In my last blog I spoke about the lack of resources in our care system which are committed to recognising and treating the long term effects of early life events on children in care. A related issue, but unaddressed in the last blog, concerns the events that precipitate intervention and action by a social worker. I think it’s important before I begin to underscore how difficult the job of a social worker must be. They are faced with an incalculably heavy burden to discharge each day. There are not vast financial rewards for what they do, so one must assume that they care about what they do. And yet so rarely do they receive recognition for this. They do a job which is likely to earn no accolades if done well, but publicly ignominy and revulsion when mistakes are made. For this they have some sympathy, but unfortunately errors do happen and when they do, the effects can be tragic and far reaching. These cases are mercifully infrequent but they are not rare and they can come from both a failure to act and from action which is taken too readily. I say this not as a denouncement of these health care professionals, but to highlight the tightrope that must be traversed between the right action and the wrong one.
In journalism there are certain phrases that are duty bound to make an appearance when certain occasions demand it. The phrase ‘every parent’s nightmare’ is a good example of this and for the most part its use, although a little lazy in journalistic terms, is warranted. If there were anything that could fully fit the criteria of that statement it would be the case of Karissa Cox and Richard Carter. A tragic confluence of bad luck, error and poor judgement resulted in this case of a mother and father losing their child. The fact I’m writing about this probably signals to you that this mistake has been uncovered. It has taken three years, but the charge by the family courts that Ms Cox and Mr Richards were abusing their child has been thrown out by the criminal court. Despite this, the couple face a protracted legal battle to be reunited with their daughter as the extended period in care resulted in adoption. The shadow justice secretary has intimated that the couple are unlikely to be successful in any attempt overturn it. Let that fact sit for a moment. Outrage doesn’t even begin to cover it. It is the type of injustice that seems more suited to the pages of a Victor Hugo novel than Great Britain today. So how exactly did this occur?”