Alice Shaw

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Who Is Protecting Our Children?

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 at 11:16 am

Child protection is a difficult and demanding job.  The hours are long, the tasks gruelling, the abuse brutal.  Each time another case of appalling neglect and abuse is reported in the media, those who are working each day under increasingly high demands are torn to shreds.  When I read yet another account of how poorly child protection workers are performing, I think that those who are so vocal about blame should spend just a day doing that job to get a true sense of what it is really like.

But when a story emerges about an 11 year old girl giving birth, it is difficult not to turn to the statutory child protection agency charged with protecting children in that particular state and ask “what is going on?”

How can this happen?  It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child and yet after all of the high profile cases, the changes to legislation, the children being beaten, starved, neglected, sexually assaulted and killed, there still appears to be very little collaboration between the people who are supposed to be responsible for protecting children.  I am not just talking about the parents.  We would all immediately expect that a parent would do whatever they could to keep their child out of harms way.  Sometimes however, parents either haven’t got the capacity to protect their children, or worse, they feel entitled to inflict ill treatment upon them.  But there are others involved.  An 11 year old girl would surely be attending school.  Who is looking out for her?  Who is questioning what must have been changing behaviour on her part whilst she was being sexually assaulted by a man who came into her family home?  What did her doctor have to say?  Was there a report to the Department of Human Services in Victoria or was the child already “known to the Department”?  Who was communicating with whom about what was happening to this little girl?

In 1990 Daniel Valerio, 2 years old, was beaten to death by his step father.  He and his brother had repeatedly presented as battered and bruised and yet there was no communication between health care services, child protection services and police, except for the case being handed between different services, with little investigation.  It took a tradesman working at the house to alert the authorities to the severity of the abuse.  The police surgeon finally became involved, but it was too late for Daniel who died a few days after being examined.  How were lessons not learned from this case?

In 2000 in the United Kingdom, Victoria Climbie aged 8, died after months of abuse and neglect, despite being known to social services and despite a social worker visiting her home but who never actually saw Victoria in person, instead taking the word of her abusers as to her wellbeing.

Changes to social services were made because of both of these cases and yet lack of collaboration, both in Australia and overseas continues to see appalling cases of child abuse slip through the safety net.

For those in the community I would reiterate, it takes a village to raise a child.  Ask questions, confirm or dispel suspicions.  If you think a child may be in danger, make enquiries.  It is your business, it is the business of everyone to keep all children safe.  To turn a blind eye, to refrain from speaking up, is to turn your back on a child who may be in danger.  The child protection services are overworked.  Which is why it is up to everyone, from all walks of life, to stay vigilant, to keep our children safe.

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