It was widely reported in a number of newspapers this week that a 2 year old boy had been taken into care because his parents smoked too much. The story made the front page of certain newspapers and a good deal of the reporting focused on the testimony of a health visitor who gave evidence to the Court in terms that she had never seen such a “smoky house” in her 10 year career.
Whilst I would never condone smoking around children, I am worried about the way this case was reported. It suggests that this country now has such an extreme nanny state that a child can be removed from his or her parents if they do something that was as recently as 15 years ago socially acceptable.
In reality the child concerned had actually been placed into care on a previous occasion. The fact that the child’s parents were heavy smokers was only one of many factors that the Judge took account of when making the difficult decision to remove this boy from his parents. Yes, this little boy had been prescribed an inhaler to help with his breathing and his parents should have acknowledged that they were contributing to his health problems but in reality the parents’ behaviour went way beyond them smoking too much in their home.
The truth is that the boy’s father had tested positive for cocaine, there were very real concerns about the father’s mental health status and drug paraphernalia was found in the home. The house was apparently filthy and the parents had no interest in engaging with their young son. Many people who read the headline that suggested that a child was taken into care merely because his parents were heavy smokers would have thought that was a step too far on the part of the Family Courts. However, if the same people looked into the host of reasons for this child being placed for adoption then many of them might agree that this particular child is likely to get a better upbringing elsewhere.
Whilst I accept that a number of the reports did highlight the other reasons for the Court’s decision in this case I am concerned that the headlines glossed over the real reasons for these care proceedings being brought. Let’s not forget that this child had previously been removed from his parents, they had been given the opportunity to change their ways but failed to do so. Removing children from their parents is an absolute last resort and is not a decision that is taken lightly by the authorities in this country.
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