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“UK social services ignore my complaints about the beating of my son in foster care”: the Foundation to Battle Injustice interview with Anna Plachta, mother of a child victim of juvenile justice

Mira Terada, head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, interviewed Anna Plachta, a Polish citizen who faced the abuse of social services in Great Britain that confiscated her 9-month-old son. The human rights activist found out the circumstances of the tangled case, learned about the machinations with documents that allow Britain to deprive parents of their rights to children, and how the local authorities deceived and deprived the woman of her legal rights.

«Социальные службы Великобритании игнорируют мои жалобы на избиение моего сына в приемной семье»: интервью Фонда борьбы с репрессиями с Анной Плахта, матерью ребенка, ставшей жертвой ювенальной юстиции, изображение №1

Mira Terada: What are the names of you and the child that was taken from you?

Anna Plachta: My name is Anna Plachta. My son’s name is Anthony George Plachta.

M.T.: How old were you and your child when they took him?

A.P.: I was then 40 years old, and my son was only 9 months old. He was breastfed. I mostly pumped milk. One of the accusations was that I allegedly did not know how to breastfeed my child. Many women do not even try to breastfeed their children. I pumped milk every four hours and fed my son.

M.T.: Please describe the circumstances in which your child was taken from you.

A.P.: My son was 9 months old, and he was already trying to learn to stand. He tried to get up in his crib and sometimes fell and hit his head against its sides. As soon as this happened, I took him out of the crib and kept him next to me. I was watching him all the time, but as soon as I turned away, he still fell from time to time. On May 13, my husband, with whom we are now divorcing, noticed a hematoma on our son’s head. We immediately went to the hospital. The doctors said that everything was fine, but they took several pictures of him. Then I realized that something was wrong.

M.T.: How do you assess the actions of the guardianship authorities who took your child, and the entire juvenile justice institution in your country? Are you Polish?

A.P.: Yes. I live in the UK because of my work. All my family is in Poland. I got married in Poland. I came to the UK just to earn money to buy a house in Poland. The worst thing is that a month or two earlier I was thinking about a mortgage and returning to Poland.

M.T.: Please tell me what happened?

A.P.: On the same day, May 13, they called the police. I was told that my son did not have a skull fracture. That’s nonsense. I spend 24 hours a day with him. How could I not notice a fracture, because this is pain and a lot of stress for the child. When he fell, he cried. I took him in my arms, kissed him and said that everything would be all right. He calmed down. Therefore, I did not believe that he had a fracture.

THE DOCTORS TAKE PICTURES OF HIM, CALLED THE POLICE AND SAID THAT MY SON HAS TO STAY IN THE HOSPITAL FOR EYESTEST AND EXAMINATION BY A PEDIATRIST.

I did not understand why these checks were needed. If, according to the doctors, my son did not have a skull fracture, and therefore brain damage, why check his eyes? On Monday or Tuesday, the doctors said that the x-ray revealed a fracture, but they never provided the x-ray. For a year since he was taken away, all the doctors told me that my son had a fracture, but I don’t believe it. The hospital did not even give him paracetamol. We were locked in some room. I was told that I could leave the hospital, but without my son. They did not monitor him. For the whole day that we sat in that room, the son was examined only 4 times. This is not how doctors should behave towards a nine-month-old patient with a skull fracture. I’m sure my son didn’t have a fracture.

M.T.: Do you have evidence, testimonies from your friends or relatives, that could confirm that the removal of your child did not have sufficient legal grounds?

A.P.: There are no lawyers or other people in my family who can help in this situation. I didn’t know what my rights were and who I could turn to for help. I have changed several solicitors. I talked to other mothers, turned to religious organizations, but no one helped me until I met Joanna (Pachwicewicz).

M.T.: Did the guardianship authorities, the people who took your child, provide any documents to substantiate their decision?

A.P.: No. A social worker came to my house and gave me only one paper to sign. Later I found out that I allegedly signed a whole package of documents. I was shocked. The most terrible thing was that I was not given the materials of the case. For several months I tried to get them, but did not achieve anything. Everything changed when one Englishman helped me. He helped me file several formal complaints, after which my solicitor refused to work with me, and a new solicitor was assigned to me. That Englishman is not a lawyer, but he knew how cruel the state can be to women. The new solicitor specialized in international law, but even she did not tell me that I could request the case file through the Polish court. I didn’t know I was entitled to it. I thought that this was only possible with the kidnapping of children. The Polish Embassy also did not tell me about the possibility of obtaining these materials through the Polish court. In the end, these documents were provided to me, but they did not contain an x-ray that would prove that my son had a fracture. It turns out that these incompetent people had the right to take my son without proof. I know for sure that he didn’t have the fracture.

M.T.: Do you know what was in the documents they gave you to sign?

A.P.: I don’t know what was there.

THE POLICE TOLD ME THAT I SIGNED THE PAPER AND RENOUNCED MY PARENTAL RIGHTS IN FAVOR OF THE STATE. I HAVE NEVER SEEN THESE DOCUMENTS.

I saw only the paper that they made me to sign.

M.T.: So they tricked you to get your signature?

A.P.: Yes.

M.T.: Did they give you copies of the documents?

A.P.: No.

M.T.: Were you given the contacts of your son’s new guardian so that you could keep in touch with him? Is your son in the care of social services or has he been adopted by a foster family?

Yes. He had a guardian. A woman came to my house and asked me a few questions. I complained to social services that my son didn’t have good clothes. After that, I handed over a lot of things for him, and the new guardians didn’t even put a jacket on him in November. Because of this, he was sick for 3 weeks. He also had bruises on his legs. He couldn’t hurt himself like that. It is more likely that he was beaten.

I HAVE REPORTED TO THE UK SOCIAL SERVICES AND SOLICITORS THAT MY SON IS BEATTEN BY NEW GUARDIANS, BUT THEY DID NOT TAKE MY COMPLAINTS SERIOUSLY.

M.T.: You said that your son had bruises on his legs. Have you been allowed to see him?

A.P.: I was allowed to see him three times a week at the contact center. It is located very far from my house. I don’t have a car, and I spent about 4 hours on the bus in both directions. It was unfair to me. Joanna said that as a mother who was breastfeeding, I had to be sent to a special institution along with the child and I had to be under observation. I didn’t know I had such a right. They just took my child away from me. Then he was sent to my ex-husband. I learned that I could see my son under his supervision.

SOCIAL SERVICES TOLD MY EX-HUSBAND TO LEAVE WHEN SEEING ME ON THE STREET AND CALL THE POLICE IF I ATTEMPT TO APPROACH MY SON.

I asked the local authorities if my son could stay under the care of my mother and brother if they came, but they refused me even though I had the right to do so. They lied to me all the time. All they did was violence against me and my son.

M.T.: In addition to local government bodies that administer justice, have you applied to any international courts or human rights organizations?

A.P.: I tried to contact everyone I could contact. I even wrote to a deputy from my hometown. She and I went to the same school. She didn’t reply me. I applied to the Polish court, I sat there all day to find out if they would take my case or not. I had a deadline by which I had to communicate the decision of the Polish court to the British judges.

I TRIED TO CONTACT DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONS BUT NO ONE REPLIED ME. I WAS COMPLETELY ALONE.

Only one Englishman helped me, but he is not a lawyer and does not know what to do in such situations.

M.T.: Have you encountered any financial or bureaucratic difficulties on the way to the return of your son? Did you have to pay a lot of money or collect a huge amount of documents? Have you been prevented from returning your son in this way?

A.P.: For a whole year I could not work, as I was forbidden to hire a nanny. While Anthony was with me, I was staying at home with him, and my husband worked. Then my husband left me without money. My brother still provides for me. I don’t even know which authorities to contact to get financial assistance. They call me and demand that I go to work. I am now fighting for my son and money is the last thing on my mind.

M.T.: They do everything possible to leave you without money and thereby prove that the decision to take your child was the right one.

A.P.: A month or two ago, my friends paid my taxes as a gift. If you don’t pay them, you may be evicted from your home. So just recently I almost became homeless.

M.T.: It looks like they have some kind of protocol. I have spoken to many women. They said that after the removal of the child, they spent all their energy on his return. Because of this, they lost their jobs. After that, social services said that the removal of the child was the right decision, since his mother did not have the means to support him.

A.P.: Yes. I was told to get a job. How would I work if the solicitors told me to go to some courses, then to a psychologist, then somewhere else.

THE SOLICITORS GAVE ME BAD ADVICES ON PURPOSE TO DEPRIVE ME OF EVERYTHING: MY BABY, WORK, HOME.

They also constantly say that I’m crazy, that something is wrong with me. I know that I’m all right. They make me go to various courses. One of them was about how to show my emotions to the child. I know how to do it.

M.T.: Do you know of any other examples of stories like yours or any social movements or organizations that help parents whose children have been taken away?

A.P.: No, I don’t know any organizations. At meetings with my son at the contact center, there was a rule that parents should smile and act like everything is normal, although this is far from being aal right. I tried to contact other parents in the same situation and heard a very sad story. A Bangladeshi woman had her two daughters taken away 7 months after arriving in the UK. She was beaten by her husband, and she was advised to file a complaint against him with the police. She filed, and her daughters were simply taken away from her. Now we do not communicate with this woman. Everyone is afraid to say something. I realized that the only chance to get my son back was to find someone with more information than me. That is why I looked for other families and organizations. I will do my best to get my son back.