Jacinda Ardern has a column in the Herald about child abuse (she is opposed to it) and it asserts:
There will be those parents who have already proven time and again that they should not have the privilege and responsibility of raising another child. They are not the norm, but for them our response should be swift and simple – they don’t get to gamble with another child’s life.
I don’t care if this is seen as too interventionist. I’d rather that than more of the “waiting and seeing”.
I’m all for interventionism, but I do wonder how this would work. How do you stop abusive parents from having more children?
The first stage seems pretty simple. You introduce a mechanism in which CYFS or other authorities can red-flag individuals who abuse their children, presumably through some sort of judicial process. But how do you monitor men who have been red-flagged to see if they’re living in a house with children, or expecting another child with a new partner? Pregnant women will get picked up when they enter the health system, but red-flagged males will be harder. Do you need something similar to the sex-offender registry? (It might be a good idea to combine the two, sending the message that child abuse carries the same level of stigma.)
Say you do – what happens once you’ve flagged someone? You can offer them medical sterilisation, but you can’t compel them to accept it – even offering financial incentives takes you into very tricky ethical territory, especially since a huge proportion of those sterilised would be Maori. You run into the same problems with abortion, only more-so.
So do you remove children from the parents’ care at birth? That is, in itself, a form of child abuse, so the threshold for such an act would have to be very high. And where do they go? One of the main reasons we have the Domestic Purposes Benefit is that state agencies and religious organisations proved themselves dangerously inept at caring for and raising children. Are they adopted? Adopted children also face a horribly high rate of child abuse.
It’s very easy to say ‘some parents shouldn’t be allowed to have children’, but very hard to implement that sentiment as policy.