The puzzling contradictions in our attitudes to child welfare

With the media buzz about Jimmy Saville following close on the heels of the media buzz about the April Jones case, we’re all keeping our kids indoors and not letting them out of our sight, despite the many warnings of the disadvantages to our children of restricting their lives in this way. Only zero risk is acceptable when it comes to child welfare it seems. 

This week’s media buzz is around the case of the Eastern European children removed from their foster placement with a couple who turned out to be members of UKIP. Yet despite UKIP members and politicians making their views and attitudes known via blatantly homophobic and archaic comments about gay couple adoption, and policies that seek to “end the active promotion of the doctrine of multiculturalism by local and national government”, we’re all outraged at the idea that a couple who subscribe to these ideals are not considered suitable carers for these children. 

Explain this one to me. It’s OK to deprive children of the opportunity to play outdoors on the grounds of a minute risk that has actually been shown to have decreased since the 70s when kids were roaming all over the place, but it’s not OK to remove vulnerable children from the care of a couple whose political views are directly at odds with their background and cultural needs. 

Winston McKenzie – how is it OK for Eastern European children to be placed with members of your party, a party that does not welcome the presence of these children in this country, nor their ability to obtain benefits, (how much do you think it costs social services to keep these children in foster care, genius?), but not OK for children to be placed with a gay couple? 

I’m sensing a few contradictions amongst all this. 

But there’s one particular point I’d really like to make, because whenever the subject of fostering and adoption is in the media this seems to be missed by many, including UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, who is reported to have ‘demanded the children be returned’, and talks about the couple’s ‘right to foster’. 

There is no ‘right to foster’. This is not about foster carers rights; it’s about children’s rights and needs. Social services are serving the interests of the children. And this is the way it should be. No-one has an automatic right to foster or adopt. It might be tough, it might be unfair, but that’s the way it is. Get over it. 

In any case, no-one has said this particular couple can’t foster, just that this was not a suitable placement for them. Michael Gove might think “We should not allow considerations of ethnic or cultural background to prevent children being placed”, he might think these considerations are unimportant, irrelevant even, but I think he’s wrong. Meeting the long term needs of fostered and adopted children is complex, and their cultural and ethnic needs absolutely should be considered. It’s not as simple as he makes out. 

Perhaps, instead of asking, “Would you honestly want your child to be adopted by a gay couple?”, Winston McKenzie should encourage us to ask this; 

If you were from Eastern Europe, would you honestly want your children to be placed with a couple who are members of UKIP? Would you consider this to be a suitable match, a good placement for the potential long term? Or would you wonder if your children might be better off with another foster family?

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