It's only fair to share…

One of the important contributors to a child’s health, both physical and mental is a reasonably stable environment. This for various reasons is not always possible and humans are fairly resilient. When one looks at the requirements people have to go through to be approved as adoptive parents and applied this to parents in general there would be very few children born.

Departments of child services or child protection are there to step in and protect children if they are deemed to be in danger for some reason and that it is deemed unsuitable or unsafe for the child to remain with their natural parents. These children are then placed in foster care. Again there are certain criteria that people have to satisfy to be selected as foster parents.

A row has broken out in my home of Perth this week about a prospective foster family who has been told they cannot fulfill such a role. This family has 11 children of their own and told The West Australian newspaper that they saw fostering as part of their Christian duty and an opportunity to put back into the community. There are reportedly 3238 children on the emergency waitlist for foster placement.

The reason this family was told that they are not suitable is because during the interview they admitted that occasionally smacked their own children. They indicated that they would not smack a foster child in their care.

Now I will put three things on the table. I do not think smacking is the best way to discipline children and I have on very rare occasions smacked my children. I have never met the family in question.

In some countries smacking is against the law .It is not against the law in Australia. According to the Department of Child Protection, if one of the children in the house were to be smacked then this would traumatize the foster child.

What are we to make of this? If there are over 3000 children awaiting emergency placement then clearly there are more children that prospective foster families. Being a foster parent is possibly the hardest gig. They are not your own children and you have not adopted them as your own. You are charged with raising them for an unspecified period of time under the watch of a government department. These children necessarily have issues otherwise they would not be in foster care.

This does not mean that there should not be a vetting process and that any family that puts their hand up gets selected. It does mean that commonsense rather than political correctness needs to rule the day. If a parent is honest enough to say they occasionally smack their child, does this automatically make them a bad parent? Is this worse then sending a child to their room for two hours or grounding them?

And here is the key thing. Being a parent requires the use of judgment. You need to judge situations and respond at the time in the way that seems best. In doing so there is a chance with hindsight that your judgment call may not have been the best one. This is the thing that government departments and the people who inhabit them cannot abide. And why is this?

It is because when you make a judgment call you are taking personal ownership and responsibility for what you do and the consequences. You are not hiding behind a committee decision or guidelines or protocols, which are supposed to be able to second guess, in advance every nuance of every situation. You are making a decision and in so doing must take responsibility for that decision.

The same thinking is behind equating an occasional smack with child abuse. By making everything the same, there is no need to make judgment calls on individual situations with the inherent need for personal responsibility and the possibility of being wrong. Of course such an approach diminishes the severity of real abuse but can be easily placed in protocols.

A family with 11 children is fairly easy to assess for parenting skills. Look at how the children are turning out. Talk to their school, the local community maybe employers of the older children. The proverbial proof of the pudding is in the eating. If these parents are capable you will see it in their children.

This of course requires judgment and individual responsibility, something that is anathema to government departments who whilst charged with protecting children, have 3238 awaiting care but bask in the glow of protocols, which “protect” children.