Children’s Rights Director, Dr Roger Morgan, reveals a range of concerns children in care have about the court system.

The report surveyed 58 children and young people in a voting session and 67 in nine separate discussion groups. It gives first hand accounts of views and experiences of children and young people in care, or living away from home, on some of the main questions on which the Family Justice Review Panel will be making recommendations.
Of the children who were surveyed, 80 had experienced an important decision being made about them by a court. Many had negative experiences of being in court such as feeling nervous, scared and intimidated. One child described being, ‘scared and afraid of not knowing what was going on.’

The three main worries for children going to court included whether the court’s decisions about their future was right for them; people and strangers hearing about their private lives and problems, and not being able to give the right answers to important questions in front of a court.

Children’s Rights Director, Dr Roger Morgan said: “Decisions made about children in court are life changing. This report is vitally important as it enables children in care to get their views across to the Family Justice Review Panel.”

He added: “Children have provided suggestions where the courts could improve. However, what stands out most through talking with children is their view that they should always have a say about decisions about their lives. It is worrying that the experience of many children was that they had not known, or felt they had a say in, what was happening to them.”

In the discussion groups, children gave suggestions of what they thought the courts could do better. One idea was making sure that children leaving their families have time to see family members and say their goodbyes before leaving. Another was making sure that it is never one person alone who makes a decision in court, but a number of people together, to make it less likely that they get it wrong. A third proposal was that the court should check up on what happened to them after the court has decided their future. This is to ensure that the right decision has been made and to check that it is still appropriate when the child is older.