Focus must be on future
DECIDING when is the right time to take a child into care is the subject of a long-running debate which is renewed every time there is a tragic death involving neglect or abuse.
The balance between trying to protect youngsters from harm yet keep families together is a fine line to negotiate and mistakes will inevitably occur.
With the number of children in care in Scotland now at its highest level since the early 1980s, the state is increasingly stepping in to care for vulnerable youngsters. It is difficult to judge whether that is a positive move which will protect more children or whether authorities are now being too quick to act.
But what is clear is that just removing youngsters from
a harmful situation is not enough. Looked after children are more likely to
have poor life prospects and experience difficulties as adults, including
homelessness, prison and mental health problems.
Much of this could arguably be attributable to traumatic experiences before the child is taken into care. But issues such as being moved around numerous different foster homes cannot help.
Yet adults with bleak prospects are not an inevitable product of the system. With the right support, many can go on to lead successful lives. Rather than debate the rights and wrongs of taking children into care, there should be more focus and discussion on how to improve the long-term outcomes for youngsters who find themselves in the system.
Going into care may one day be seen as a positive way to improve the future of children and not a last-resort which often condemns traumatised youngsters to a blighted life.
22 April 2012