Wednesday 20 July 2022

Dying of malnutrition

in this country is unacceptable...and yet we have had the death of a six year old from just that cause in recent days. 

Now there is to be an "inquiry" and "questions are being asked" and the media is making much of what really is a "tragic situation". It is one I find sickening it disturbs me so much.

I wonder whether the "inquiry" will actually bring about any changes to the way our child welfare services operate. Will social workers change the way they work? Will parents who neglect their children be given yet more "chances" or will they be actually required to show they have made some positive changes to the way they are parenting? Will parents who don't make those changes actually be monitored much more closely  or even have their children removed? 

The real question in all this has to be, "What is best for the child?"

There is a notion that parents - at least mothers - and children should not be separated except in the most dire of circumstances. We gave up the idea of  "orphanages" a long time ago. Given what we now know about them that may well have been a good thing. Now we try "foster care" and "group houses". Those things have proved problematic as well. 

There have been instances of sexual abuse when the wrong sort of person has tried to become a foster carer. There have also been plenty of accusations of sexual abuse by confused, angry children who simply "want to go home" to their abusive parents.  It may not be because they want to live with the abusive parent but because it is familiar - and often does not have the rules which foster parents try to apply. Foster parents who do the work properly will often be out of pocket as there is no money for the things these children often need.

Group houses may not work either. They require multiple adults to staff them - adults who need to work very closely together to an agreed set of rules. There can be very disturbed children in those places, children who need constant watching and who will run off at a moment's notice. The pay for this sort of work is so poor few people want to do it...and the same funding issues apply for the things that children may need.

In the current case the mother is said to have "no insight" into her own behaviour. Apparently she still maintains a relationship with her partner, a violent man who once stabbed her multiple times. 

At present the siblings of the deceased child have been removed from the house while the inquiry takes place. Once it is over it is likely they will be returned to the "care" of their mother. There may well also be a strong bond between them. No doubt there will be claims that the mother is in need of help in learning how to care for her children and that the children should be returned to her as quickly as possible. 

I am puzzling, indeed worrying, over all this. I know that this is not the only family like this. In my teaching days I came across more than one highly dysfunctional family. I came across children more than one member of staff felt would be better off living in a different environment. I taught one who "stole" from his alcoholic mother - stole the money she "earned" as a prostitute - so that he and his sibling could eat. The social worker assigned to their "case" told me there was nothing she could do about the situation. It seemed odd to me when I was helping this child make a shopping list just so that he and his sibling were eating something. (He managed to stay out of trouble by joining the navy at the earliest possible time but his younger sibling committed suicide.)

I wonder about "social workers" and what sort of training they get. I wonder when they tell me there is nothing they can do about a situation. I also wonder what powers, if any, they do have. It seems they have very few. Is this fair on children who have to endure living in these situations? Are we really thinking about the children when decisions are made to leave children in situations where they are at risk? Or are we perhaps afraid we might be accused of "stealing" children as we have been in the past - even when the children were removed for their own safety? Surely we need to do what is really best for the child - not just what popular psychology and the media tell us is best?

I don't know the answers to any of this. It just makes me want to weep that a six year old isn't going to get a chance to grow up and, perhaps like the boy I knew, join the navy.


catdownunder said...

It has just been pointed out to me that I said "dying from malnutrition in THIS COUNTRY is unacceptable". Of course it is unacceptable anywhere that a child should die of malnutrition but there is food readily available in this country and nobody should die of malnutrition here even the poorest of us even if some diets are much, much better than others. In this case the school should have been more aware too - observed what the child was being given for lunch and so on. This is what makes it even worse.
Sorry, the whole thing has upset me.

Beryl Kingston said...

Cat my darling, I'm with you all the way, I know what you are saying is painful and truthful and necessary. I was an abused child and can vouch for every word of it. Lots of love, BXX