In the past, social services faced criticism for not moving fast enough to protect children from abuse or neglect, but figures for the babies taken from their family each year raise the question of whether the other extreme is now the case.
According to the Children’s Minister, 136 infants under 12 months are taken into care annually “when alternative means of protection have been exhausted”. That qualifying clause only makes sense when we know what the alternative means of protection are. The suspicion is that they are few in options and thin on resources.
If, for example, a baby is born to a homeless addict, the chances of her getting a residential rehab programme where she can keep her child with her are slim.
We know from too many tragic cases that young people leaving care are hugely vulnerable and a system designed to protect them from immediate danger often leaves them ill-equipped to deal with adult life. Separation from parents may be needed to save a child, but investment in a range of alternatives that are not easily exhaustible must not be neglected.
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