Friday, 10 April 2015

Child protection laws? Really?

The state's coroner has just delivered a report into the death of a child. Her name was Chloe Valentine and she died, aged four, in the most horrific circumstances.
She was being forced to ride a "trail bike" - something way too big for her to sit on comfortably let alone control. When she fell off she was put back on it and forced to keep trying to ride it. Eventually she was so badly injured that she died from her injuries. 
Her mother is a drug addict. She had successfully "fooled" the social services into believing that she was caring for Chloe - even when her own mother kept telling them otherwise. 
The overworked social services didn't want to know of course. If things look all right leave them alone, don't interfere. Children should be left with their natural parents - whatever the cost to the child. 
One of the local teachers was telling me of another case the other day. "Big brother" brought little sister to school. He's nine and she is six. He had managed to get them dressed, out of the house and to school but he couldn't do his sister's hair so he had brought the brush and comb and ties to school for the teacher to do it. No, Mum wasn't awake. Someone went to the house and discovered that Mum was still in a drunken stupor. Neighbours said it wasn't the first time but it usually happened on Fridays and Saturdays when Mum entertains her  "boyfriend".  The children had not had breakfast and there was no food in the house for another meal. Social services were told - and decided it was a "one-off" incident. They didn't want to know. They told the school she was a "good" mother. 
Sorry, she isn't. A good mother never gets drunk and fails to get up in the morning to see her children to school after making sure they are properly dressed and have eaten breakfast.
The Coroner has made a list of recommendations. They appear in this morning's paper. My guess is very little will happen. There is an entrenched view in the department concerned that parent and child need to be kept together at all costs - no matter what the cost to the child. It's the way the department works. It has no other way of working. They have never put any other system in place. They have strongly discouraged adoption. They have strongly discouraged long term foster care. Short term foster care is seen as an "emergency" measure with the child to be returned to the parent(s) as soon as possible.
Yes, there is a desperate shortage of foster parents too - understandable given that, if you do the job properly, you will be paying more than you receive and you will get no thanks.
Has anyone thought about the child in all this? Is it really good for the child to be with "Mum" and then with "foster Mum" for six weeks and then back with "Mum" and then off to another foster mother? 
My own view is probably going to be unpopular but I believe that children have more rights than adults. Children don't have the capacity to make choices about their care. They have the right to stable physical, emotional and social care. They have the right to attend school, make friends and grow up knowing that the adults responsible for their care will be responsible for it. 
The priorities of the department are wrong. It worries me that they will simply go on being wrong because the cost of doing anything else is seen to be too great.  

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