Pilgrims progress: taking change into our own hands

The Children and Families Act came into being last month and for those who were looking it seems like the presumption question has been quietly dropped over the edge of the cliff, a bit like its champion Tim Loughton who was unceremoniously ejected from this position of Children’s Minister half way through the Coalition Governmnent’s term.  Whatever the intent at the outset of this government, at the end of its term, the rather pathetic looking changes which have actuallybeen brought about will change little if anything at all. The presumption of shared parenting, the reform of child maintenance, the bringing together of a new, collaborative way of supporting families after separation, akin to Maria Miller, the Minister with original responsibility for child maintenance reform’s fall from grace, there’s something a bit shamefaced about what this government has actually done in terms of change.  A tweak here, a tinker there and a whole load of investment in ensuring that the circle of sychophantic charities that sit around the westminster village are ‘on message’ from the outside, even if nothing at all has changed on the inside, is about the height of its achievement.  At the heart of it all, the single parent lobby continues on its merry way, convincing one and all that dads are feckless, wreckless, mad, bad and dangerous to their children whilst the father’s lobby looks like a neutron bomb has been dropped on it from a great height. What we are left with, on the surface, is business as usual.  And all this from a Coalition Government supposedly supporting family life.

Underneath the surface however are some interesting stirrings, something different from the binary divisions which have ruled this field since the early seventies when the sisters of mercy of feminist doctrine came storming in to rewrite legislation and reshape the battlefield of post separation family life.  I have been watching this change with a growing interest, particularly as it rises up from the recent round of battle to change the legislative structure around separated families and particularly because it mirrors change which has happened in other jurisdictions, like Australia, where legislative reform was finally pushed through in recent memory and where shared parenting became established as a cultural expectation within legislative change.

There is no doubt in my mind that the move towards an expectation that mothers and fathers will share care of children after separation will come about in the UK.  Shared parenting, unlike shared care or equal care, is a concept which is based not upon the division of time in equal or near equal measures, but upon the cultural acceptance that mothers AND fathers are important in children’s lives.  Bringing about a change towards greater levels of shared parenting requires examination of structural barriers to sharing parenting, such as the continued slavish adherence to the single parent model of support to families, something which the Coalition Government proclaimed it was going to change but in fact didn’t dare go near in the end.  The fact that the single parent model of support is so well established (brought into being fifty years ago or so) and the fact that its supporters are massively funded, well connected and able to raise phenomenal numbers of supporters seemingly at a moment’s notice, is probably something that terrified the life out of those civil servants charged with bringing about change.  Certainly in the reform of the child maintenance system, something many of you will remember I was intimately involved with, the power of the single parent lobby to oppose anything and everything that they felt would be detrimental to their membership (read women), was demonstrated several times over.  From texting, emailing and writing to every member of the House of Lords, to forming coalitions with charities which were ostensibly part of the reform but actually working against it, this lobby group was relentless in its determination to protect the single parent model which relies heavily upon the stereotype of bad dads and good mums for its justification (and which leads to the continuation of all state support, both financial and otherwise being framed around one parent (usually the mother) to the exclusion of the other parent (usually the father).  And it doesn’t matter how much the DWP and its Child Maintenance Options service tweaks, twists and turns it language, its delivery or the framework within which that sits, the reality is that the Help and Support for Separated Families initiative, which came out of the supposed reforms, is quite simply exactly the same single parent model of support only dressed up to make the outside world believe that its about collaboration.  Its not.  Its absolutely not.  Just as the charities which sit around the government supposedly reformed their services to support collaborative parenting at the same time as joining together to form a coalition which eventually watered down Clause 11 (the proposed change in the Children Act 1989 promised by the Coalition Government on coming into power), HSSF promises change and delivers exactly the same as has always been delivered – support to mothers to care and fathers to provide for their children.  Something so far away from Sir David Henshaw’s 2006 proposals for reform that it is difficult to see how they have any connection to it at all.  Elsewhere, despite all of the Coalition Government’s promises of change,  the only difference now is that charities which previously overtly supported the single parent model now covertly support it, whilst at the same time as they have  hoovered up the funding (in the case of child maintenance this is around twenty millions pounds) to present their wares via shiny new websites which promise much but deliver nothing different at all.

Take One Plus One’s new invention which is being promoted by CAFCASS,  the online parenting plan. Designed for use before any court action is taken, it is supposedly aimed at parents to help them make their child arrangement orders, something which has replaced the old terms of residence and contact and something which all parents are now required to consider.  A quick rinse through this CAFCASS endorsed entity tells us that post separation talking to each other might be difficult, but that we should put the needs of the children first and that if we find that hard we should use mediation.   Staggeringly close to the HSSF endorsements to ‘talk about things and if its difficult use mediation and here is a calculator so that you can work out how much would be paid under a statutory maintenance arrangement’, this is a pointless, spineless, circular piece of nonsense which is devoid of imagination, steeped in the same old single parent stereotypes with a dash of this government’s remedy of choice, mediation thrown in for good measure.  What a waste.  What an absolute waste of time, money and effort. And I say that as someone who sat on both government working groups throughout the first years of this government, giving up swathes of my time and energy only to watch it all swirl away down the proverbial pan.

Enough however of the bemoaning of the Coalition’s failure to do what it said it would do and onto the world as I have come to know it in recent months.  This world, infinitely more interesting than the stultifiying air of the corridors of power, has begun to look even more interesting in recent weeks and months as from the wreckage of the pro family, pro change lobby, the stirrings of a new movement have begun to emerge.  This movement, which is coalescing as I write and which promises to bring together, together rather than smash apart the energy for change (a common phenomenon in the pro father’s movement) is made of disparate groups,  all of which work in different fields around the family, but which all hold in common the belief that a move from the single parent model to a whole family model of support post separation is the way forward.  This movement, even more excitingly from my perspective, contains women as well as men and is not framed around ‘rights’ but around the need for a cultural and legislative change towards inclusive support for the whole family.  This is the kind of movement which finally brought about change in Australia, could this be the vehicle which allows change to be brought through to fruition in the UK?

Recently I have been conversing with other women who, like me, have recognised that feminism did them no favours.  These women, who I consider to be some of the most cognitively ‘sorted’ people, are like me, in their late forties and early fifties.  We lived through those times when women took hold of the social policy field around the family and we experienced what it did to us.  Far from liberating us, nonsensically, it tied us to the kitchen sink and made our primary identity that of caring for children, something far far removed from what the second wave feminist movement told us was our destiny.  Looking back, it is so easy to see how those academics who wrote social policy in the seventies, thought they were doing us a favour. Give women total control over their children after separation and they will leave their marriages in droves, was the thinking. And that is what happened.  After that however, the cul de sac of the social policy outcomes which were devised for us by those women, meant that far from sharing care of children, we were lumbered with the sole responsibility and, perversely, told that that was liberation.  The liberal feminist dominance of the social policy field around family separation never really got to grips with the mess it made of women’s lives in that way and so, in my view, it was easier to expand the myth that all men are dangerous after separation (and create the kinds of domestic violence policies and practice which more or less ensured that all men were dangerous whatever they did) than to tackle the fact that women had been shoved back into the kitchen by the second wave feminist academics and their determination to put all the power over children into the hands of women after the previous centuries of it being held in its entirety by men.

Those second wave feminist academics however are getting old now and will soon be shuffling off into their twighlight years.  Whilst they have managed to influence (brainwash) and educate (distort) the minds of more generations of women coming after them, they haven’t quite got the control over all of us that they would like. And this, for me, is the exciting part because those of us who escaped, with minds of our own intact,  have retained not only the belief in equality that the original women’s liberation movement in the seventies held, but we have brought with us the skills, the knowledge and the drive to work collectively for change in our field. And now is the time that we an begin to put this into action, together, with men, to shape and build a new way of being in the world so that families can get the help that they need to pull through the difficult times to a better place.

The powerful part of this stirring is the understanding and belief that if change is to come we must all, collectively, become the change we want to see in the world.  From fascinating discussions about different ways of building consensus, to how to develop new community models of support, this is the world that I came from many years ago, updated for the twenty first century and this time working together with men not separately from them.  This energy, this focus, this belief in our absolute equality and this deep respect and value for each and the relationship between us, for me comes from the work that I did some years ago on gender equality and my understanding that fathers, in the social policy crucibles of the seventies, were quite simply rendered obsolete in an effort to put control over family life into the hands of women.  When that realisation dawned, that we had, collectively bought into the mirage that the single parent model of supporting families was necessary because ALL fathers abandon their children and ALL mothers are abandoned and must therefore be supported by the state, I began a journey which I have chronicled in this blog, which ended in my removing my feminist goggles and finally finding the understanding that what we have done to fathers, in shoving them out of their children’s lives via legislation and then blaming them for not being there, was quite simply wrong.  From there my compassion grew and my belief in equality, which for so long had really meant women’s rights above all else, all fell into place.  Suddenly I knew why so many men fought for their children after separation, suddenly I could see that the desperate longing of father’s was not because they were somehow obsessed or unnatural men, I realised that so many dads, pushed out of their children’s lives, by legislation, by service delivery, by family court practitioners and by cultural apathy, quite simply carried on fighting because they LOVE their children. And that a father’s love for a child, just like a mother’s love, is primal and it is enduring. From there, with the jigsaw pieces finally back in the right place, the lesson that emerged, for me, was unarguable and could not be ever be dismissed. Children need their mother and their father after family separation and routinely breaking the attachment bonds between children and their beloved dads, was and is, cruelty without measure.

Cruelty which prompts fathers to do the most amazing things and endure the most intolerable pain for unimaginable lengths of time.  Cruelty which is imposed by the courts, by the crashing into the post separation landscape of what is supposed to be help but which turns out to be thinly disguised single parent models of support which divide parents into good/bad, paying/receiving, deserving/underdserving, dangerous/safe, stereotypes without any regard whatsoever for the significance of these people as mum and dad in their children’s lives. Cruelty which chews up the very soul of fatherhood and spits it out at the other end in the form of court orders which impose no ‘contact’ direct or otherwise and which condemn a father with deepest love for his child, to while away his hours waiting for the time when that love can be given and received again without the interference of the state, the courts, or other people. For some its a long long wait.  For others its a wait which never ends.  For children its the routine stripping of their attachment bonds and the blind eye turned by too many professionals and others to the impact of that.

On Monday at 10am, some fathers who have suffered such cruelty, will set off from the Royal Courts of Justice to walk to Canterbury Cathedral. These men are, in my view, heralding a new beginning as well as showing us the enduring strength of a father’s love and the lengths to which men will go to cope with their loss and wait until their loved children can return to them. These modern day Pilgrim Fathers exemplify everything that for me is possible and necessary in this new phase of UK family separation politics, a new phase in which responsibility for creating the change we want to see lies not in lobbying remote government Ministers or negotiating with disinterested civil servants but in our own hands, the hands of men and women who have been affected by family separation and the hands of men and women who work on the front line of family change.  As these Pilgrims progress on their peaceful protest to register both their existence and their survival of the worst of what family law has done to them, let us, who understand the changes that families need,  walk with them, towards dignity, equality and the relationship between us and build the change that we want to see in the world.  Its time to take change into our own hands, for families now and in the future.

24 comments

  1. Phill Ferreira · May 10, 2014

    Reblogged this on The Story of my Twin Boys , Oliver and Oscar Ferreira and commented:
    14 months in Karen and Peter Morey from Cafcass and Judge Singleton from the High Court Lancaster confirms that they have not and will not read either of the detailed long term parenting plans I have provide them being practical and logical with reasonable expectations from my side to build on contact with my boys , the stance is if mum says no , they will not stand up against her even if they can see she is wrong but they would rather support her PAS plan to ensure she gets her 1400 quid a month in benefits for keeping our boys hostage and in their minds it will make the case and issues go away so they can move on and collect more money from the government to start des toying more little ones lives , thus zero regards for the little ones , they just want the file of their desks , they have gone as far as to tell Social services to back off and not respond to me or investigate the case and serious long term potential harm issues growing up on benefits and a council estate !…Kind Regards Phill Ferreira

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    • Anonymous · May 10, 2014

      …..an all too familiar story!

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      • Anonymous · May 11, 2014

        …and big boys DO cry. I’ve been in “The Struggle” for 10 years now, and it’s a hard road to travel.

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  2. daveyone1 · May 10, 2014

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

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  3. Yvie · May 10, 2014

    Until child maintenance is reformed discord between many parents will continue. Mediation is unlikely to hep in these cases.

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  4. nick234678 · May 10, 2014

    Again Karen many many thanks for this great post that really puts it all together in a way that fills in and educates me about the full story of your long journey to a position of more genuine equality for both women and men in separated families – and why it has been such a disappointment to see that thinking be so withered away in the new policies. As a recent learner I’ve needed this kind of account to understand it better.

    And how lovely to imagine that people are anyway beginning see the light.

    Nick Child
    Family Therapist
    Edinburgh

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  5. Jerry · May 10, 2014

    As usual, you have summarised the situation incredibly profoundly although I do have more faith than you in the recent small, but together (IMHO) significant, changes to the legal furniture.

    Tweaking is not enough although it attempts to set the scene for change even if it will likely enforce little. No teeth (or other appropriate anatomical part). And as you say, until the old guard(s) shuffle off into their dotage, change will be drag.

    And yes the single parent lobby needs to stop it’s abuse of power so that a well-though-out shared parenting model can replace the almost medieval (in spirit) one-parent hegemony after separation. It is amazing that a modern country can still be paying lip-service (LIP-disservice!) to such an anachronism.

    Having said all that, I can’t see a bunch of dads walking to Canterbury, making much difference. I share the heartfelt hope that it’s the start of something bigger and more persistent.

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    • karenwoodall · May 10, 2014

      Dont think I said that five dads walking to Canterbury is THE change we need to be in the world but it coincides with the stirrings of something significant, something which builds the foundations of what we are arguing FOR instead of the endless rounds of arguing AGAiNST ….

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  6. Jerry · May 11, 2014

    No you definitely didn’t. I’m sorry if I appeared to suggest that.

    Although I was not aware of the march, I certainly support the principle. Ironically I did suggest recently to at least one of the participants that a peaceful march is something that would help publicise the issues which need to be brought out into the open.

    We do need more action rather than nay-saying and arguing. One of my points was that the same applies to the campaigns for the recent changes in legislation that some people choose to complain about or trivialise. Whatever we think the result will be, we must move on, and act rather than complain. And we must choose our actions carefully and act in concert.

    The stirrings you talk about seem clear to me too. But I believe they include all the recent debate at the top regarding legislation. But for the rest of us out there must also be more public debate about the necessity for proper co-parenting and to take on board that parents who wish to exclude the other parent for their own selfish needs are irresponsible and unworthy parents.

    And finally there are those trapped in the system – some judges and social workers who are struggling against cuts, their own prejudices and outdated practices, and the need to somehow move their case loads forwards and off their books. There is no point in complaining about them either. To deal with them we must use the safeguards built into our system, even if they are tedious and sometimes complex. WE must complain TO them and to their superiors, not ABOUT them. There are mechanisms to make our democracy work (not all of them great) and we must use them relentlessly. Peaceful protest is certainly one of them.

    Overall we need to reach hearts and minds in a way that can unify the changes, not fight over the detail.

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    • karenwoodall · May 11, 2014

      But Jerry, you seem to believe that something has changed when the only thing that has changed in reality is that the father’s movement has been neutralised and the single parent lobby has got stronger. Clause 11, FNF’s great hope for change, supported by Tim Loughton has not even been enacted in the watered down, meaningless version which was eventually allowed by the Coram coalition to go through, it is unlikely to ever be enacted. On the child maintenance front, with its help and support for separated families debacle, you have charities such as Relate and One plus One pretending they are all about collaboration whilst at the same time being part of the Coram coalition which watered down Clause 11. So what you actually have is a ‘sector’ around government which has revamped a bit of its message to the outside world whilst internally having its funding shored up to carry on delivering in the women’s rights/single parent lobby tradition. How can you not see that? We are worse off now, in terms of parents being helped to make it through the minefield of family separation and stay involved in their childrens lives, than we were before the coalition came into power, I just don’t know why that is not apparent to you. This is because the movement FOR shared parenting has no political standing, no consistent and clear policies which demonstrate fhe benefits to children of father involvement and because all of the father’s groups that have ever been accepted into the circle around the government have been forced to accept the status quo and it has been ever thus since Fatherhood Institute and FNF joined together with Gingerbread and Relate in the Kids in the Middle Campaign thereby watering down to nothing the core value of the fathers lobby which is to represent fathers and their importance in the lives of children.

      What is stirring now however is far far away from fathers movements or government circles and I hope that it will come to fruition over time to demonstrate the reality that the benefits to children of true whole family models of support (not models which dress themselves up as whole family but which are really single parent models in disguise) are unarguably the only way forward.

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      • Jerry · May 11, 2014

        Well you have not provided any evidence for the “stirrings” to which you refer, and I’m at least prepared to take the view that with many more parts of HMG and Relate et al apparently supporting the relevance of two parents means we are definitely in a better position than before.

        Sure, we will have to hold them to their promises, but with the media it has always been easier to promise change than to deliver it. However promises are an important precursor to other politicians pointing out the promises shortfall. FNF’s Central London Branch Chair recently went to Brussels to highlight just such a shortfall in our family justice system. We are also working with a newly formed international organisation – the ICSP (http://twohomes.org/en_home) which aims to coordinate research and policy on shared parenting internationally. The good news is that the proclamation that shared parenting is better is alive and kicking out there. Even my daughter, from whom I had been alienated for some years until a few months ago, at nearly 19, said to me today that “any idiot can see that having two parents in your life is better”. Ironic, or what? Light must be allowed in for all to see the realities. That is the next phase as I see it. Anyway, who cares where the stirrings are – let’s just promote them as best we can, no?

        To answer your claim, I personally can’t judge whether in all these respects we are better off than before the coalition came to power and frankly, I don’t give a damn – because it’s not currently a party political issue – as indeed you suggest (It would be interesting to hear some Farage-style rhetoric on the subject though!).

        I also would ask you for more evidence that HMG’s Help and Support for Separated Families (HSSF) programme justifies your use of the word “debacle”. FNF has only just qualified (along with Family Lives and others) for inclusion in this scheme which is very new. Child Maintenance is also currently subject to consultations (in which FNF is involved). Aren’t you rushing in to pour scorn on the new baby before it’s even been weaned?

        I would add that I am far more concerned that progress should be made in constructive promotion of responsible parenting rather than pushing fathers’ (or mothers’) agendas, but I suspect we agree on that at least. As it happens, Karen, I thought we agreed on many things, so let’s keep checking!

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      • karenwoodall · May 11, 2014

        Jerry, I am going to respond to you in depth and at length, even though I consider that you, as Chair of FNF should be aware or this already.

        critical analysis of what this government has done, demonstrates that it has failed in its entirety, to implement the changes it had been saying it would implement in the years ahead of its inception. Not only has it failed, it has taken the project to reform family law back several decades and strengthened the single parent lobby. I cannot understand how you cannot see that but I will elaborate for you.

        Clause 11, which was intended to bring the presumption issue into being in the Children Act has been watered down to something meaningless, what does a presumption of involvement actually mean? In the Coram Coalition’s terms, discussed via the link in my blog in one of the debates in Parliament, it can mean indirect involvement such as letter box contact. How is that any different to anything that we had previously. In fact in many ways I am relieved that Clause 11 has been shelved, had it been brougt in, the writing down of involvment can mean letterbox contact could have rendered many parents involved by letter box contact only and having no way to challenge that. This was the DfE’s contribution to the promised changes – a disaster in my view.

        Coram led a coalition, including Relate and One plus One as well as others, which lobbied hard (you can see details of that also in the link in my blog) to force this reduction of the presumption through. How does that demonstrate that they are promoting any kind of collaborative practice if behind the scenes they are signing up to watering down the very legislative changes which make collaboration more possible? If you can explain that in any congruent manner please do but from where I am looking, Relate et al are doing a whole lot of public promotion of themselves as being in favour of collaboration whilst behind the scenes doing all they can to keep business as usual.

        Onto HSSF. I don’t know why you are not aware that we (nick and I) whilst at CSF worked with the DWP between 2008 and 2013 on reform to child maintenance services. In 2008 we designed and delivered the training that brougt the CM OPtions service to life, working withe CM Reform team intensively as part of the strategy to bring David Henshaw’s 2006 reforms into being. We continued to work with the child maintenance commission across the years subsequent to that, we trained all of the staff at Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission (as it was then) and even won awards for the training we designed and delivered. We continued to work with the Minister for responsibility for Child Maintenance in 2010 and were a core part of the reforms that brought HSSF into being. I chaired groups working on reform and we designed the HSSF web app and the training for the telephony service. We disagreed with the CM Options team however on the watering down of elements of the web app, specifically because all of the elements of it which make collaborative practice with parents truly effective, were stripped out, largely to please the women’s lobby who demanded that the DV triage system was removed. This is the reason why we left the sector and decided to go our own route and build the change we know is needed. HSSF is a debacle because it is meaningless in terms of the impact on the families that these charities actually work with and simply rubber stamps each charity with a mark which says that they have listened to what government required them to say that they do. How do you imagine that being awarded the HSSF mark is going to change anything either for FNF as a charity or the parents it works for? It’s not going to change anything, unless what you mean is that by holding the mark you might get funding in which case you have literally described the meaninglessness of it in one.

        The stirrings I speak of are bigger than anything that government can do in terms of bringing about change in people’s lives because they work directly with families in a completely different paradigm. These stirrings involve people with real skill, real knowledge and real passion for what they are doing and building the future we know is needed is the task at hand. If you are not aware of them perhaps that is because you are looking in the wrong direction. If you believe that change towards shared parenting in terms of legislation or being part of the westminster party then you are definitely looking in the wrong direction.

        I am glad you are working with international organisations on shared parenting issues, this is very important but waht are you doing with that in terms of pressing the government to listen to the benefits, that’s the only point of being part of such an initiative unless you are actually going to deliver services that help parents to share parenting?

        The Family Separation Hub and its developing network of shared parenting support centres is working across the country now in delivering services to support shared parenting. We don’t need to make a big noise about it, we are simply doing it. We don’t need or want government funding to deliver it because those people who, like us, know that the only way to help people is in the real life relationship between people, are getting on and delivering the change we want to see in the world. If you don’t know about that then that’s because you are not looking in the same direction as us. Those who, are also stirring and beginning the process of bringing about change are. Away from Westminster there is a stirring afoot which is building the change for families right now. There is the future, not HSSF or big glossy greedy charities who don’t even work with families for the most part.

        I am sure we do share some similar thoughts and views on some key things Jerry, you just choose to look one way and hope and I prefer to look the other and get on and do what I know needs doing. That I write of stirrings that you are not aware of is nothing more than evidence of how we look in different directions. You write of consultations and HSSF marks, things I have absolutely no interest in anymore, I have been there, done that and can see where it gets us. I only have an infinite time left on this planet, I want to make change happen, not hope it will.

        You can see what we do here http://www.familyseparationhub.net

        And here http://jerseyseparatedfamilies.org.je/

        And here http://www.islandseparatedfamilies.org.uk/

        And here http://www.familyseparationclinic.co.uk

        And here http://puttingchildrenfirsteu.wordpress.com/about/

        The latter is in the process of being reformed around practitioner support for shared parenting across Europe, more details soon.

        I hope this helps you to understand how my views arise, all based upon facts, all based upon actual experience, none based on anything other than the knowledge that this has brought and all based upon not wanting to waste a minute more of my precious time doing anything other than being the change I want to see in the world.

        Very best

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  7. Anonymous · May 12, 2014

    My then 8 year old son summed up the whole scene rather well when he sensed my stress, soon after a final hearing.

    “Don’t worry Dad, I can come and see you whenever I want, so long as it is Ok with Mummy”

    Prophetic words from a “kid in the middle” you might think. A tender vulnerable child, already indoctrinated by our equally well meaning band of “family support workers”.

    I wanted to say to my child. “You do realise that Mummy is very angry with me and because my seeing you seems to be at the whim of your mother our relationship (that’s you and me kiddo) is on very dodgy ground”. “You love me today, for sure, but tomorrow you could be hating me, spitting vile abuse, bearing all your mothers wretched discomforts. Even if this weren’t so and I am simply gradually replaced (by a surrogate of your mother’s choice) I will no doubt have to contend with my own grief and yours too.

    The anger, the self-pity, endless worry over the what if scenarios, the appeasements, the pathetic begging, and the seeming hopelessness and futility of the situation; the meaningless political gestures in print, but nothing in deed. Life takes on a darkness all of its’ own. We wrestle with life’s demons and through suffering learn things we never knew about ourselves; our behaviours; the way we influence others…… and then begin to put love back where it belongs.
    …………………………………………………
    Karen
    I like the way you forge ahead with practical ideas, regardless of the political arena. Deeds are often so much more important especially when wise words fall on deaf ears.
    ………………………………………………….
    Jerry
    Great to hear you are working hard and thanks for going to Brussels on our behalf. Do you ever watch the programme, “Undercover Boss”? It would be great if you could find the time to get out into the provinces and meet the people working to help each other at grass routes level. I think it’s very important in any large organisation to let the workforce know you have their best interests at heart. I couldn’t find any details about you on the National FNF website except that you are Chairman of the Trustees. How about telling us something about yourself and more about the work you do for FNF. We are a diverse group of disparate characters galvanised by a common theme……….a deep love of our children. Please remind us of your support and empathy. Come and be a fly on the wall at all our meetings, share your experiences.

    Kind regards

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    • karenwoodall · May 12, 2014

      If Jerry doesn’t come then I will!! I have always considered FNF at its grass roots to be THE place where change begins. If anyone at FNF grass roots want to DO IT and wants more information about what we are doing then come on over and we will give you all the information you need to revolutionise your work into practical support for shared parenting, instead of banging your head against closed government doors, come and do what we know needs doing and make a difference on a daily basis – away from the courts and the government and the ‘there is only one way to do it’ there is another world. I worked with a family recently facing live alienation, it is happening in front of their eyes, when the kids are at dads I go and do the work – that’s happening up and down the land through the work we are doing in the community, FNF could be doing that too, never really know why it doesn’t. If you want to be the change you are looking for, come and find out more. You will wait a lifetime and longer for change to happen through government channels, the battle lines are drawn and the 150,000 or so swing voters who are women will be lead by the women’s lobby, it will be a long long long long time before we see the doors to change creaking open in government but we don’t have to wait, we don’t have to ask, we don’t have to beg, we don’t have to do anything at all – apart from do it ourselves. We have child contact centres signing up, therapy centres signing up, we have FNF groups already interested, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it doesn’t require CEO salaries or HQ’s with fancy furniture – that’s last century, that’s power base building, that’s playing the establishment game. If Jerry won’t tour the grass roots I will and anyone and everyone who wants to dance to their own tune is welcome to come and join us. I mean it, there’s not time to waste, people live and die hoping that change will happen, not us – come on in the water’s lovely and we are having a ball! x

      Like

  8. padrestevie · May 12, 2014

    Count me in!
    I think you are absolutely right.
    There are far too many vested interests in maintaining the status quo to stand any chance of bringing about change via the conventional routes. Whether they be charities, professionals or politicians: there will always be resistance to change.
    It really is like a colonial organism but, unlike a coral reef, not at all pretty.
    P

    Like

  9. New Fathers 4 Justice · May 12, 2014

    Reblogged this on New Fathers 4 Justice.

    Like

  10. Anthony · May 13, 2014

    Karen,

    This particular blog of yours is probably the best I’ve ever read to sum up the present situation with the Govt and their acolytes. I shall forward wherever i can. No..I am not putting my hand up to join you…I most certainly would 10 even 5 years ago..After 20 years in ‘the business’ i have run out of ‘puff’.!…in fact i am extricating myself having just handed over the Newmarket Branch to a ‘younger gun’! However I have a Qn: You weren’t so keen for FNF to ‘join you’ when we first met…was that simply that ‘the stirrings’ you speak of hadn’t started then…or was there some over reason? Perhaps that we are no longer headed up by a salaried CEO?
    Interested to know. Anyway all power to you and Nick…I hope the buds of stirring break forth into full bloom!
    Best wishes
    Anthony

    Like

    • karenwoodall · May 13, 2014

      I have always considered the grass roots of FNF to be a wonderful wonderful movement Anthony, in fact it is, for me, simply the best. I have the odd disagreement with grass roots folk here and there over minor things but in general they are pastoral carers and I think they are marvellous in their work. I would love to see FNF grass roots services reconfigured around pastoral shared care support, we could do so much good with that kind of support, change lives every single day without need for government funding. We could simply create the change we know is needed in the world and all for nuppence so to speak. Thank you so much for your kind words and positive thoughts and I hope that you can spend some time now catching your breath. I have very much enjoyed conversation with you, hope you continue to contribute here. K

      Like

  11. Paul · May 13, 2014

    Just why has the long-promised, much-vaunted statutory presumption been given the kibosh?
    Hasn’t anyone asked Timpson, the children’s minister?

    The Coalition turn out to be clowns and cowards, like their Labour predecessors. Vote UKIP!

    Like

    • karenwoodall · May 14, 2014

      Better still don’t bother voting -why wastespend five years of your life waiting for the government to make change happen when you can do it yourself every day of your life – shared parenting is entirely possible if separating parents can get the help they need before the rights based charities or solicitors get to them, build your own help services, deliver what people need in their own community and give them the chance to do the best thing for their kids without ever having to go near the courts. Let’s do it!

      Like

      • paul.z@talk21.com · May 14, 2014

        Absolutely! But as tawdry and insulting as the watered-down clause on parental involvement was, it at least did something to address the existing presumption which fathers are unfairly obliged to rebut – the established practice of courts that mothers get it all. The President appears to have seen through it all though as he and Ryder seem determined in their own way to bring about some change. I hope so anyway.

        Like

      • karenwoodall · May 14, 2014

        Wastespend…I seem to have made up a new word!

        Like

  12. Anthony · May 14, 2014

    That’s all very well Karen..as long as mother and father behave like adults and at least have some form of communication and agreement for the sake of their kids. Problem is ..at least with FNF fathers.. that the pair are at total loggerheads and the very last thing mum wants to do is cooperate in any way shape or form….so she goes rushing off to variously a solicitor/her friends/womens aid/SS. Anyone but the father of her children. How do you get around that one?!

    Like

    • karenwoodall · May 14, 2014

      easily Anthony, you resolve the tension that split the two far apart first instead of getting them focused on their rights or inflaming their indignation – easy when you know how to do it, we do it all the time.k

      Like

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