Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Every Child Matters...or Every Family Matters?

From my work at ATD Fourth World several years ago, a charity that campaigns for the rights of the family, whose rights are often violated by severe poverty in the UK, my ears always prick up when I hear Social Services are interfering increasingly in family life. It has turned out that recently 7 children who are obese have been removed from their families and taken into care for anti-obesity treatment, under the concern that obesity amounts to neglect or even to abuse. Now, children being removed from their families is a great concern to me, a great concern to society and especially the Church.

The family is the unit in which children learn, grow and develop. If obesity is a great threat to a child's health and objectively speaking, it probably is, then if Social Services care that much for the child they should work with the family in the home and offer the family and child help. That children who are suffering from their obesity are being removed suggests that the Government do not care for the institution of the family or the best interests of the child. Because a child is overweight, it would seem his immediate connections with the family are being severed. This is very damaging! What is happening to these children? How long does this 'treatment' last? What does being removed and taken into care do for the self-esteem of the child (and let's face it, self-esteem and eating disorders are intrinsically linked) who is deemed 'at risk'? More and more it seems, the State is trying to 'parent' the nation, 'parent' children and it cannot. What is more, when the State tries to parent anyone, too often, it does so without love.

A child living in a family may learn bad habits sometimes but don't we all? No parents are perfect. The care system is riddled with failings, though many who are employed by it are very committed and passionate about their work. I am, however, yet to be convinced that the 'care system' knows how to care.

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