CAFCASS’ role is to advise the family court and as such they are the court’s experts in private family law proceedings.
Given the fact that they are recognised by the court as the experts, you would expect that they always or predominantly get things right by serving the best interests of your child. However, the reality of the situation can often be very different. When you look into the reality of what goes on at court and behind the scenes, you get a different picture and that picture is not one which tends to fill you with confidence.
There are several reasons why Cafcass Officers can make recommendations that are not consistent with what’s in your child’s current or long term best interests.
One of the main reasons for this is because it is a service that is inadequately funded to appropriately meet the needs of the children and families who require it.
Although the service is meant to serve the needs of children, I would argue that first and foremost as with most organisations it serves the interests of those who set it up – in other words the government and itself.
So what this means is that CAFCASS is only able to allocate a certain amount of resources to each case and they spend so little time on each case, that they cannot possibly do the case or the child and family justice. Quite often CAFCASS officers suffer from ‘decision fatigue’ and rarely hear about the consequences of their judgements. A recent Govrenment report produced by the Department for Educations (published on 24 April 2014) accusses them of only looking for evidence that confirms views they alreday hold about a particular case.
The court process is really just a non-stop system designed to get as many cases through the system as possible, so that they can be said to have been appropriately disposed of.
If you really think about it and hope to get to the bottom of what is really taking place in any one case,this requires a certain amount of time and imparial or objective scrutiny. It cannot be achieved by a cursory look at what both parents are stating and a couple of hours spent interviewing the parents and or seeing the child.
To gain a clear sense of what’s going on within the family, what the real or underlying motivations may be for both parents and their capacity to parent their child, you have to have the diligence and be allowed the time to undertake a serious exploration of who will best meet the child’s needs and or what level of contact is in the child’s best interests; having regard to that child’s age, understanding and needs.
Frankly, CAFCASS don’t have the time to undertake such rigorous assessments and in effect this means that, in my view, children who should be protected and have their needs met, do not receive what they deserve.
Given the weakness of the system, the more you know about the court process, your child’s needs and how to cope with CAFCASS, the court, your former partner and your child’s needs, the better for you and your child.