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Why does the state help parents to dump their children?


Last week an independent review into the care system in Britain concluded that it is in crisis. Back in 2010, I won the Orwell Prize for my blog ‘Working with the Underclass’, written under the pseudonym of Winston Smith, which documented my work in the care sector, as well as in the youth offending and supported housing sector for 16-25-year-olds. My experiences led to my gradual abandonment of my far-Left world view and an acknowledgement that a conservative approach to child-rearing is far more beneficial to the well-being of children.

From first-hand experience I can inform you that the care system has been in crisis for quite some time. The common thread that underpins the collective crisis across all the sectors dealing with children and young people is the excessively progressive philosophy that dictates policy, although the people who devise and oversee these policies of course don’t see it that way.

One of the reasons cited in the review for the crisis in child care was the record number of children in the care system as of 2017. Now, when most people hear about children in care the first images that are conjured up in their mind are of physically and sexually abused children being rightly taken from their parents to safeguard the child’s well-being and, yes, a significant proportion of children in care do fall into this category.

However, what the vast majority of the public have almost no awareness of is the fact that under Section 20 of the Children’s Act 1989 a parent can voluntarily place their child in the care system where they also still have significant say in the lives of their children and from which they can easily remove the child when they wish. As of 2017, there were 16, 470 children placed in care voluntarily by their parents, which represented 23 per cent of children in the system, down from a high of 28 per cent in 2015.

From my own experience, I can tell you that Section 20 care orders essentially allow parents to abdicate responsibility for their children and for the state to try to pick up the pieces for parents’ abysmal failure to control them.

Let me give you just a few of the many examples from the many care homes I worked in to illustrate what I am talking about.

In one I worked with a girl of 14 from a middle-class background. Both her parents were more concerned with their careers and were incapable of providing healthy discipline and boundaries for their daughter. She regularly stayed out all night taking drugs and being promiscuous so her parents put her in care. Once in care she would often abscond late in the evening in full view of staff who only had the power to ask her not to leave the home and which unsurprisingly she refused. She would often stay away for days and no one knew where she was. It was whilst in care at 14 that she had an abortion. I worked with other girls like her, some of whom had several abortions by the time they reached 16, all whilst being ‘cared’ for by the state.

In another home I worked with a lad of 15 called Liam who was voluntarily put into care by his single mother. Liam was brought up with no discipline or boundaries whatsoever. As an infant he learned that when he threw his toys out of his pram he got what he wanted. However, by the age of 15 Liam was six foot two and fifteen stone and his tantrums no longer involved flung toys but destruction of property in the family home and violent attacks on his mother and sister if they didn’t cater to his every whim. In care, Liam was not only allowed to continue with his violent and destructive behaviour towards staff and other residents but was indulged in it, as the care system views effective forms of discipline and authority as oppressive and contrary to Liam’s rights. He was viewed as a victim suffering from both conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. In reality, Liam was what used to be called a spoiled brat who hadn’t been effectively socialised to learn that the world doesn’t exist to indulge him in his every desire. Conveniently, medicalising his behaviour allowed both his mother and the care system to take no responsibility for the kind of young man he was becoming.

In other homes I worked with teenagers placed in care voluntarily because of conflict in the home due to one of their parents remarrying or cohabiting with a new partner that the child had a bad relationship with. Whilst there are many step-parents who do make wonderful parents and love their step-children as their own, sadly these are an exceptional minority. There are many more blended families where there is conflict between children and a new step-parent. When conflict arises, it would be more beneficial to the child for the state to offer mediation and family counselling than allow selfish parents to offload the child into the care system, which only exacerbates their sense of being rejected. What’s more, the state should educate divorced parents on the effects of new relationships on children, to put their needs first and to take time and be prudent before entering any new relationship.

Overall the best way drastically to reduce the record numbers of children coming into the care system is to scrap Section 20 of the Children’s Act. That way parents can’t simply offload a badly disciplined child on to the state or avoid resolving conflict because they put their own romantic interests before their child. Once in the so-called care system the odds are that these children will emerge from it even more damaged and dysfunctional than when they went in.

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Andrew Devine
Andrew Devine
Andrew Devine is an Orwell Prize winning writer & blogger

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