Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

By Mukti Jain Campion | Go to book overview

1

The state versus parents

Children into care

The British media recently reported the case of a reclusive mother and son who were found living in a squalid house in suburbia, surrounded by neglected and dying pets. The 11 year old boy was described as never having attended school and as having no contact with other children, but

despite her problems, the mother seems to have lavished attention on him acting as a teacher as well as a mother and friend. Social workers were astonished to find him articulate, literate and numerate. Poised and well-spoken, he has not necessarily suffered lasting damage from his strange childhood.

(Margaret Driscoll, Sunday Times 1/12/91)

The media also pursued the question of who was to blame for not intervening to save the boy from his circumstances.

The social workers argued that no one had reported his predicament to them, so how were they supposed to help?-'We rely heavily on intervention by schools or the community to trigger our work'.

Neighbours saw no reason to pry: 'The boy looked plump and healthy. If he had been starved or bruised, well, that would have been different. But people live the way they want to live. You can't interfere'.

(Margaret Driscoll, Sunday Times 1/12/91)

The media reports focused on the boy as a victim of his mother's irrational behaviour, describing him as a captive in their relationship. An independent social worker summed up her initial assessment of the boy thus:

It will certainly have done him some harm, in that he does not seem to have had peer relationships or the ability to play. The crucial thing is the relationship with his mother, if she had managed to keep it unintense, then he may develop quite normally. The problem is that it is probably a very intense relationship because there was just the two of them.

At the time of writing this chapter, the mother and son were 'being kept under observation at a special unit while social workers gently try to prise apart the roots of their mutual dependency'.

-7-

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Who's Fit to Be a Parent?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Parents on Trial 5
  • 1 - The State Versus Parents 7
  • 2 - Other People's Children 38
  • 3 - Parents Apart 63
  • 4 - Playing God 96
  • 5 - Key Themes from Part I 117
  • Part II - Parents on the Edge 129
  • 6 - Disabled Parents 133
  • 7 - Mentally Handicapped Parents 151
  • 8 - Drug Addicted Mothers 168
  • 9 - Gay Parents 177
  • 10 - Teenage Mothers 189
  • 11 - Older Mothers 197
  • 12 - Single Mothers 205
  • 13 - Lone Fathers 217
  • 14 - Working Mothers 225
  • 15 - Black Parents 239
  • 16 - Key Themes from Part II 261
  • Part III - The Job Description 269
  • 17 - The Ideal Model and the Actual Model of Fit Parenting 271
  • 18 - Implications of the Actual Model of Fit Parenting to Assessment 281
  • 19 - Looking Forward 300
  • Bibliography 303
  • Index 309
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