[back] Family Courts

08 November 2006
Derbyshire Evening Telegraph


Tammy is now campaigning for changes to save other children from the sort of injustice she suffered.

Above all, she wants to see an end to the secrecy that surrounds family courts.

She began her emotive address to a London conference by saying: "In the best interest of the child. That's what the professionals state. But even the professionals and the family courts can be wrong, as they were in my case.

" Tammy's speech to the conference

She told an audience, including lawyers, judges and MP Harriet Harman, that she was taken from her mother on the basis of a false allegation, placed with foster parents for 13 months and freed for adoption by a judge who said that he was making his ruling on the basis that social services had delayed her case for two-and-a-half years.

"On reading his decision to my mum, he stated: 'Miss Coulter, if I return your daughter to you, you will be a stranger to her.'

"And on that decision," said Tammy, "I was freed for adoption and my whole future was completely changed.

"Finding out that you're adopted is one of the worst feelings in the world because you feel that all of your identity, everything you've known about yourself, is a lie."

Tammy told how she learned through a friend that her mother had begun searching for her, using the website Gene Reunited. Within hours of e-mailing a message to her mum's mobile phone, the pair had a conversation that would change both of their lives.

Tammy told the conference: "I was a child who was wrongfully removed from the care of my mother.

"I am publicly speaking today on behalf of children and parents who have also been through the secrecy of family courts and the injustices that have taken place, and do still take place, and the devastation of what one decision that determines the future of a child can cause to a whole family.

"Since moving in with my birth family, I see the relationship between my mother, brother and sister and cannot help feeling as though I've missed out, no matter how much I fit in now.

"I know I'm not the only person to have gone through the hell of secrecy in family courts. I hope to have expressed the way in which they will feel and are feeling at my age."

Among the changes Tammy called for were:

Medical evidence used in the courts to be based on facts, not probabilities, when determining a child's future.

Social services being prevented from "making medical diagnoses when not qualified to do so".

Social services assessments to be based on facts, not opinions.

An independent body to be brought in when social services are assessing a family.

A wider range of agencies to be involved in putting together support packages to help families stay together.

The removal of a child from its family to be regarded as a last resort, and the need to slowly integrate a child back into its natural family to be of paramount importance.

Tammy said: "The most important factor of us all being here today is about the secrecy surrounding the family courts and why they should be opened. I am of an age where I can talk about the detrimental effects that the secrecy of the courts has caused to me. Many of the children who have been taken and are still being taken do not have a voice.

"The opening of the family courts would make it a fairer, non-judgmental and more impartial system. It would help children who are left in the hands of abusers and would also work by stopping children from being wrongfully removed and injustices taking place.

"So please, when considering opening the family courts, take into account that we're all human and we have feelings. The way in which the courts have been working up to this day has been inhumane in many cases and human rights have been exploited.

"The detrimental emotional effects that separation has on children torn apart from their birth families lasts a lifetime."
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