Recently the news has been full of details about the case of Baby P who died after sustaining shocking injuries inflicted upon him by his parents over a long period of time. In the case of this child, he was seen by social workers more than 60 times and also examined by a doctor just days before he died and no one picked up the extent of his injuries or felt that the child should be taken into care. A postmortem examination showed he had a broken back, eight fractured ribs, missing fingernails and toenails, multiple bruises and an injury to the inside of his mouth. He had also swallowed one of his own teeth. This is clearly a shocking case and one where social services have failed to protect a vulnerable child. I do think, however, that shocking as the case is that cases of extreme child abuse such as this are in the minority and that this should be taken into account.
The majority of parents would not consider causing harm to their child and are perfectly capable of raising happy well adjusted children. Whilst I can understand the strength of public feeling regarding this case, I do feel that the backlash from this case will mean that the majority of good parents will now be under more intense and often unnecessary scrutiny. These cases often lead to unnecessary measures such as the call to ban smacking which apparently “infringes children’s rights to dignity”. There have already been cases of parents being taken to court for simply smacking their children. Smacking, however, is not child abuse and should not be compared in the same light, after all children are children not adults, they do need discipline but within reason and only when necessary.
I can’t help thinking that the many inquiries that follow this case will not help to protect the minority of children that are really at risk but will simply lead to more cases where parents have their children taken into care simply because the authorities have unsubstantiated suspicions. In my opinion the inquiries into the case of Baby P should concentrate upon the failings directly related to this case, such as why his injuries went unnoticed for so long and why social workers did not notice the physical signs of abuse. Perhaps the focus should be on better training for those who have to determine whether a child is at risk and not introducing new rules and regulations that could penalise the majority of good parents.