May 27 2014

Hello listervians !

My name is Corentin, and I am taking my last internship to become a French « avocat » in a solicitor firm of London, within its family division that deals mainly with Children Public Law issues.

Those proceedings begin when a child is considered in danger, likely to suffer significant harm if left in the care of their parents.
Even though solicitors will represent the Local Authorities that brought the matter to the attention of a court, as well as the independent guardian appointed to the child, we tend to mainly represent those parents.

The office is located in Brixton, and because its children law, because it is a neighborhood known for its immigrated communities, we mainly have clients on legal aid facing immigration and housing issues.

From what will follow, do not assume I am totally naive : I can understand that some parents behave so badly and violently towards their children the local authorities have to act to protect them. And I try to remain aware of my cultural bias, as French social workers and lawyers often work towards the reintegration of the children in their natural family, sometimes allowing risks in the process to protect this ideal.

But when parents come in, it is first evidence that they are willing to fight for their children's custody, and often the first step to make everything for their children's welfare.
What is our job then ?

First we listen to their story :
Mr X has Asparagus syndrome, and his wife and him, both presenting learning difficulties, were separated from their 4 children 10 years ago because of the harm they suffered in their care. Now the local authorities have concerns about their unborn child.
Mr Y has been sentenced for a crime committed in another European country. He has 3 children, with no one to take care of them. Had he served his sentence in his country of origin, that would have been taken into account and he would have been able to serve it at home. But since UK does take this factor into account only at the sentencing part, those children will have to wait yet another 3 years before having the possibility to be raised by their parents.

Then we explain what is expected of them in our best opinion :
Mr A, you will have to stop taking crack now, as we have to prove you are willing to change for the sake of your children's welfare.
Mrs B, your child was taken right after a forced C section and we find it outrageous, but you have to respect the contact schedule and let us handle the fighting in the court.

And we obviously do what is expected from us :
We carry their voice, write their statement, present their stories, make the court and the other parties understand, think twice, prove their caring capacities, contest unfair decisions, fight for their children's well beings.

After 26 weeks of hearings, contacts, expertises and tests, we finally explain the final decisions.

That is the closest I have ever been in my studies and short career of what advocacy means :
We are not all born with fancy vocabulary and agreeable manners, for they are learned, and expression of cultural habits.
I understand the fact that a state or population has to defend their children's welfare and security. In that field of law though, some persons have to carry the duty to fight a chance for improvement, present another cultural aspect of welfare, avoid misinterpretation.

I would be very grateful to discuss your own « legal » stories, do not hesitate to contact me if you are looking for someone to listen.

[email protected]
London, UK

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