We appreciate and applaud the democracy in which we live. We therefore need to understand it. As democracy pertains to the welfare of children, parents possess substantial rights as well as responsibilities with regard to the care of their children. Yet we have opted within our democratic society to provide a safeguard to children whose parents cannot or will not provide them adequate care. The government also owns responsibility to insure that children's needs are met.
Autonomy does characterize parental rights to decide for their children with regard to educational opportunities, religious heritage, discipline, cultural and recreational activities. Yet within this freedom lies an awareness that when concerns arise about physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect, then the government by way of a mandated child protection agency may become involved with the family. Sometimes this involvement is voluntary, which is to say that the agency upon request offers parents support and counsel to more effectively care for their children, and this may include monitoring and accountability. Other times the agency's involvement with a family is involuntary and even unwelcome. Of course a child protection agency must protect children from parents whose conduct constitutes physical abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, or failure to provide adequate care. It is never justifiable to interfere with a family merely because the agency believes it can do a better job of care or provide more developmental opportunities. Justification of involvement occurs only when the level of care received by children has fallen below a standard which no child in the country should experience.
The social worker's struggle and the parent's conflict arises from the vagueness of definitions for child abuse and neglect because this requires assessment by a particular worker as to what that minimal standard for care should be and whether or not these parents have missed it.
This is certainly one of the dilemmas of our child protection system.
What is occurring presently with Paul and Zabeth Bayne and the repeated attempts by MCFD SWs to schedule a meeting to discuss the support and care of Paul and Zabeth Bayne's fourth and unborn child and Zabeth herself may be viewed technically as fulfilling the MCFD mandate. In light of the years of pain that MCFD involvement has delivered to the Baynes, these recent overtures might be interpreted as tantamount to harassment. Paul and Zabeth have always been trustworthy people. As young parents, they were responsibly caring for their three children before they were removed and under the gloomy forecast of the past three years have conducted themselves admirably well. While they wait now for news from Judge Crabtree as to whether they will be awarded custody of their three, they have characteristically prepared for their newborn. They are employed, have excellent medical support through family doctor and obstetrician, are registered at a hospital that is equipped with a special care nursery to handle deliveries 24 weeks and over, and they have the great benefit of incredible support from family and friends. Rather than playing by the book now, it would be advisable for MCFD to desist. It should be clear that confidence in MCFD motive and conduct is expended.