Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A More Serious Post... It's just neglect...

Good grief - It's June!

How did that happen?

The year is flying past....

Apologies for not blogging over the past few days but its been half term and I have just sat my second year psychology finals - so its been a busy week. But today I am catching up on ... well, on everything.

Then I came across a message in my email intray asking about my opinion on a statement made by the Head of Christian Concern here in the UK about a sibling pair who had been placed with a gay couple here in sunny Kent. The scope of her ignorance amazed me - and yet it is shared by so many.

Apparently after being told by social services that their two children were to be adopted by a gay couple the, supposedly practising Roman Catholic birth parents, were concerned for their children's well being and argued that they would suffer 'psychological harm' at the hands of their new gay parents. This claim was then backed by Andrea Williams, the Head of Christian Concern who said:

 'We do not know all the details as to why adoption was deemed necessary but leaving that aside, this case raises profound concerns. Why is it not possible to accommodate the beliefs of the natural parents and act in the best interests of the children? Why are these beliefs about marriage, which the government claims are protected, being trampled on? It is causing great present distress to the parents and as they have outlined is likely to cause great distress to the children in the future. Why not seek adoptive parents who share the beliefs of these parents?""

Of course we all have our own views and I thank God every day (yes, we are Christian family) that we live in a tolerant nation that allows everyone to express their own viewpoint - but what was said here was just blatantly mis-informed and the most important part about this story is the part that she wishes to brush under the carpet - 'we do not know all the details why this adoption was deemed necessary but leaving that aside...' - 'leaving that aside'!!!! - that was the statement that made me boil!

I had a call yesterday from a lovely TV producer who wanted to know more about the adoption system and he was stunned by the end of the call - he had no idea things had to be so bad before children were taken into care, and then, once they were, just how difficult it was to find even one child a loving home, let alone a sibling pair. The idea of a 'catalogue' of children waiting for adoption being passed out to approved adopters horrified him - but thats the reality...

Its that word 'neglect' that causes so much confusion.

What is neglect? To a right thinking person 'neglect' is exactly as Ms Williams describes it - not bathing the children, irregular meals, dirty clothes. Of course, in this case we have to add in the fact that these two toddlers were beaten by their parents on a regular basis. But I don't want to talk about just one case.

Even in their own investigations the Government admit that the terms 'neglect' and 'emtional abuse' are poorly defined and cover too many areas. They say that neglect can go on for many years - becoming a 'chronic' condition before the threshold can be reached to bring the children into care.

And this 'threshold' is remarkably high, particularly when used in a social work sense.

I was stunned when I knew what 'neglect' really meant when used in a Social Work sense. It is an all encompassing phrase that covers everything from children being left in their own faeces, often  starving, or peeling wallpaper for food as ours did. It is about children being left for hours on end whilst the parents are at the pub or high. Its children watching their parents inject themselves with the drug of the moment whilst they sit and watch cbeebies, if they are lucky - often its hardcore porn or violent films they are sat watching. It is a horrific term that strikes fear in me whenever I see it - but that's because I'm an adoptive parent. I didn't get my information from the Daily Mail - I got my information from months of adoption preparation, from attending courses, from learning what sorts of background my future children would come from. And we didn't shy away.

Nor did this couple who finally adopted these children. They were brave enough to stay the course, to say "Yes, we will take these children on with all their problems. Yes, we will love them and deal with the incredible mess that these children are thanks to their early years with this horrendous birth family. Yes, we will give everything we have to make these unwanted children happy."

And that's the bottom line - the birth parents, Christian or otherwise, didn't want their children and had the right to parent them removed. I get sick to death of hearing that the children's mummy "loved them very much but she wasn't able to look after them." (which is the line social workers like to tell kids in care). Well, birth parents can choose to change, they can put their children before drugs or alcohol- social services work for years with them getting them help before they eventually take their children.

No-one wants to bring children into care - it has to have reached a point where there is simply no other option in order to keep the children safe. For one thing its too expensive - it costs more to keep a child in care each year than to send them to Eton and for another, we know that the best place for a child is with their birth family - but some people shouldn't have children and when that happens then the children are taken into care. Yet the birth parents still have time to change whilst the courts decide what is best for the child, which can take up to a year. However, if there is still no attempt to change then adoption is the final choice and the search for a suitable family begins. The search for an adoptive family can take years, let alone restrticing that search to a family that will support the birth families religious beliefs. Yet, in reality, these beliefs are commented on in the paperwork (and there is a lot of paperwork) and the propsective adopters are asked to comment on it - the religious beliefs are usually put into the catalogue of 'hard to place' children as well. All of this is taken into consideration when looking for suitable adoptive parents.

But, of course, it is the physical and emotional well being of the child that has to take priority, their spiritual journey is one they will undertake later and will be a choice they ultimately make for themselves.

I did smile when I saw the birth parent's argument which read:

'The children will not be able to be brought up in the Catholic faith because of the conflicts between Catholicism and homosexuality. They would not be able to maintain their Catholic faith if they are adopted by this couple and even if it  was promised that they would attend church the children would at some stage be taught or learn of the attitude of the church to same sex couples. This would undoubtedly be upsetting to them and cause them to be in conflict between their religion and home life.'

Apparently they were in tears as they read it to the court.

Of course, my argument would be that it is the church that is at fault here - for seemingly teaching that it is ok to dismiss the parenting skills of  a loving same sex couple in favour of a hateful heterosexual one who see no harm in their treatment of their children.

So to Ms Williams I say this, you are entitled to your views - but at least make sure you have the full facts before you start making such inflammatory statements.

....

If you are interested then the terms I have used have been taken from the Government's own research and investigation into social services and are printed below and the comments I have used above are from Ms Williams own website. All other views are my own - but I'm guessing you knew that already.

......

Taken from: Safeguarding in Children Services' by Carolyn Davies and Harriet Ward. 2012. Jessica Kingsley Publishers



Neglect is described as:
The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
  • provide adequate food, clothing or shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate caregivers)
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.


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We have quoted these descriptions in full to demonstrate how comprehensive and detailed they are. yet even with such precise guidelines, professionals find it difficult to identify these types of abuse and to decide when a threshold for action has been reached. The difficulties arise for a number of reasons:
  • Both types of maltreatment are heterogeneous classifications that cover a wide range of issues as is evident from the descriptions above.
  • Both emotional abuse and neglect are chronic conditions that can persist over months and years. Professionals can become accustomed to their manifestations and accepting of the lack of positive change: the serious case review into the death of Peter Connelly, for instance, found that professionals were too accepting of low parenting standards.43 These can include poor supervision resulting in numerous ‘falls’ and bruises; poor cleanliness of the house and poorly cared-for animals; persistent and recurrent infestations such as head lice; loss of weight and failure to thrive; poor dentition; skin problems and nappy rashes; delayed motor and speech development; and self-harm and running away in teenagers.
  • Both types of maltreatment can persist for many years without leading to the type of crisis that demands immediate, authoritative action. Without such a crisis it can be difficult to argue that a threshold for a child protection plan or court action has been reached.
  • Both types of maltreatment are also closer to normative parental behaviour patterns than physical or sexual abuse, in that most parents will, on occasion, neglect or emotionally maltreat their children to a greater or lesser degree. It is the persistence, the frequency, the enormity and the pervasiveness of these behaviours that make them abusive. However, such factors are difficult to pin down with any degree of clarity and this makes it difficult both for practitioners and the courts to determine when a threshold has been reached.

6 comments:

  1. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I gave a paper at a conference on trauma a fortnight ago. To give context to what I was talking about, I disclosed that I was brought up by 'the evil twins Abuse and Neglect'. Not only that, I was brought up by these 'twins' in Holy Catholic Ireland. It's late at night and I'm tired or what I would write here would probably blow my laptop up! The damage of Neglect is often underestimated - some even claim it makes kids 'resilient' and 'independent' (seriously - wtaf?!). Anyway, your boys are lucky they have you and Papa. Remember that. Always remember that. Love is all that matters. It is all that will ever matter. And, children always know when they are loved. Trust me on that one. ;) xxxx

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    1. Thank you so much for your continued love and support.... It means such a lot to all of us! Xxx

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  2. You smiled at the suffering of the birth parent's when they read the letter? I don't agree the birth parent's views, yet I would never take joy in the suffering of others. That is just sick.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,
      I think you have misread it slightly - I didn't smile at the suffering of the birth parents - I smiled at their argument, which considering the level of abuse they inflicted on their two small children seemed to be rather a thin one...

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  3. I completely agree with you, most if not all parents involved in care proceedings of this nature are criminals of the worst kind.They need to amend the children's Act to make it a mandatory 20 year prison sentence for anyone found to have abused and/or neglected "their" child in the Family Court. Serious crimes call for serious measures. Too often they become repeat offenders, with a stiff penalty for a terrible crime they may think twice.

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    1. I can totally agree with that sentiment....

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