Britain’s Chief Social Worker Calls for Fewer Kids Taken from Parents

March 22, 2021 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors


The movement to reduce state intervention into families with children got a boost when Great Britain’s chief social worker, Isabelle Trowler, said publicly that child protective agencies too readily take children from families (Daily Mail, 3/14/21).

Too many children are being taken into care unnecessarily by social workers who should take a ‘kinder’ approach to families, according to the country’s chief social worker.

Isabelle Trowler, 53, said it was ‘an injustice’ that some authorities were removing babies who could be safely supported at home.

What’s her evidence that those authorities are overreaching?

She added that the number of child protection probes ending in no further action – which have tripled in the past decade – showed social workers were ‘intervening when we didn’t need to’…

‘If such a high number of investigations are ending in no further action you have to accept that means we [social workers] are intervening when we didn’t need to.’

Yes, a trebling over 10 years of cases that turn out to need no attention by child protective authorities does strongly suggest that they’re sticking their noses where they don’t belong.  It also parallels what’s going on here in the U.S.  According to the Administration for Children and Families, an astonishing 80% of reports of child abuse or neglect here are dismissed with no action taken by the agency responsible.  I suspect that’s largely due to two factors – mandatory reporting and secrecy.

An astonishing array of people who may interact with a child are required by law to report even the barest suggestion of abuse or neglect.  As I reported here, the training given those mandated reporters leans heavily on the notion that, when in doubt, report the child and let the child protective agencies deal with it.  That training also “defines” abuse and neglect so loosely that virtually anything can qualify.

Then there’s the fact that all allegations of abuse or neglect are strictly confidential.  So anyone with a grudge against a parent can, for any reason or no reason, report him/her to CPS with no fear that the parent will ever know who did so.  No one knows how many outright fabrications of child abuse are made to those agencies, but the secrecy in which reports are made positively begs for them.

Trowler also cited information that suggests one cause of overreporting of suspected abuse or neglect.

And, as fears of a rise in child neglect cases had not come to pass after the first lockdown, the pandemic would offer an opportunity to ‘reset’ the way social work is done.

On both sides of the Atlantic we were told that the pandemic and lockdowns would cause child abuse to skyrocket as parents spent ever more time with their kids at home.  It didn’t happen.  Incidents of child abuse and neglect dropped significantly over the past year.  What did happen was that children were less exposed to the prying eyes of those mandated reporters lurking at every corner, so there were fewer reports made.  Of course there’s been no indication of children being abused but not being reported, so the question arises whether all those reporters are necessary. 

It’s a question neither Trowler nor anyone else in her country or ours has brought up.  The simple fact is that, with all those people tasked with reporting the slightest hint of abuse or neglect and with zero negative consequences for overreporting, the status quo is bound to continue.  Trowler’s urging of social workers to be kinder is, I’m sure, well meant, but it won’t solve the problem. 

Only a healthy respect for families, their right to be left alone by their governments and parent’s rights to care for their children will stem the rising tide of cases in which governmental agencies believe they know better how to care for your kids than you do.  We need to move away from the demonstrably untrue notion that the best place for the government is in the home.

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