Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Human Rights Abuse in Aspects of Child Protection Practice?

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Human Rights Abuse in Aspects of Child Protection Practice?

Article excerpt

A parents' perspective

The authors of this article are unequivocally against all forms of child abuse or neglect. We are equally committed to listening to the voices of parents who have had children removed from their care. The best interest of the child doctrine (Goldstein, Solnit, Goldstein and Freud 1998) all too readily contributes to the silencing of the voices of these parents. Compounding the issue is the well documented disrespect shown to parents by some child protection caseworkers (Klease 2006; Klease 2008; Harries 2007; Clary et al. 2007; Holmes 2009). For this reason this article is unashamedly written from a parents' perspective. We know that this is an unpopular position but in our view social justice principles apply to parents who may have abused or neglected their children just as much as to those who have not. Parents' stories need to heard and understood if child protection practice is to be both effective and humane. These matters are addressed through a human rights framework since both children and parents, even abusive and neglectful parents, have human rights.

The framework of human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 (accessible at http://un.org/Overview/rights.html). The Declaration consists of 30 articles. The articles that are of interest in regard to child protection practice are articles 5 and 12.

These articles are as follows:

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attack.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the General Assembly on 20 November 1989 (accessible at http://www.un.org/library/ethics/ un-convention/). The Convention consists of 54 articles. Article 5 and 9(3) are the articles of interest. They read as follows:

Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the member of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognised in the present Convention.

Article 9(3)

States Parties shall respect the rights of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interest.

It is against these standards that it is important to measure child protection practice as it affects parents, families and children.

Article 5, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

   No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or
   degrading treatment or punishment.

Recent research reports (Harries 2007; Klease 2006; Klease 2008; Holmes 2009) that contain direct quotations from parents of children who have been removed from parental care make heavy reading when judged against this measure. It can be argued that the quotations below are unrepresentative of the experience of parents who are involved with child protection services and do not represent typical child protection practice. It would be nice to think that this is the case but as the quotations are from different Australian states it is likely that the type of treatment parents described may not be as uncommon as we might like to think.

It was totally insulting. It was punitive and it was like, it just added to that first experience. …

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