Is it right to take children away from parents at birth?
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The head of Barnardo's, Martin Narey, has called for more babies to be taken away at birth from parents who have "failed" with their previous children.
By John Bingham/The Daily Telegraph
September 7, 2009
It follows fresh concern over a generation of "feral" children in the wake of the case of the two boys aged 10 and 12 who battered, tortured and sexually abused two other children in Edlington near Doncaster.
The pair had come from a chaotic home where they were exposed to drink, drugs and violence from an early age and had a long history of involvement with police and social services.
In the words of the father of one of their victims: "My kid plays with Lego... they play with knives."
Mr Narey, who as a former director general of the Prison Service knows the criminal justice system inside out, believes that some families simply “can’t be fixed” and wants the authorities to move in earlier to give children a chance of a better life.
He said that social services should not be afraid of taking children into care and ultimately sending them to new families.
“It sounds terrible, but I think we try too hard with birth parents," he said.
"If we really cared about the interests of the child, we would take children away as babies and put them into permanent adoptive families, where we know they will have the best possible outcome.”
Ann Widdecombe, the former prisons minister, has praised Mr Narey as courageous.
"We all know what we are talking about here, we are talking about families where there is a persistent pattern of failure," she said.
But others warned against "nanny state interference".
Mark Pritchard, the Conservative vice chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Social Care, said early intervention should be the exception rather than the rule.
"In some cases even bad parents achieve far better outputs for their children when compared to the state’s own record," he said.
"When you examine all the key indicators the state is the very worst parent any child can have.
"The care pendulum should avoid swinging too far towards failed models of state intervention.”
After years of social services being criticised for being too ready to take children away from their parents is it now time for them to intervene more rather than less?
Or is the state, as Mr Pritchard says, the very worst parent any child can have?