Wednesday, 23 July 2014

I don't know how we "keep children safe"

because it seems that, even if we remove them from an "unsafe environment" to a "safe" one they are still in danger.
Yes, this morning's paper has more than one page on the latest sexual abuse scandal. This time the allegations are about a man employed by Families SA - part of the government department specifically designed to assist families in difficulties.
A friend of mine, now deceased, trained as a social worker after she had brought up her own family. Her youngest child was adopted and the family's experiences in adopting the child had made her acutely aware of the many issues surrounding adoption. That child was wanted, loved and has grown into a very well adjusted adult with a stable marriage and equally loved and wanted children. My friend was aware that not all relationships work out like that and that all parent-child relationships need to be worked at - just as the relationship with your partner does.
We talked long and often about all this when she was training. I was reading her written work, commenting on the language and construction of her essays and questioning her thoughts so that she could clarify them. We both knew that, all too often, she was writing what she knew she was expected to write. She wrote it in order to pass the subject. Privately she thought much of it was nonsense.
"What they need to do," she told me more than once, "Is apply a good dose of common-sense."
She also knew that "common-sense" would often be lacking and even not allowed. Rules and regulations would come first. They are there to "protect" the children - or so they say.
It infuriated her because those very measures also made the children even more vulnerable. The secrecy surrounding their circumstances made it impossible for them to lead "normal" lives. There was no chance of them attending anything as simple as a birthday party because it meant the family and friends of the other child all had to be vetted. They could not be left in the charge of another parent to play sport unless that parent, their partner and any other adult they were likely to come into contact with was vetted. Result? No birthday parties, no sport and no normal interaction with other children. Oh yes, they were keeping them "safe".
No wonder it has been so easy for someone to abuse children in care. The children "in care" were simply being isolated.
I don't know whether the system is still the same fourteen years after the untimely death of my friend. I suspect it is. I wish she was still here to apply her robust "common-sense" to the situation in which some of these children find themselves.
We have tried to care for too many vulnerable children on the cheap. We leave some with their parents when they should, for their own safety and future well-being be removed. When we do remove them we pay those charged with caring them so little that some of those who would like to do it simply cannot afford the extra costs involved.
And yes, they will even take away a child who has been with a family since infancy, who is happy and well adjusted and extremely well cared for - because the child is becoming "too attached".
How on earth can we keep children "safe" when this sort of action is considered right and proper? Safe? I don't think so.

1 comment:

Helen Devries said...

I knew foster parents when living in the U.K. Social workers seemed to be disturbed when the children were clearly so happy and part of the family...that seemed to be being 'taking on the role of parents'...