Read this story in French HERE.
CALVADOS, France, June 18, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A large and loving family is grieving today after discovering that its younger members can’t come home.
A French court of appeal decided yesterday that the six children a judge ordered removed from their parents, English expatriates Clare and David Graham, must stay in foster care at least until the end of June. This is a disappointment to the family, which had hoped the June 17 decision would reunite them.
“We are truly devastated,” Clare Graham, a Catholic mother of 10, told LifeSiteNews today.
The minor children are themselves divided into pairs by the Calvados region’s social services and forced to dwell in three separate households with other foster children. They may no longer see each other on their rare and supervised visits with their parents, Clare says. Instead, the children are led into a room to see their parents in twos.
The two older boys, aged 12 and 15, are living with an elderly couple who are housing two other foster children and a fostered 19-year-old youth. The two girls, aged 9 and 10, are living with a Muslim Algerian man, his French wife, and another foster child, aged 2. The youngest boys, aged 7 and 5, are together in the home of a third couple.
Foster caring is a lucrative profession in France, where foster parents are paid approximately €500 as base revenue per month, plus €630 per month for each child, and €10 a day for the child’s need.
The Grahams’ devastation stems not only from their enforced separation from each other, but from the minor children’s sufferings in foster care. On Tuesday’s visit, Clare was surprised to see that her daughters were both wearing long-sleeved shirts and jeans despite the 30°C (86°F) degree weather. She discovered that both girls were so badly sunburned they “could hardly walk”, having been taken to the beach on Sunday dressed only in bikinis and not protected with sunscreen.
“Their injuries were hidden,” she declared.
During his part of the meeting, the Grahams’ 12-year-old son revealed that he is put into the trunk of his foster-father's over-loaded car when he is taken to school and that he had nearly drowned during rough play in the sea with his 19-year-old foster-brother. He had tears in his eyes during their meeting and, Clare says, kept asking “When’s it the 17th?”
“Now they’re going to be devastated because they’re going to know they’re not coming home,” she told LifeSiteNews.
Clare also said that her 15-year-old son is “fed up” and depressed.
The mother has sent emails to the social workers protesting the neglect of her children by their foster-carers, but she says that instead of receiving help, the situation is only made worse. Earlier this month, she complained after her youngest son appeared at a visit with a bad sunburn and her second-youngest with a yellowing bruise around his eye. In response, she was informed by email that that she could no longer telephone her children.
LifeSiteNews has seen the Grahams’ then-attorney’s June 9 letter about this incident, including a fragment of the email from social services, as well as video evidence of the little boy’s black eye, photos of the children's sunburns, and footage of the awkward discovery that one of the children had his shoes on the wrong feet.
According to Clare, four social workers met with them just before Tuesday’s visits with the children and scolded them.
“Me and Dave were taken to the room before we saw the children with three social workers and the head of the social workers,” the mother of 10 said.
“They kind of laid into me and said ‘We’re stopping your phone calls because you weren’t very good at the last meeting. You complained,” she continued.
“It was frightening on Tuesday. It really was frightening.”
Undaunted by her punishment, however, Clare has been sending messages to the head of the Calvados social services, telling her that she has “damaged [the Graham] children for life.”
The screaming judge
This morning Clare attempted to get the placement of her children suspended on the basis that the foster-carers were not properly looking after the children. Told to telephone the court, she spoke through her French-speaking adult daughter Georgina to a secretary until, to the Grahams’ surprise, the judge in their case came on the line.
“[She] went ballistic,” Clare recalled.
Apparently, the judge said that she had been receiving messages from social services criticizing the Grahams, and that the sunburn was nothing. When Clare said (through Georgina) that she would report the damage done to the children to police, the judge went into “even more of a rage” and asked if Clare was threatening her. The shocked mother said that the judge was actually screaming.
“Georgina said to me, ‘All I could hear is that she has a hatred for you, Mum. She hates you. I could tell that by her voice’,” Clare related.
“I got wound up listening to her going on and on and on, and I said ‘Pass me the phone, Georgina; I’m going to tell her what I think of her’ and so Georgina was worried that I was going to mess it up, so she put the phone down.”
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Clare said that the incident had left them in shock. Unfortunately, when the children’s six-month placement comes to an end on June 30, this is the very judge who will be presiding at the hearing.
The Grahams and their four eldest children, who are now legal adults, moved to France in 2005. There the couple had six more children. Their oldest daughters went to a local public school where they were “tormented” for being English. Four years ago, Clare decided to take her sons out of their public school and educate them at home. Unfortunately, she was reported to French social services by a parent of a child at the boys’ school. This set off a never-ending cycle of state interference as Clare attempted to secure a Catholic education for her children. Of apparent concern to the social workers was Clare’s faith and the number of her children.
Thanks to the generosity of two Catholic boarding schools, Clare was able to find places for the two eldest of her minor sons and for her two youngest daughters. Her husband David was unhappy with the arrangement, however, and wanted his children to go to public schools nearer home because he missed them. After Clare briefly separated from David, taking the youngest children with her, David took her to court. As a result of the hearing, the judge decided to take the children away from both parents and put them in care.
When in March the social workers instructed Clare to pack up the children for their placements, she ran. Not having passports for the children — or the sympathy of the British Embassy — she and the children eventually found refuge with David. On April 4, the police raided their home, arrested the adults and took the minor children away.
While in captivity, the children’s right to practise their Catholic faith has been violated. As LifeSiteNews reported last month, the little girl’s Muslim foster carer refused to take them for Mass on Ascension Day, offering to teach them Islamic prayers instead.
LifeSiteNews has received legal advice not to name or approach the judge and the social workers in the case, for the sake of the Grahams and their children.
To assist the legal fund for the Graham family, click here.