There wasn’t a lot of privacy in the children’s ward where my son was a patient so those of us who were there often soon got to know other people’s business.
One mother was only 16 and her baby had recurring and serious health problems. The mother stayed in, the father came every day after school and both sets of grandparents were also frequent visitors. It was obvious this baby was truly loved and that she and her parents had caring support from their wider family.
Another mother was about 20 and the baby was there because her mother couldn’t, or wouldn’t look after her. Mothers of pre-schoolers were able to live-in at no cost but this mother chose not to, she’d turn up in the mid afternoon because she spent the morning sleeping off the night before, stay for an hour or so and go again.
She always came alone and there was no sign of support from the baby’s father, family or friends.
Every time I hear about child neglect or abuse I think of that wee baby and her mother and wonder what happened to them.
Because all the signs were there of a mother who not only didn’t know how to look after her baby but didn’t care about her either.
There may well have been many reasons for that, it’s possible that the mother had been neglected and/or abused herself, but reasons don’t keep babies safe.
Health professionals often see problems long before welfare agencies are involved and they ought to be able to refer inadequate parents so they get the help needed to enable them to help themselves and their children.
If that’s not possible then the first priority must be for the wellbeing of the children because until and unless we put the children first the sad litany of abuse and neglect will continue.