Another coroner’s report, another horrific child death at the hands of wickedly negligent parents.
I know this is strong language but how else do you describe a mother and her boyfriend leaving an unconscious four-year-old with severe head injuries for eight hours before calling an ambulance.
Despite being well-known to South Australia’s child protection authority, Families SA, Chloe Valentine didn’t have a chance.Andrew Bolt writes of her case:
“it exposes our farcical faith that government officials can deal with the collapse of the family unit now that we’ve destroyed social taboos against divorce, drugs and casual sex.
Motivated by cases like this (remember Arthur Freeman who threw his four-year-old daughter Darcey off Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge in 2009?
), ACL commissioned University of Sydney family law expert Professor Patrick Parkinson to conducted a meta-analysis of child well-being.
Released in 2011, the For Kids’ Sake report
confirmed what was widely known – family dysfunction has left a growing cohort of kids in big trouble.
In the previous 12 years, the number of kids in out-of-home-care had doubled to 35,000. Behind this statistic is the chillingly obvious: it is not safe for these kids to live at home with their abusive parents.
Despite State Governments throwing bucket loads of money at child protection, the problem is getting worse.
A social worker today told me the 2011 numbers would be significantly higher.
The catastrophic consequences of family breakdown are not just observed by newspaper columnists like Bolt.
The Australian Government commissioned former Mission Australia head Patrick McClure to review the welfare system.
McClure’s report handed down in February found that “family dysfunction” contributed to “limited education, unemployment, physical abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, poor physical and mental health outcomes, teenage pregnancy, and criminal behaviour”.
It would be interesting to measure how much of Australia’s $150 billion a year (and growing) welfare bill is spent ameliorating “family dysfunction”.
It is of course crass to talk about this in dollar terms because massive pain, heartache and even death for kids like Chloe and Darcey is masked by the euphemism “family dysfunction”.
Yet in Australia it is politically incorrect to talk about strengthening marriage as part of the answer to poverty and a welfare system that traps people in “learned helplessness”.
For Kids’ Sake found that unmarried co-habiting couples with kids were five times more likely to break up than their married counterparts.
McClure cites Australian Government efforts to “stabilise families” but the M word is not used.
Not so in the United Kingdom. Thanks to the work of the respected think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, marriage is starting to be recognised as a powerful poverty fighting weapon.
It is not everything, but it is significant as family breakdown has been identified by CSJ research as one of five drivers of poverty and a life of deprivation.
This year the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (the treasurer), George Osborne, took up a CSJ recommendation to recognise marriage in the tax system by providing a modest financial incentive to married couples and those in civil unions.
A transferable tax free allowance worth a modest 200 British pounds was introduced this year and the CSJ will push towards a fully transferable tax allowance in the future.
Osborne said the allowance “was to introduce a recognition of marriage in the tax system”.
The CSJ’s report Fully Committed says: “The relentless rise in fractured families is perhaps the biggest social problem of our age”.
In another family-strengthening initiative, the Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan is fighting for Australia’s tax system to be made fairer for stay-at-home parents http://www.acl.org.au/2015/04/acl-backs-tax-fairness-for-stay-at-home-parents/
Our tax system’s bias against the best welfare system known to human-kind, the traditional family, borders on the criminally negligent.
Australia can’t afford a $150 billion a year welfare bill. More importantly Australia can’t afford any more needless deaths of four-year-olds like Chloe or Darcey.
A significant part of the answer is re-building a marriage and family culture.
This will be difficult without repudiating the sexual expressionism of the 1960s and 70s.