Whose Child Is It?

Posted on December 16, 2009

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We are nearing Christmas, which might be even more relevant and special for families with younger children who eagerly await Christmas Day. One cannot, however, help to think of children who are not as fortunate to have a loving family. The fact that the family is structurally undermined in many Western societies is not new. But the increasing encroachment of the State into families that do exist is a worrying trend, especially when it is masked as an omnipotent solution to societal ills.

An old, but striking, article in the Telegraph is quite representative. Authorities are called on to intervene in ‘broken families’ and take their children into custody more often and at an earlier stage. ‘We can’t keep trying to fix families that are completely broken…I think we try too hard with birth parents’, says Mr Narey. The Prison Service also weighs in saying, ‘If you can take a baby very young and get them quickly into a permanent adoptive home…that is where we have success’. This authoritarian argument is not new but needs to be addressed nonetheless.

First of all, perhaps it needs to be recalled that citizens – especially children – are not the property of the state to be apprehended at will. Children belong, first and foremost, to their families and especially to their parents. It is not the job of civil servants (including social workers), therefore, to postulate an arbitrary notion of what welfare is for a child and to forcefully intervene whenever that welfare is perceived to be threatened. Who knows what they might come up with? Before long there will almost certainly be a minimum income required of parents and government inspectors in every home (maybe CCTVs would be more efficient?). More dangerously, it is not inconceivable that the current government – together with an assortment of Quangos – would force families to undertake some kind of Orwellian ‘ethics’ course so that parents (in the name of their own good) can make ‘informed choices’ – that is, the choices a civil servant would.

Naturally, we still have a responsibility to promote the physical and mental wellbeing of every child on Earth. Removing them from their families, however, is starting at the wrong end. Instead, we must dwell deeper and look at society as a whole. Protecting traditional institutions (e.g., the family, marriage) and promoting an active civil society might be a better option in the longer run. Only as a last resort should parents not be allowed to foster their own children. Beyond what point society intervenes is not up to social workers but our elected officials.

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