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"Best Interests"

I remember my father placing me over his knee and spanking me. He said " I'm doing this in your best interests". I cant remember what age I was or what I had done wrong.

Years later, I watched a social worker in court say to a judge that removing the parents rights was in the "Best Interests" of the children. The parents had not been accused of any crime and a Forecsic Psychologist testified that he had spent many hours assessing the couple, had given them every test imaginable and could find nothing wrong with them, the judge agreed to terminate the parents rights as he deemed it to be in the Best Interests of the children.

Over the years I have heard politicians use the term "Best intersts" many times, I've heard it from managers and anybody trying to put an argument together. It is the very principle upon which the UNCRC is based. But what is it? 

Social Worker Charles Pragnell describes it as "An empty vessel into which adult prejudices and beliefs are poured". It could be described then as the subjective belief of one or more people, a theory rather than a scientific standard. Charles has suggested a far more scientific solution; "To the demonstrable and measurable benefit of the child". It's hard for anybody to dispute that the "Best Interests" on any child should be held to Mr Pragnell's standard. 

How has "Best Interests" worked out for Irish Children since the Ryan Report?

Since the State closed the Church ran institutions, children have been placed in Foster Homes in about 95% of cases. The general belief about Foster Care is that children are removed from abusive or neglectiful housholds and placed in loving homes. It hasn't quite worked out that way. In recent years we have heard about Foster Carers not being vetted or trained. Children shuffled from Foster Home to Foster Home and children running away at every opportunity.

I have met some very nice people who are Foster Carers, they look after their wards to the best of their ability in many cases. I have also met and interviewed children, many of them young adults who grew up in "Care", many of them dumped on the streets when the were "emancipated" at age 18 when the State had no further interest in them. I have heard the story a few times that children came home from school on their 18th birthday and found all of their belongings packed up for them with a note from their social worker. I also know children who grew up in "Care" and have never met a social worker. 

If you click on the tab on the left you can learn more about Foster "Care". 

When you use Mr Pragnells standard of "measured and demonstrated benefit" and apply it to children who have grown up in "Care", how does that measure up to children in the general population? very, very badly. It's not that Foster Carers are not doing their best, the best Outcomes have usually been where a child has integrated into the family and was not dumped on the streets at age 18. I will leave you to consider how "Best Interests" has worked out for Irish Children with some facts below. This is information from my own research and something you will never see on the HSE, DCYA, Children's Charities or Government Websites. 

  •  A child in Irish State "Care" is 6 times more likely to die than children in the General Population.

  • Ireland took 2.3 times more children into "care" , per capita than the UK in 2011, the number of criminal convictions for child abuse or neglect have not increased in the last decade.

  • A child in Irish State "Care" is 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than children in the general population and also 3 times more likely to suffer from mental illness.

  • 43% of the Irish Prison Population have been in State "Care". 

  • A child in State "Care" is 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than children in the general population. 

  • Less than 6% of "Care" alumni will go on to higher education, far lower than children in the poorest neighborhoods in Ireland.

  • Children placed in "Care" are twice as likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than Troops returning from Afghanistan and suffer 4 times more severly. 

  • Children who grew up in UK State "Care" are 66 times more likely to have their children end up in "Care". 

  • During a time of "shortage of social workers" from 2004 to 2007, the number of children removed tripled.

  • In the Roscommon House of Horrors, the children saved themselves despite social workers being involved with the family for 11 years. Nobody was fired.

  • In the Baby Ann case, the mother changed her mind about putting the baby up for adoption but the social worker delayed the process for over a year. Baby Ann had to remain in care of the prospective parents until the parents got married and the case got to the Supreme Court. The baby could have been returned far sooner but the case was delayed by the State.

  • In 260 deaths in "Care" and 500 missing children in a decade, no social work or their manager has ever been fired. In the Baby P Case, a Paediatrician, a GP, 3 Social Workers and their manager were fired over the death of 1 baby.

  • The HSE had 541 "Confirmed" cases of sexual assault on children, the DPP only had 20 Prosecutions. The HSE have been having a "Turf War" with the HSE who wont report sexual assaults to Gardai.

  • For every 184 cases where the HSE have a "Care" Order, only 1 person will be charged with a crime of child abuse or neglect. 

  • Irish Social Workers have taken an unknown number of girls to the UK for abortions, in 1 documented case, againt the will of the child who was told she was going for a checkup.

  • In Irish Family Courts, the HSE use Munchausens Syndrome by Proxy to prosecute parents who take their child to doctors too many times. This "disorder" is not listed in the American Psychological Association Manual of Mental Disorders. It is not legally allowed to be used in courts by Case Law after the Roy Meadows/David Southall fiasco where over 5,000 innocent parents were convicted and cant be used in UK courts. It is on the HSE website.

  • In Ireland in a decade, there were 21 cases of "Shaken Baby Syndrome" prosecuted by the HSE, there was only one person convicted in a criminal court and he pleaded guilty. This is another fictitious syndrome which is no longer used in the UK according to the Crown Prosecution Service but is still used in Ireland. Many children are in "Care" on that basis.

  • Irish Social Workers typically send parents to several Psychologists until ONE can find something mentally wrong. The negative diagnosis is then used in court and the others ignored. 

  • Irish Social Workers have used "Hired Gun" "Experts", many from the UK, who have perjured themselves but none have been prosecuted. There is a case before the Supreme Court asking for the In-Camera Rule to be lifted so that Gardai can investigate perjury. 

  • Any crime committed against a child in "Care" can not be reported by the parents to the Gardai due to the In-Camera Rule. A parent can be jailed in secret in Ireland for violating this rule. Only the HSE can investigate the HSE. This allows perjury to be used on a daily basis in Family Court with no consequences.

  • Minister Fitzgerald announced that she would remove the HSE from the role of Child Protection and establish a "New" Agency. She intends using the same 3,260 staff, the same managers and the same system. The only thing that will have changed is the name on the pay slips. The 3,260 staff will also get a bonus in the form of a Redundacy Payment.

  • The HSE Budget for legal went over-budget by €8 million last year. €18 million versus a budget of €10 million. This money was paid to private law firms to prosecute families on their behalf. 

  • Barnardos Children's Charity wer paid €15,000,000 from the Child Protection budget in 2010. Barnardos provide services such as Guardian at Litem, Counselling and other related services.

  • Over 80% of the €580 million Child Protection budget is paid to private companies and individuals. 

  • The actual cost of child protection is over €1 billion a year when you factor in legal aid, court service, medical cards and other expenses.

  • Former Supreme Court Justice Hugh O’Flaherty doesn’t believe that a referendum on children’s rights is necessary.

  • Retired judge Michael Patwell said that, while he had previously believed there was a need for the Constitutional amendment, he had changed his mind.

  • High Court judge Gerard Hogan said that the phrase, “best interests of the child,” could be ambiguous.

All in the Best Interests of children. 

Joe Burns
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