There has been a political backlash to Cabinet considering tougher measures to remove babies from abusive parents, but Prime Minister John Key insists the country needs to face up to an “uncomfortable conversation” about child abuse.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday said Cabinet had discussed allowing courts to issue warnings to parents during sentencing that they faced having subsequent children taken off them, potentially permanently.
“At the moment, [abusive parents] could live with or have future children and it would be taken on its merits at that point. We actually don’t even do that with dogs that have been abused – there can be a sanction put on that you cannot own a dog for two years or five years, yet we don’t do that with children,” Bennett said.
“So we are looking at measures like should you not be able to live in the house with children or work with children if you have been at that serious end of abuse or neglect.”
I do not support sterilisation of child abusers, because in no way can you have the state subject someone to a surgical procedure against their will.
However I think there is a place for a court to be able to make a ruling that if a child abuser gets pregnant again, the child is automatically removed from them at birth.
At present CYFS can get court orders for custody of new born babies, but as I understand it they have to find out about the pregnancy and get a specific order.
The benefit of what is being proposed, is certainity. If a child abuser has such a history of neglect that clearly no future child is safe with them – then they are left under no misapprehension that they will never be allowed to look after a child again. This provides them with an incentive to not get pregnant, if they know that the child is removed at birth.
Such a sanction should be only for the worst child abusers – but it should be there. The rights of a child to be safe trump those of the mother.