Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Lessons may be going to have been learned...

Abandoned babies are, alas, nothing new in the story of humanity, though not all of them are as lucky as the day-old girl discovered in a park this week.

'Jade', named after the dog who found the baby wrapped in a plastic bag under a bush, is being cared for in hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, despite being left in the open air in late October.

Harnessing the wonders of modern technology, West Midlands Police have released video footage of the child, as well as a lengthy announcement on facebook, in an attempt to trace the mother.

This, of course, makes perfect sense; the mother has recently given birth and may well need medical attention in addition to help with whatever personal circumstances led her to take this drastic and potentially infanticidal step.

What follows, though, is surely beyond the bounds of reason. In the words of Chief Inspector Ian Green:
"...of course what she really needs is to be in her mother’s arms. I’d urge Jade’s mum to make contact with us on the 101 police number so we can reunite them and get her medical attention and emotional support.”
What kind of continuing support will be needed for a mother who walked away and left her new-born baby to die of exposure? If pre-natal drink or drugs are involved - by no means out of the question - the child may well turn out to have the kind of complex behavioural or educational needs which can place strain on the most stable and secure of parents, let alone a mother who clearly needs help herself.

Several of my school and college contemporaries were adopted as infants, as were two of my cousins; all have enjoyed happy and successful lives with a stable and loving family background. Three decades later, thanks to a change of policy, friends were told that adopting a new-born baby was a virtual impossibility and they should expect a potentially disturbed and neglected toddler or older child whose parents had, despite every effort by the authorities, finally been unable to cope.

It is an undeniable fact that there are women out there who are incapable of looking after a child properly even with official support, as recent high-profile cases of child abuse have illustrated all too well. Reuniting 'Jade' with her birth mother rather than allowing her to be adopted is surely against the child's best interests, whatever the rights of the mother.

The policy of keeping such mothers and children together until the child's safety becomes an issue serves to keep a myriad public servants in work but at what cost to the child?


  1. I'm surprised they would even consider returning the child. This goes beyond actions that would necessitate removing a child from it's parents, so as the parent has voluntarily given up the kid, why give it back? What kind of a life would they be handing it into?

    The mother may one day recover from whatever it was that made her make that choice but even so, it should be chance lost with that kid.

  2. Bucko, I agree with you completely; the child should not be made the subject of what is effectively a social experiment in whether the mother can be helped or not. Using separation as a last resort means that, by the time children are eventually fostered or adopted, far too many of them will have experienced deprivation, neglect or even abuse.

    Incidentally, the maximum penalty for abandoning a pet (under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006) is a £20,000 fine or a 51-week jail sentence, or both.

  3. And I bet you don't get the pet back!

  4. Julia, you might even be banned from keeping an animal in the future.

    Suggest applying the same principle to humans, however, and the cries of 'eugenics' and 'human rights' will go up on every side.

    In this context, its worth considering the words of a social worker (quoted by Harriet Sergeant in 2011)

    ‘We just do not feel comfortable removing a child from a poor, single mother and putting it into a middle-class family.’

    The experiences of the couple I mentioned in the post certainly implied such an attitude on the part of the authorities involved. Until this kind of class prejudice is eliminated from the system, children's welfare and development will continue to be sidelined in the pursuit of a flawed ideology.

  5. Macheath - That's a really shitty quote. They're always yakking on about social mobility yet would deny a child an opportunity for a better life because of class issues that are supposed to be a thing of the past?

    Not fit for purpose

  6. It certainly is, Bucko.

    While I can't vouch for its authenticity, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence out there of social workers arguing that a would-be adoptive couple's abundant books or regular theatre-going implied they would have too little attention to spare for the child.

    Somehow, one can't imagine the same would be said of a widescreen TV or a computer games console.

  7. Maybe the kid would actually be involved in the books and theatre going?

  8. Bucko, I imagine that's part of the problem.

    One of the (many) things that make my blood boil in the field of education is the way that, for some, any attempt to gain knowledge outside the carefully controlled environment of the National Curriculum is seen as somehow unfair because not all children will experience the same level of encouragement at home.

    There is a lowest common denominator principle at work that, in my experience, utterly baffles immigrant families from India or China whose respect for education is profound and sincere.

  9. Yeah that bugs me too. In an effort to create equality the make everyone as dim as the dimmest.
    Equality is bollocks, everyone is different, some more intelligent than others.
    It's the same in sports at school, no competition, everyone's a winner.
    I think it was Longrider who recently had a post about some kid who killed himself because he was kicked off a footballing course for some famous club. The coroner blamed the club for being to harsh. Longrider (if it was he) correctly blamed the school system for not teaching people how to deal with lifes knocks.

  10. Was this it?

    'What happened to Josh is awful, but the blame does not lie with the football club, it lies with those who did not teach him to deal with failure.'