Legal Baby Snatchers

In the news today, an alarming story of baby-snatching government social workers. The BBC writes:

Concern over a father’s “unorthodox views” on [the need for] bottle sterilisation and [the benefit of] formula milk sparked a series of events that left his week-old son in care, a court has heard. Medical staff had told Kirklees Council of concerns for the family.

Kirklees Council persuaded a family court to approve the baby being taken into emergency care as he was about to be discharged from hospital.

Mr Justice Cobb said the council had “misled” the family judge, wrongly claiming the parents had been “given notice” of the hearing and had “agreed” to the child being taken.

The boy was placed in the care of relatives and returned to his parents about 10 weeks later.

If the social workers at Kirklees council, hadn’t been acting in the knowledge that they were backed by the brute force of the law, then they almost certainly wouldn’t have acted so aggressively and unreasonably and snatched a newborn baby away from its parents for the first two months of its life – with apparently no regard for the distress this would cause the parents or indeed the baby. And if they hadn’t been so convinced of their righteousness, then they wouldn’t have lied in court in order to get legal permission to have the baby taken away.

Without the law filling them with a sense of all-powerfulness and leading them to believe they (not the actual parents) are the highest authority over the child, they most probably would have just spoke with the parents. You know, like reasonable and respectful human beings.

Force should always be a last resort because it always causes harm, but the social workers at Kirklees council used force as their first resort. Take baby away from its mother – ask questions later. That’s a disturbing mindset. The actions of ordinary people puffed up by state power and made to feel like it is their duty to rule over their neighbours’ family life with an iron fist.

If I kidnapped my next door neighbour’s child after hearing her express an “unorthodox” view about parenting, then her husband would have every right to break into my house and beat the crap out of me. And I expect he would. If I happened to be a social worker with the backing of legal force, however, then he would be deemed the criminal.

This sorry and disgraceful chain of events, which has caused the parents much distress, began with the medical staff at the hospital where the baby was born. If the father’s convictions about baby bottle sterilisation and formula milk were mistaken, then the medical staff should simply have talked to him and explained the need for bottle sterilisation and the benefits of formula milk. If, like most parents, he wanted to do what was best for his baby, then he would have heeded the advice and changed his behaviour accordingly.

But instead of taking responsibility and using reason to solve a potential problem, the medical staff chose not to use their brains and instead to mindlessly follow a government procedure. Which, no doubt, they must do in order to avoid disciplinary action.

They reported their ‘concerns’ to social workers at the local council and in doing so made a government mountain out of a private molehill. Through government protocol, an enormous leap was made from a baby whose father, like all fathers ever, is ignorant of some knowledge relating to a baby’s well-being to a baby in mortal danger from unfit parents.

This probably explains why the Council social workers told a family court judge it had given notice to the parents and had the parents’ agreement to take their baby away when in fact it hadn’t and didn’t. Clearly, the Council’s social workers believed the baby was in such danger that resorting to any means necessary – i.e. lying in court – was justified. Or, if not that, then they believed that their role in society is of such importance that they must be above the law.

It is good that, in the end, a High Court judge recognised the injustice of the Council’s behaviour and awarded the parents £11,250 in compensation. But that can’t undo the distress the Council’s actions caused to the parents and the baby, which is un-quantifiable and may last forever or a long time as psychological scarring.

But the ending isn’t entirely a happy one. In a statement after the High Court ruling, Kirklees Council said: “The court and parties accepted that the council was correct to issue these proceedings, but mistakes were made which resulted in the court awarding the family compensation.”

What strikes me about the Council’s statement is its total lack of human feeling. It doesn’t say sorry and it expresses no regret for the suffering it caused the parents. Referring to its own deliberate actions of lying in court and kidnapping as “mistakes” is either the words of sociopaths or else an underhanded attempt to shove these immoral actions into the same ethically neutral category as misspelling a word or miscounting your spare change.

When you think about, this is disturbingly dismissive of the parents as human beings with rights and feelings. It’s not: “We took your baby and we’re deeply sorry for the distress this caused you.” It is instead: “We were mistaken to take your baby in the way we did because we ended up having to pay you compensation and getting bad press, but we were right to seek to take it away because it is our duty to look after all children.” The Council’s statement smacks of hubris.

After all it has put these poor parents through, the Council’s members can’t even bring themselves to admit to their wrongdoings. Saying they made “mistakes” is not at all the same thing as the Council’s members, as human beings in society, admitting to and being sorry for acting immorally and causing other people harm. We can only hope the Council’s social workers have apologised to the parents in private, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Perhaps social workers feel that they should never have to apologise for their actions because they are only ever trying to prevent children from being harmed. But having the best of intentions doesn’t prevent your actions from having the worst of consequences, as this case shows, and thus doesn’t exempt one from having to apologise when they do.

I wonder, or rather I dread to think, how many babies are being snatched by government social workers under the absurd charge of their parents being, as all humans are, ignorant of some knowledge, or else having parents who dare disagree with government approved orthodoxy on parenting.

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