Eight month old baby Santiago – the first child of a Portuguese mother and her English partner – has finally been placed for adoption as the row over Portugal’s so-called “stolen children, kidnapped by British authorities” reignites in national media.
A hard-hitting – and some have said biased – TV report broadcast over the weekend in two-parts by TVI has lead to the “spontaneous” forming of a group of 70 Portuguese lawyers, who now vow to fight pro-bono for Portugal’s lost children.
Visão magazine – which took up this issue earlier in the year – reported on Wednesday that a group of these lawyers has already flown to Britain to “demand answers over children removed from Portuguese parents”.
But has this situation been properly reported? That is the question that sits in the air and has been addressed – and widely shared on social media – by blog writer, psychologist and father Rui Brasil.
Some have hailed his comments as “the first non-sensationalist text” they have read on the subject that has seen endless allegations also in the British press, demonstrations by outraged parents demanding justice to the European Parliament (click here) and real tragedies beamed across television screens for some years.
The ‘truth’ almost certainly is that every case is different.
As Brasil says in his article entitled “TVI, the English system and Public opinion”, he is “privileged to know specialists working in UK’s Social Services departments” and curious enough not to allow himself to be “satisfied by a report that is not impartial and only shows one side of the story”.
Indeed, Brasil contends that if Portugal had a system in which prevention was paramount in child protection services, then tragedies like the murders of Portimão teen Rodrigo Lapa, and young sisters Viviane and Samira (whose mother drowned them earlier this year in the Tejo) “would probably not have happened”.
These are words echoed to the Resident by PJ detectives in Portimão, in conversation over the death of Rodrigo Lapa. “What are child protection services in this country doing? Children are ‘identified’ at risk and then the files appear simply to be put into a drawer and forgotten”, said one.
But nothing is ‘black and white’. There can be fault on both sides – as looks likely in the case of the five Pedro children, removed from their Portuguese parents over three years ago on the basis of an allegation by the oldest child that his father had slapped him.
All five children were removed the day the boy told a teacher at school he had been slapped. What happened to the family since has been a rollercoaster nightmare that continues today.
Mother Carla told us that since that awful afternoon in April when her children were forcibly removed from the family home, both social services and police have agreed she “never did anything wrong”.
Now separated from the children’s father, she is hoping to win back custody – but her two youngest children have already been in care longer than they ever lived with their family.
Elsewhere, the ‘controversy’ of baby Santiago seems finally settled.
He has been placed for adoption after months of efforts by British authorities to properly engage with his ‘runaway parents’.
In Portugal, on social media and to some extent even in UK, this story has not been presented correctly.
Santiago was not removed because his mother refused to open the door to social services on a routine visit, he was removed due to his father’s use of Master Mineral Solution (MMS) – which Judge Helen Black explained in a 65-point judgement in July is “a sodium chlorite solution equivalent to industrial strength bleach”.
“Given the father’s medical beliefs, there are concerns that the child may have been treated indirectly with harmful alternative medication through the mother’s breast milk or may be treated with harmful medication in future”, said the judge, adding that “an investigative journalism piece in 2015 discovered that the father was selling Master Mineral Solution (MMS) as a treatment for cancer and autism… The father advocates the use of MMS and his personal website includes paraphernalia for the administration of such products to babies”.
The summing up, which used the word “sadly” extensively, detailed the lengths to which authorities went to to try and secure Santiago a home within his natural family.
Judge Black concluded that she was granting Southampton County Council the care order it requested to place the baby for adoption because, as far as she was concerned social workers should be “commended for the efforts made through these proceedings and the attempts made to engage with both the parents and the Grandparents”.
Portuguese consular authorities also have gone public with their version of what have become billed as “child kidnappings” – affirming that “in some situations related in the TVI report” their representatives have been “profoundly involved trying to help parents and find solutions for their problems.
“Unfortunately, our efforts are not always successful, not rarely due to the lack of collaboration by the families involved”.
A contact the Resident has in UK has since told us that in her opinion, and based on experience, the consulate is “lying with all its teeth”.