Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ethical Issues in Child Protection

The management of child protection concerns arouses strong emotions and controversies and creates ethical tensions for everyone concerned.

The ethical and legal duties of health-care professionals and law enforcement personnel and educators are to act in the best interests of the child by safeguarding children and reporting concerns. However, almost always this will involve conflicts with parents and produce reluctance among some professionals to become involved in the process, especially controversial situations. Of course this reluctance is met with mandatory reporting here in British Columbia and that compels people to overcome their reluctance. One wonders at times how effective such a compulsory reporting mandate is in the face of diagnostic uncertainties or social and family reservations. Assembly of a stronger evidence base should be seen as ethically justified, but the law requires reporting of a mere suspicion or a concern. This becomes ethically and morally problematic because suspicion, concern, and even a comprehensive evidence base involve value judgements. People compelled to report are not always competent to properly assess a situation. The result is too often, unjustified and vexatious complaints. I truly believe that in Ayn Van Dyk’s case, the signs were misjudged, the indicators were insufficient for taking her away from her father, whether to assess her health, or her conduct or her father’s management skill as a dad.

If Ayn’s case is indicative of current approaches to child protection then they may neither promote greater understanding nor be in the best interests of children. I am convinced that child protection in British Columbia requires a revised social contract, a new policy to dictate practice. Then the effective protection of children could include: a duty of care that adequately addresses the primacy of the child's welfare; the acquisition of a sound evidence base; Ministry of Children and medical, law enforcement and education professional transparency and accountability; suitable protection from malicious and vexatious complaints; and a shift emphasis towards a more inquiring system that embraced the principles of truth and reconciliation.

1 comment:

  1. It is wonderful what you are prescribing to affect change in this system. We know the abduction, confinement and separation from loved ones will have traumatic consequences for Ayn and her family. I believe she is one of many suffering unjustly at the hands of those given the too much power without adequate knowledge and empathy.
    Now the task is to get your message to those who will listen, return Ayn to her family and move towards much needed change.


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