Children’s rights must come first

Kerry, a family centre worker, is disturbed that children’s rights are so often
overridden by the rights of their parents.

professionals often talk about putting the child’s needs first, how many really
act on it? Research into child deaths has often shown a breakdown in
professionals’ ability to separate the rights and needs of the child from the
rights of the parents. When the relationship and rights of parents override the
rights of the children, there is clearly an issue.

of this problem seems to be the paradox created between the Human Rights Act
1998 and the Children Act 1989, with the legal profession juggling the rights
of the children with the perceived rights of their parents. The Human Rights
Act states, that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and
rights”. But, where does it stand in relation to the Children Act?

children be suffering as a consequence of a legal system which seems unable to
differentiate between a parent’s right and child abuse or neglect? If all human
beings are born free and equal, surely a child’s dignity and rights should be
prioritised and their freedom and dignity upheld by those who are employed to
ensure this.

have become bewildered and disillusioned with the professional network and
legal system’s failure to act in the best interests of children. As part of a
residential team working with families from extremely damaged backgrounds, my
colleagues and I always work towards keeping families together.

is not always possible, however, and when it is felt – and there is evidence –
that a child’s needs are not being adequately met, and the prognosis of the
parents changing their behaviour is not good, we recommend that the children
are removed from the family.

find it disturbing that our recommendations are repeatedly ignored, and we are
being forced by the professional network and the legal system to collude with
child abuse despite the fact that we are employed to prevent it.

is further exacerbated when parents have learning difficulties. Of course we
must try to help parents learn the necessary skills to provide for their
children. But where do we draw the line? And for how long do we place the
rights of the parents before the rights of the children? When this is coupled
with parents showing little sign of improving their parenting, despite high
levels of professional intervention, one wonders what needs to happen before
the statutory powers awarded to local authority social workers are acted upon
and the needs of the child prioritised.

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