Phantom social workers

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The term "phantom social workers" (also known as "bogus social workers") arose in the United Kingdom and United States following sporadic reports to police and media about people claiming to be social workers and attempting to abduct infants from their parents. Their behaviour was usually reported to be quite aggressive. Police investigations into these reports failed to find any substantial evidence or locate any suspects.

The phenomenon was initially and most frequently reported in the early 1990s.


It is thought that reports of unidentified "social workers" attempting to take children away from their parents were merely scare stories or urban legends fuelled by the story of Marietta Higgs, a paediatrician from Cleveland, England who diagnosed 121 children as being victims of sexual abuse from their parents without any evidence or reason.[1][2]


In the early 1990s, various reports to police from concerned parents in the UK emerged. They concerned the conduct of several unidentified persons claiming to be social workers. The "visits" usually included several women with a man who always seemed to be acting in a supervisory role. "Visits" consisted of an inspection of the children in the household, during which the "social workers" display strange behaviour.

Parents of the children contacted police after the encounter due to their concerns about the "examination" of children carried out. Some descriptions of "examinations" claimed they were very thorough, leading to the police to classify these encounters as sexual assault.[citation needed]

Even though the phenomenon is encountered today, to date there has been no successful prosecution of a person attempting these actions.


  1. ^ Charles Pragnell (2002). "The Cleveland Child Sexual Abuse Scandal". Children Webmag. Archived from the original on Feb 13, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Abuse inquiry doctor under fire again". The Northern Echo. 2001-01-22. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 

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