Thursday, August 27, 2009

This terrible picture is a visual aid showing the bruises and injuries on a child who died after terrible abuse by her mother and stepfather, as reported in the Daily Mail today.

I have three children I love very much. I cannot imagine how damaged you have to be in your relationship to the world to feel that you have to take out your frustration and hate on a defenceless child in this way. I don't like to think about it, or about the life this child must have had in the weeks before her death with every limb in her body broken.

As the story reports, her aunt mentioned her concerns about the child at the looked after child service, but they didn't see her as their responsibility and advised her to take action herself.

This story comes just a couple of weeks after another story where a mother spent months on the run from Social Services after they took her son into care because they believed that the mother and the child's alcoholic stepfather might have shouted at each other in front of the child, who was otherwise well looked after. They did, in fact, take him into temporarily into care for this reason, but the mother managed to get the child back, and went on the run - not because she was damaging her child, but because she couldn't bear to be separated from him again.

These two stories are at either extreme of the social services system, but they indicate that something is going very wrong with the system. When the system should be intervening it does not; when it should not be intervening it does.

And what life lies ahead of a child who has been taken into care, assuming that a right decision has been taken and a child is in need of care from society, away from their family? A life of trailing from placement to placement, cared for by people who fear to hug them in case they claim sexual abuse. A child who is taken into care has dire prospects and a life which is more likely to lead them to prison, mental health problems, drugs, alcohol and a failure to achieve their academic potential.

Instead of wringing our hands and investigating case after case where the children have been failed in one desperate case after another, we need to look around the world for systems which work and protect not only children at risk of serious harm, but families at risk from social workers. And make a better system, because this one we have seems broken beyond repair.

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