Books Australia

Child’s play

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

The Madness of Australian Child Protection: Why Adoption Will Rescue Australia’s Underclass Children Jeremy Sammut

Connor Court, pp.329, $29.95, ISBN: 9781925138832

In Australia there are tens of thousands of emotionally stable, financially secure but medically infertile people. As much as they may want biological children of their own, genetics, illness or injury render them incapable. Yet there are thousands of dregs at the bottom of the social teacup who seemingly breed like rabbits. No-hopers, drug-addicts, and the unemployable, for whom squalor is normality, who believe welfare is a God-given right and that fornication is not only time-passing relief from their miserable lot, but a passport to being able to dip their hands deeper into the public welfare and housing purse.

If you thought SBS’s reality series Struggle Street unfairly depicted welfare-fuelled life in underclass communities, think again. If anything it was too mild. I chief-of-staffed to a state community services minister a few years ago, and cases I saw were truly shocking. They shocked not only because of their facts – awful cases of domestic violence, sexual and emotional abuse and even incest – but because in the warped world in which these people lived they were routine, almost normal, events.

I still seethe with fury over one particular case, of incest in a Victorian country town. Confronted by child protection workers, this pustule of a man insisted he was only asserting his rights as a father. ‘She’s mine, I can do what I want’, he said without any hint of comprehending his vileness, or contrition. That excrescence forfeited any claims to parenthood, yet the community services system still wanted to respect his parental rights as a father. While the abused little girl was taken into care, child protection workers still, absurdly, hoped the family could be brought back together.

Most parents love and care for their children, even in the poorest communities. But while child abuse and neglect is a pestilence across society it is the underclass, where poverty, unemployment, crime, welfare dependency and substance abuse are rife, that the deepest problems lie.

As respected Centre for Independent Studies social policy thinker, Jeremy Sammut, demonstrates in this book, The Madness of Australian Child Protection, an entrenched policy mentality keeps failed families together wherever possible. Removal is a last resort. Sammut demonstrates, persuasively, how in the last forty years the pendulum has swung so far against adoption that too many kids are trapped hopelessly in destructive, dysfunctional family relationships or doomed to living in institutions and unsuitable foster homes without any chance of a permanent, loving family to call their own.

Trendy lefty social theorists have done incalculable damage, but conservative politicians holding the family unit as sacrosanct have let them get away with it. As far as I’m concerned, when ideology – Left or Right – gives misguided succour to utterly incompetent and abusive parents, whose unspeakable actions and substance-addled minds expose children to great neglect and physical and mental harm, it must be shoved aside for the children’s good. Just get those kids out of there!

Sammut rightly advocates child protection policies and practices that take children away from such brutal lives, and promotes re-normalised adoption as key to rescuing underclass children from desperate and dangerous ongoing situations. Making adoption work, however, requires two things: instilling a child-first prevailing mindset amongst caseworkers and policy-makers, and society’s reacceptance that children being permanently adopted into loving homes is far better than unwanted or at-risk children in dangerously dysfunctional family units.

Citing case after awful case of a system gone badly wrong, the essence of Sammut’s message is ‘preserve the family at all costs’ child protection needs dumping for a willingness to remove children from unfit parents, and offer them hope of love and security through permanent adoption by competent adults genuinely wanting them. Surely that is indeed the right way to go.

To achieve this, adoption process itself needs fixing. While it takes years, has so many hurdles and seems purpose-designed to subject potential adoptive parents to deliberate humiliation, the local adoption rate is unsurprisingly shameful. In 2014-15 there were just 56 local adoptions across Australia. Fifty-six kids out of thousands deserving and needing a better life than the no-hopers they’re now with can ever give them.

Successive Labor and Coalition federal and state governments and oppositions should hang their heads in shame at what decades of destructive social theory, applied by them, has wrought.

But don’t expect fashionable social experiments like same-sex adoptions to change things. Same-sex adoption is about gay couples demanding, and getting, the same rights as straight ones: it’s not about promoting the best interests of at-risk and damaged children. Having the right to adopt doesn’t guarantee actual adoptions: in New South Wales, where same-sex adoption has been legal for years, only nine children were locally adopted in 2014-15. If such miserable figures improve as more states allow same-sex adoption, I’ll eat my hat.

Last year former Labor minister and Speccie columnist Gary Johns caused chattering class outrage by suggesting welfare dependants should take contraceptives in return for benefits. Johns was far too charitable: those doing unspeakable things to vulnerable children deserve forced sterilisation over and above any criminal penalties. They don’t deserve to be parents, let alone procreate. At minimum, child protection authorities should presume that children removed from these pathetic excuses for parents are available for permanent adoption, not temporarily removed only to return into danger. That policy shift not only would offer lasting hope to endangered children: it may save lives.

Sammut’s back to the future take on adoption, and making it easier, offers an enlightened way forward. Taking his path, however, will take a big change of heart not only from elected politicians, but from a wider community that wrings its hands over the cesspit of child abuse and neglect, rather than actually take responsibility for doing something.

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  • Fiona

    Its heartbreaking for long term fostercarers. Taking on kids suffering huge trauma, Legal aid supported court appeals and no money for the fosterparents to defend themselves, young and inexperienced caseworkers making fosterfamilies feel transient and powerless, social policies applied without putting the children first, and a yawning 8 years for some families to try to finish the adoption paperwork. State Governments in Australia must do something, however they don’t, as this issue is not a burning platform for the wider community. These are just fosterkids and they will stay fosterkids (that was actually a quote from a social worker to a fosterparent). We need action.

  • Bernd Felsche

    It’s easy for the pendulum to swing the other way; where children are removed from stable, supporting and safe families; based on rumours, inuendo or simply as retribution by government. vis. e.g. UK – Rotherham

  • rosross

    Comments like, ‘pustule of a man’ reflect on the intolerant judgementalism of the writer. Yes, it should be easier to adopt; yes we need to protect kids at risk, all of them, including indigenous in particular, now left to suffer because of the insanity of political correctness; yes, we need to work for a healthier society overall but we do not need nasty-minded, finger-pointing, vindictive, subjective, hateful intolerance of the kind expressed by this writer.

    The same sort of nasty-minded judgements have been made throughout history, but generally sourced in ignorance of the fact that people caught in such destructive lifestyles are not sub-human, or beyond hope, but are simply damaged and wounded human beings deserving of compassion and understanding.

    Compassion and understanding bring enlightenment to the actions which need to be taken to help the children of such damaged individuals and to seek to help the individuals themselves.

    Yes, we need to change the system. Yes, we need to do better than we are doing. Yes, the damaged and wounded need to take responsibility, but pouring bile on the festering heap of human suffering does not help anyone, it just hurts and when a society takes on board such attitudes, it will corrode and rot from within.

    • Gladys P

      In the United States, the vast majority of Somali female immigrants routinely chop off and/or sew their young daughters genitals up. The schools know it. The doctors know it. The social workers know it. Yet they do not report this as child abuse.

      In Somalia, as in many primitive societies, female sexuality is dangerous to the patriarchy. Women must be sexually neutered before they are sold off in marriage.

      I know I should look on this institutional, cultural child abuse with compassion and empathy and not impose my cultural values on them, but I can’t. They need to leave and take their barbarian, woman-hating and child-abusing practices back where they came from.

      On the other hand, I look forward to the massive class action suits by the Somali girls who manage to escape their cl!t-chopping Somali mothers, sisters and aunts, and sue the gentle white teachers, hospitals, doctors, nurses and administrators for their knowing complicity.

      May they bankrupt Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Hennepin County.

  • Copyright101

    I chief-of-staffed to a state community services minister a few years ago

    Chief-of-staffed? Good grief, what was your main function, taking the English language into a back alley and beating it to death?

  • debbie

    Uhhhhh as an adoptee and we all know Jeremy doesnt like adult adoptees .. he has no idea.. take it from an adoptee from struggle street that was adopted into elite st .. He fails to mention that elite st can be full of abusers and pedofiles they just have better lawyers and hide it better. Nothing like a virile young man to remind his adopted father that he is infertile …a failure… he needs the kid for social standing but he doesnt have to bond or like the kid … Jeremy should spend some time with us adoptees adopted into elite street.. Its not all unicorn farts and roses… If I had a choice give me struggle street anyday. Kids at risk from who.. better from your natural family than some rich adoptive family…