Monday, December 17, 2012

When laws silence critics of a system failing children

On Saturday, The Age published a strong piece about a mother with a disability whose child was removed and placed in alternative custody by a court order despite the mother's clear capacity as a good parent.

Laws to prevent people speaking out about individual cases are found in a number of areas relating to children - including (as in this case) in family law, as well as in child protection. However, such laws are too often misused by governments not to protect the best interests of children, but to avoid scrutiny of a system that too often harms them.

Here's the unedited version of my letter published in The Age today responding to Mark Baker's story:

To make worse the removal of a child from a good mother with a disability, and the consequent violation of their human rights, a veil of silence has been cast over "Rebecca" in this sad case of seemingly lawful injustice.

Yet who benefits from this silence? In too many cases it is not children, but the system that is thereby allowed to escape proper scrutiny.

There are often good reasons why the identity of children should be protected, but there is little doubt that laws to achieve this are also misused to veil circumstances where children are harmed by the system itself.

Whether children are taken from good parents with a disability, harmed by a child protection system that fails, or even placed in an adult prison while subject to a child protection order, the law must allow appropriate public scrutiny that can offer a vital path to upholding children's best interests.

Laws that hide the effective abuse of children by the system cannot go unchallenged, and the voices of challenge must not be silenced.

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