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Suffer little children

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Children are in the news, and not all for the right reasons. There have been student protests where parents have actively encouraged their children to take part, if for no other reason than to get them off their backsides and away from the Playstation.  Something, anything, to motivate the little darlings!

Then there was the comment by a soon to be ennobled politician who complained of serial breeding by pond life mothers to exploit the benefits system.  This was greeted with an element of teeth clicking by the powers that be, but judging from the reaction in the press and the media, it had struck a raw nerve.

The Sunday Times, as ever at the forefront of investigative journalism, discovered some oik from oop north, now aged 25, and the ‘father’ of 14 children by 7 different women, who had left school at the age of 15, and had been on incapacity benefits for as long as he could remember with a bad back.  I leave it to your imagination to determine the cause of this long running disability.

On a more serious note, Mr. Justice Coleridge, a senior family court judge, has bemoaned the indecision of family courts in cases involving children, and in particular contact and residence orders, where too much emphasis is put on the wishes of the children, and not enough on the merits of good parenting.

The wishes of children should not be discarded lightly, as they are the ones at the sharp end of parenting, but experience has shown that their wishes can be massaged by the carer parent at the expense of the non carer.  Material rewards, such as presents, money, treats and over indulgence, may seduce the child in the short term, but may not be in the child’s long term best interests.

As Mr. Justice Coleridge observed, the goal posts have been moved too far by the professional agencies and in particular the overworked court appointed family officers, who sometimes opt for the wishes of the child as an easy option and a way of reducing their workload.  Time and again, these arrangements fall apart, and the family courts are left having to pick up the pieces and start all over again.  It is desperately unsettling for the child and his increasingly embittered parents.

All too often when relationships break down, the parents use their children as bargaining tools to serve their own selfish purposes.  Who gets the house, and the car, and the clockwork Father Christmas?  This is unforgivable, but as they say: “When loves flies out the window, reason is not far behind.”

Children do not ask to be born to dysfunctional single parents who may have an agenda of their own.  It will be those same children who will turn into dysfunctional parents, just like Mum, and often at a time of their lives when they are far too young and ill equipped to offer even the most basic parenting skills.

Children deserve a childhood.  They should not be encouraged by selfish parents to join protest marches, but to enjoy a safe, warm and loving family environment, ideally with two supportive parents.  This should be the aim of the family courts, and procrastination simply adds to the trauma and the bitterness.

The carrot and stick argument about removing child benefits from serial breeders after the second child does not help the third, fourth or fourteenth child, but the professional agencies must be far more proactive in offering up these children to adoption. As the rules presently stand, adoptive parents offer all the advantages to adopted children, and none of the disadvantages.

Let abused and disadvantaged children suffer no more.

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