Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Does every child really matter? Comment on Baby P case

A report on child protection services in England was published on 12th March. The British government called for a review of service after the death last year of the child known as Baby P, a 17 month-old boy who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of his mother and two men, despite being on the child protection register and being seen by child safety officials 60 times. In response to media accusations that social workers weren’t doing enough to safeguard vulnerable children, the Children’s Minister asked Lord Laming of Tewin, a former Chief Inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate to write a progress report following-up on the recommendations he made some years ago in the wake of a similar case of abuse.

In his introduction Lord Laming outlines the scale of the problem saying:

“[The] Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) information shows that on 31 March 2008, 37,000 children were the subjects of care orders (of 60,000 children looked after by local authorities) and 29,000 children were the subject of child protection plans. Home Office data shows that in 2007/08, 55 children were killed by their parents or by someone known to the child.”

He goes on, however, to praise the government’s children protection policy usually referred to as ‘Every Child Matters.’ While media attention in the Baby P case has focused on the failure of social workers, it seems that no one has asked what is wrong with a society in which the lives of so many children are threatened by their own parents.

Child protection services are vitally important but it is simply untrue for the British government to claim that every child matters when it is highly selective when it comes to protecting children. And it is on this fundamental level that the problem needs to be addressed. If we are serious about child protection then it must begin in the womb. So long as a parent can lawfully end the life of a child before birth then the life of every child will be endangered. Yet the hypocrisy of the British government is not unusual, most of its European counterparts, including Irish politicians, are equally guilty. We only have to look at their support for the Catania report. Recommendation 114 of the reports condemns:

“[A]ll forms of violence against children, and stresses in particular the need to combat the forms of violence most frequently encountered in the Member States: paedophilia, sexual abuse, domestic violence, corporal punishment in schools and other forms of abuse in institutions; calls for reliable, confidential, accessible mechanisms to be put in place to allow children in all the Member States to report violence, and for those mechanisms to be given wide publicity[.]”

The report’s condemnation of violence against children does not include the leading cause of death of children in Europe, that is abortion. In fact the report actually promotes it.

In the run-up to the local and European Parliament elections each of us need to ask ourselves this question. Regardless of the other policies they advocate, could I vote for any candidate who supported the killing of children like Baby P? Nor should anyone who cares about protecting children support a politician who believes it should be lawful to kill children before their born.