Wednesday 30 May 2012

In the News - Child Neglect and Sentencing

Last night a story popped up on my Twitter feed. I do apologise, it is the Daily Mail so it is sensationalised, and I wouldn't go near the comments. But it's this incredibly tragic story about a two year old boy who died as a result of drinking fertiliser. His mother was growing marijuana in her house to make money. I read this a day after hearing another painfully upsetting story about an eleven year old boy who was kept in a cell like room in his house in Blackpool.

In the first case the mother has received a 12 month suspended sentence. That is, she is received no custodial time at all, although her child died not just because she had fertiliser in the house, but because this woman's care had been so inadequate he had not had a drink in over 24 hours, and drank the fertiliser thinking it was a fruit shoot. Whilst on one hand I appreciate what the judge is saying, that she will suffer forever for what she has done, I just don't think this is good enough.

I'm not a lawyer, or a psychologist, or anything other than a mum, but as a member of a community, my gut feeling is that sentence is inadequate. What sort of message does that send to other families, living on the edge, doing things to fund whatever habits they have? Make a catastrophic mistake and its ok, you don't need to be held accountable for that? It doesn't sit right to me.

The second case is interesting too. The child is now ok, he is in foster care and recovering and reading between the lines it sounds to me that he had some behavioural issues or underlying condition that the parents didn't know how to cope with, so kept him away from the rest of the family. Many years ago I did some work with families who were in similar predicaments.

The parents pleaded guilty and received 2 years custodial sentence, which initially I thought was inadequate but compared to the first case now seems almost harsh! The parents have been described as "inadequate rather than wicked"

I want to understand how those decisions are reached, and who is looking after the victim in all this. In the first case a child has died. He has a younger sister in foster care, and the mother can still visit her. In the second case a boy could have died, thankfully he is now doing well.

I can't imagine ever not feeding, changing or caring for Joseph. I can't imagine ever being in that place. Is punishment the answer? Do we support parents enough? Is there something as a community we need to do better? I want to know. How can we stop these stories? Can we stop them? Or is this sort of neglect something that will always be part of our society?

We're banned from taking photographs of our children in soft play centres, lest we accidentally get another child in shot, we worry about pedophiles on every corner, yet as a community we're tolerating neglect. Children not receiving enough to eat, not having their own space to play, not having access to the correct educational support, top and bottom of it, not receiving love and acceptance.

I just don't get it. 


  1. My sister in law is a foster carer and you hear the same stories popping up all the time, some worse than other but all leave you with the question as a mother which is 'why?'

    My husband has just been through yet another court case involving my stepson and without going into too much detail, the courts will tolerate a lot of bad behaviour/neglect in order to salvage a mother/child relationship. In my opinion it's wrong but hey, I don't set the rules.

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