I have never been so compelled to write an article about a subject as I was with this one. Nor have I ever felt so conflicted as to the message I wanted it to convey to its readers. The clash of my internal thoughts on this subject has led to such inept focus that I have nearly been run over three times this week.
Seldom is there a program on television that forces you to access a whole range of emotions. Seldom is there a program on television that propels you into an unexpected period of reflection. However, that’s exactly what BBC Three’s Don’t Take My Baby caused me to do. Both of which were a surprise given that the program was broadcast by the BBC, a corporation that has aired such modern delights as Don’t Tell The Bride and Lee Nelson’s well good show. Quick apologies also to anyone who thought that the title of this article meant there would be a little Matt wobbling about soon.
The range of emotions this show managed to unearth, was of particular surprise as this is a subject, the experiences of which have had no influence or impact on my life to date. The fact that I experienced every emotion from stomach churning rage to gut bursting laughter was as surprising to me as it was confusing. Perhaps it was my recent experience of loss or the fact I am now 28 and finally in danger of maturing into a man which enabled this program to provide such a profound change in my personal perceptions. Whatever the personal outcome this program was truly captivating, it forms the basis for this article and if you have the chance I would advise you to watch it.
The program is centred around the true story of a disabled couple who have a baby. The father has serve sight impairment and the mother has a rare muscle wastage condition which doctors have been predicting would kill her since the age of two. In essence the couple have to prove that they a capable of looking after their daughter.
Evidently 3000 children are removed from the care of their disabled parents every year and local authorities will have to preside over 11000 cases involving disabled parents within that same period. I was outraged by these figures and was intending to research shocking cases of child negligence, in order to launch into a tirade about how 1 in 10 children suffer neglect in the UK. That neglect is still the most prevalent cause of intervention into a child’s care. That this neglect could be caused by poverty, addiction or a plain and simple heartlessness but that any neglect could never intentionally be caused by a person’s disability or any subsequent associated lack of love. So therefore, the act of removing children and in most cases babies from disabled parents by local authorities and any subsequent bodies is simply unjust.
However, when excluding my connection with disability it’s actually painfully easy to see that it is the basis of my argument so far which is in fact unjust. For the law is the same for able bodied parents, in that, if a health professional believes a child’s basic needs won’t be met, then they have a right to intervene in the best interests of the child.
I have never wanted children of my own because I’ve always questioned my ability to look after them. Whilst providing love maybe the most important part of being a parent, it is naïve to think that’s all you need. Even though I am fiercely independent and more domesticated than many of my able bodied counterparts, there are rare days when my disability wins, leaving me as useful as a condom with holes in. I don’t think it’s acceptable to simply say I’d cope. You always have to do the right thing by someone more vulnerable than yourself and it is better that safeguards are in place. I found a particularly tough case in which the following important statement is made “If, with support, she can make up for any practical gaps in her ability to care, the local authority can’t permanently remove.” Even though the statement has slight pompous undertones, the measures are often only temporary and adoption is an absolute final option.
As a disabled person you can ask your local authority to assess your abilities so that adaptions and assistance can be put in place before birth. The following statement allayed some fears “Social services are not there to assume that you are unable to cope or that you will not be a good parent. Decisions about the support offered should focus on how to help you in your parenting role.”
Whilst I have been enraged by some of the comments I’ve read from health professionals, in relation to perspective disabled parents, I think it’s important to realise that their views are always twined by thoughts toward the safety of a child. I am not saying it’s right that social services need to show videos on how to cook to a disabled person, I mean how do they think we survive? I am simply saying that if I became a parent, I would jump through whatever hoops I needed to, in order to prove myself able. I may even find that the help and support is beneficial, just like the couple in this BBC program.
To find out more about the BBC’s ‘Defying the label’ season, click here, thanks for reading.