Here we go again!

The death of Daniel Pelka is one more in a line of tragedies. Between 50 and 60 children die each year in the UK at the hands of their parents or carers.

The ones that stand out are those where the circumstances are bizarre or show extreme cruelty, as in this case. Victoria Climbie, Peter Connolly and now, Daniel Pelka.

Once again, the aftermath leaves me feeling angry, puzzled and sickened . How could anyone-let alone a parent-be so cruel to a little child? How could the agencies involved miss the signs for so long that the child dies?

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Professionals did not kill Daniel Pelka…

Those of us who work in children’s services and allied professions feel these losses acutely. And not just because the inevitable glare of media attention is once again upon us.

– We grieve.

– We grieve because we are human.

– Because we have our own children.

– Because, unlike most people, we have made caring for and protecting children our life’s work.

But most of all because we are human beings whose instinct is to protect the little ones. That’s why we get up in the morning.

It’s also why we lie awake at night. We worry. We ruminate-over and over-about decisions, deadlines, assessments; most of all about the children themselves. Have we done enough? Have we missed anything? What if…

The serious case review that follows the conviction of Daniel Pelka’s mother and stepfather, will examine the case in minute detail. This is as it should be. Failings should be highlighted. Systems and structures must be questioned. Where appropriate, culpability will be apportioned to those who fell short of their responsibilities. And rightly so.

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Child protection – a poisoned chalice?…

That said, people should know that protecting children is a complex, challenging and personally costly task for those at the sharp end.

Consider how it might feel to knock on someone’s door and announce that you are visiting because concerns have been raised about the care of a child. Defensiveness doesn’t even come close to it. Questioning someone’s parenting is heavy stuff. It’s holy ground.

Families whose children are at risk of “significant harm” vary hugely. Some are desperately needy but don’t realise the need for help. Some dissociate from their responsibilities and are passively resistant or just go with the flow. Some are passively aggressive, avoiding all help, but never hostile.

Others are downright nasty; threatening, intimidating, aggressive and, on occasions, violent. Outside of the military and the police, how many jobs encounter these issues daily? Not many. It’s the helping professions who are tasked with weathering all this in order to protect the child at the centre. That’s our job. It’s what we get paid to do.

Don’t blame the good guys…

The problem is that society’s outrage at the cruel death of a young child far outweighs our empathy and appreciation for such dedicated professionals. We are blinded by our feelings. We want someone to blame. Most of all, we want someone to pay.

So, once again, the witch hunt has begun. Daniel has died. But he was not killed by the social workers, health visitors, police officers, teachers and others, who tried to protect him. Maybe they failed-for whatever reason-but they will feel the loss acutely. For some, their lives will never be the same again.

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Final thought…

Daniel Pelka was killed by the adults charged with caring for him. By his mother and stepfather. We should remember this when the bandwagon of blame comes rolling by…

What do you think?…

This kind of news throws up all kinds of views. I fully realise many people may not agree with mine. So, please let me know what your thoughts are… Leave a comment below or click here.

Related previous posts…

– Child protection from pornography goes way beyond ISPs…

– 11 things you need to know about online child sexual abuse…

– What works in preventing & treating sexual abuse…

Where to go for support…

If you are worried about the safety of a child:

– NSPCC helpline: 0808 800 5000   email: help@NSPCC.org.uk   Text: 88858

– Childline helpline: 0800 1111

The following organisations offer free confidential advice if you’ve lost a child yourself or been affected by such a loss:

– Cruse – the bereavement specialistsEmail: helpline@cruse.org.uk   Helpline: 0844 477 9400

– Samaritans Helpline: (UK) 08457 90 90 90   (ROI) 1850 60 90 90

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© Jonny Matthew 2013