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Children without parents

Inevitably, it was Friday afternoon by the time Kevin [not his real name] was slowly and ineptly explaining in the headmistress’ office. All parents know what a talent children have for falling ill on Friday evening. The headmistress knew what a talent pupils have of presenting hard-to-handle problems on Friday afternoon.

Kevin had been acting up in class that morning – not unusual for either Kevin or the school, but this seemed different. The headmistress already knew somewhat about Kevin, of course, but only as three-in-the-afternoon came and went, did his full situation begin to emerge.

Years ago, mummy and daddy had little Kevin. Some years later, mummy and daddy had a falling out. Usually it’s the father who disappears first in this situation but in Kevin’s case it was his mother. Maybe she had some thought of retrieving him when she had a place he could stay and events just got on top of her – or maybe not. Kevin stayed with his father and step-mother, the new woman in daddy’s life. In time, this relationship too soured and daddy walked away from it, leaving Kevin cohabiting with his step-mum and, soon enough, his step-dad – a man she acquired. This occurred once or twice or thrice more – it was not entirely clear how many ‘step-‘s preceded the courtesy titles of the final ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ with whom Kevin was cohabiting when the Friday I’m talking about rolled round.

On that Friday, for reasons not worth detailing, Kevin’s step-(step-)parents were departing that habitation (whether in the same direction or in two different directions was uncertain) so other people could take vacant occupancy of it. It had been made clear to Kevin that he was not going to sleep there that night. He had no idea where he was going to sleep that night.

Of course, the Scottish government has assigned people, institutions and funding to handle this kind of situation. And of course, when you pay people to care, some work for the pay and not because they care (luckily for Kevin, his school’s headmistress was an exception). She was not surprised to discover, after she got her head fully round Kevin’s problem and phoned them, that the clock-watchers in the relevant social work department were almost all gone and no-one still there would take any responsibility or do anything before Monday.

Further questioning and checking elicited that Kevin had a granny living in the city. The headmistress managed to work out an address and phone number. Granny didn’t want Kevin – let’s be frank about it, he was not the kind of kid one instantly warmed to, although his distress and (when it penetrated his thick skull she would help him) willingness to cooperate made the headmistress like him a bit better than she ever had before. However Granny did not have that icy determination to get her off the phone before imminent departure for the weekend that had been shown by such social workers as had not departed even before she rang. (To be strictly fair, that city was unusually well supplied with the kind of people who consume social workers’ time and state handouts, and some of them greatly exceeded Kevin in being the kind of people one did not instantly warm to.) The strong-willed headmistress extracted consent to Kevin’s sleeping at granny’s for the weekend, “but he goes to school on Monday morning and he does not come back”.

Why am I telling you this? Two-thirds of the way through this long post, I mention Rotherham, where many of the abused girls were in the state’s not-so-tender care. My post below says power should be given to parents and taken from educational bureaucrats (especially the ones in that city, of whom I could tell you a tale). So, why indeed am I telling you this?

Well, if anyone ever implements (or just argues for) the scheme in my post below – to protect children by empowering their parents and disempowering the educational bureaucracy – then I want them to know beforehand, not discover afterwards, that these situations happen. Woke tyrants love their theories, but we believe in learning from experience – from the many that tell us the family is the best protector of children, and also from the few that warn us that parents aren’t always good, that step-parents can be worse, and that on a Friday afternoon, someone in our brave new-old educational world might suddenly discover that the parents, and the step-step-parents, and the clock-watching employees of that ultimate step-step-…step-parent the state, have all gone.

23 comments to Children without parents

  • Sean

    How such kids turn out even remotely socialised amazes me.

  • Chester Draws

    Some of them are well socialised Sean because they learn, early, that even a tiny step out of line and they are out on the street. They are socialised on the surface, but not well underneath that.

    I teach at a school with above average earnings, and we have kids like this every year. Kids living in a three bedroom house with 15 occupants. Kids not sure each night where they are sleeping the next day. Kids staying with friends permanently, because they can’t live with their parents.

    As a Catholic school, part of our mission is to help, and we spend a lot of time and energy doing so.

    And it’s not always the poor ones. I taught at a posh private school for a while. One of my boys, aged 14, had his mum and dad go on holiday and leave him alone to look after himself for two weeks. Yes, he was provided with money, but that’s still child abuse.

  • Tracy Coyle

    I made a similar commentary on other’s post about the different attitudes of government efforts to get between parents and medical community – parents are NOT always the best at what is best for their kids. And that government agencies are often even worse.

    Thank you for the post.

  • Deep Lurker

    “but that’s still child abuse.”

    I’m inclined to dissent. At least it’s not clear cut.

    Yes, by 21st Century standards having a 14 year old stay home by himself for two weeks is child abuse. However children in the 21st Century are treated as being half their age. In particular, they’re treated the way a child of half their age would have been treated 50 years ago.

    So having this modern-day 14 year old stay home by himself is obvious child abuse, because by old-time 20th century standards letting a 7 year old stay home by himself is obvious child abuse.

    But having been 14 myself, back in the dark ages of half a century ago, I’m not convinced that treating a 14 year old as if he were 14, rather than 7, is child abuse, and I’m not completely convinced that leaving a 14 year old by himself is inappropriate, the way it obviously would be for a 7 year old.

  • There is, I think, a middle ground between “Parents uber alles” and the current “Schools rule” situation. Disempowering the education bureaucracy does not mean that parents have unlimited rights.

    A part of the problem – not sure how much – is forcing people to take responsibility for their (in)actions. Teachers and bureaucrats who push woke crap and hide crimes need to be fired and blacklisted from working in state education. Parents who dump kids need to face some kind of judicial process that takes away something they care about. Bureaucrats who bugger off home early on a Friday need to have their salaries docked. And so on.

    Currently we have allowed “government” to be the Nanny of last resort while ignoring the fact that governments are run by bureaucrats who like empire building and hate responsibility

  • Fraser Orr

    I’m not sure I see the connection Niall. Little Kevin’s problem is not that he gets a poor education or a bunch of brainwashing nonsense. It is something quite different, namely that he doesn’t have parents. When it comes to these situations, last resort situations, there is this assumption that the government should step in, as if there is some universal rule that the government is the fount of all compassion. However, in reality I doubt Kevin’s situation would improve much being put under government care.

    The traditional solution for this is charities, run by bleeding hearts (and I don’t say that with anything but kindness and gratitude for the decent people who do this thankless work), who work with each kid individually rather than running through some standard operating procedure. Supported by decent people, like you and me, who read this post and feel compassion for kids like this… to whom should I write a check?

    But I don’t write a check. The government takes my money and, while keeping a bunch for itself, distributes it according to their own list of priorities. Kevin isn’t very high up that list.

    The world is full of bad stuff. In fact “bad” is the natural order of things. Free markets produce powerful economies that have more than enough resources, and individuals, when they have provided for the needs of themselves and their families, have more than enough compassion channeled through charities to deal with these problems.

    All government agencies have as their core objective to grow their power and budget. And they are very successful doing it. So solving problems like the Kevins of this world aren’t really all that helpful. They need more Kevins, and define the boundaries to include more of them (like for example, parents who don’t vaccinate their kids against the flu), they need more Kevins to grow their budget and power. Government is not at all the solution to problems like this, except insofar as they provide the necessary legal mechanisms to transfer the parental responsibility to caring people.

    “We are here from the government and we are here to help you” rings no more true if you are a young person than if you are old.

  • Chester Draws

    and I’m not completely convinced that leaving a 14 year old by himself is inappropriate

    It’s not the leaving unattended, although that is bad enough. It is the signal that “you are so unimportant to us that we will go on holiday without you, indeed leaving you alone”.

    He couldn’t cook, and didn’t have transport. He lived on breakfast cereal and sandwiches for two weeks. He was bored out of his skull. (He couldn’t get to most of his friends, and was far too embarrassed to explain why he needed picking up.)

    My brother was happy to be left alone for three days at 14, but it was only a couple of days, he had me (16) to cook and for company. There is a vast difference between the independence of 14 and 16 year olds (I teach them, remember). Leaving one alone for two weeks is not acceptable.

  • One of my boys, aged 14, had his mum and dad go on holiday and leave him alone to look after himself for two weeks. Yes, he was provided with money, but that’s still child abuse. (Chester Draws, April 11, 2022 at 12:42 am)

    No, it is child neglect.

    1) It is child neglect at worst. I agree in general with Deep Lurker (April 11, 2022 at 1:38 am) that giving a known 14 year old the opportunity to fend for themselves may be no harm – think of the father’s telegram in ‘Swallows and Amazons (“Better drowned if duffers; if not duffers, won’t drown.”). But in this specific example, I also agree with your reply (April 11, 2022 at 5:44 am), doubtless based on your knowledge of this case, that the signal given was instead “you are so unimportant to us that we will go on holiday without you, indeed leaving you alone”. Readers of To Kill a Mockingbird may recall the incident when ‘Boo’ discards his fantastical stories of harsh treatment at the hands of his mother and step-father, and admits to Jem and Scout that the reason he ran away was simply because it was so obvious they gave him food and clothes but were wholly uninterested in him. If they’d cared enough to ask, they’d have realised he wanted to spend the summer with his friends and been delighted to send him away there, but they were not interested enough even to ask.

    2) We should avoid devaluing the phrase ‘child abuse’. At one point in my post on the trans-mafia, I explicitly distinguish the ideological ‘child abuse’ that grown-up Heather ‘has-two-mommies’ Barwick describes (she also does not use that term for it) from the horribly-literal child abuse that her LGBTSQUERTY-mafia-style parents inflicted on Moira Greyland.

    If I were in your shoes, I would not want that boy to hear me, or anyone, call it ‘child abuse’ although I might be happy for him to hear or know that it was an act I disapproved.

  • And it’s not always the poor ones. I taught at a posh private school for a while. One of my boys, aged 14, had his mum and dad go on holiday and leave him alone to look after himself for two weeks. Yes, he was provided with money, but that’s still child abuse.

    Hmm. I was abused. Who knew? In fairness, as a 14-year old my parents decided I was old enough to make my own decisions. They gave me the option of coming with them or staying at home with my TV, VCR, ZX Spectrum and personal library to keep me company. If I got any problems, just call my elder brother.

    I didn’t see that as a problem, I saw it as an opportunity to avoid another dull-as-dishwater vacation traipsing after me parents at some sunny but otherwise dead foreign holiday resort. Ugh.

    I didn’t die, starve or end up in hospital, because I was 14 but not an idiot.

  • parents are NOT always the best at what is best for their kids. And that government agencies are often even worse. (Tracy Coyle, April 11, 2022 at 1:32 am)

    Yes, indeed (noting, I’d probably do my caps as ‘not ALWAYS’ 🙂 ), and pedantically fussing about the logic of the (very psycho-logically understandable) remark that something is not the best and its alternative is worse (here, I am mischaracterising what Tracey said to bring out a point).

  • Going back to the OP and poor Kevin, while it is expected that people love their kids enough to prevent this sort of thing, it’s not exactly something you can legislate.

    Kevin’s circumstances arose over time by those who were supposed to love and care for him abandoning him into the care of others who had neither genetic ties to him, nor legal responsibility for him.

    Certainly, this was child abandonment, but NOT primarily of those who told him that he had no home from Friday, but his birth parents both up-and-leaving him long before that fateful Friday.

    Teachers aren’t just there to provide gender identity awareness. 🙂 They have a duty under “in loco parentis” to act on behalf of the child’s interests as a parent would do. Which in fact, Kevin’s headmistress did, she found temporary accommodation to give her time to contact the relevant statutory authorities as she was legally obliged to do.

    We complain about legal obligations, yet the headmistress had far more compulsion to act than the parents who abandoned Kevin in the first place.

  • I’m not sure I see the connection Niall. (Fraser Orr, April 11, 2022 at 5:08 am)

    I’m quite sure I don’t see a connection. I think we are furiously agreeing. 🙂

    I wrote the post below – on which no-one has yet commented (hint, hint 🙂 ) – to say what should be done. I wrote this post to say ‘In advocacy and action for that, know this stuff happens – don’t be caught unprepared’.

    Preparation can mean preparing to defend the undiluted libertarianism of the best approach, honestly admitting that even the best also sometimes fails – is the lesser evil in absolute terms – however you want to say it. Preparation can mean preparing to defend the diluted politicisation of some half-way house of “choice! – with a safety net”, adopted to defang your enemies’ predictable propaganda that pretends the worst case is the norm, and so be achievable.

    Read both posts. This post is NOT standalone.

    As regards

    “charities run by bleeding hearts (and I don’t say that with anything but kindness and gratitude”

    you are doubtless aware of the plague of woke non-(ha!)-profit manager types who today often gain management of such charities and ensure that the charity’s spending on nominal-purpose leaves enough left over for overheads and remuneration, irrelevant woke propaganda and disciplining or sacking the unwoke.

  • Stonyground

    While at the supermarket today there was a piece on the store radio asking us to contribute to the food bank box in the foyer. This caused me to think about food banks and the fact that we have a welfare system that costs a lot of money but clearly doesn’t work well enough for people not to need food banks. My thinking is that not taxing people into penury is probably a better way of dealing with food poverty.

  • Roué le Jour

    So Sherlock’s ‘street Arabs’ 21st century edition.

    The state rewards young women who get pregnant with accomodation and a welfare check. It is not surprising that when the baby becomes a demanding child or unruly teenager he or she is discarded like a Christmas puppy.

  • NickM

    Niall,

    It’s your neck of the woods. Not mine, thank Gods! Not yet, give it time…

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10706591/Womens-rights-activists-like-ANTI-SEMITES-says-Scottish-minister.html

    My flabber is truly gasted. I dunno where to start. OK, I’ll say one thing. In my 20s I had a Jewish girlfriend and she was definitely biologically female (she was also a feminist) but she was absolutely a woman. To quote one of the thicker lads from my school days (talking about his then gf), “She has like tits and everything“. OK, perhaps not the most Venusian definition of pulchritude but, as I said, he was no Josiah Willard Gibbs (or even his cannonical ensemble).

    Sorry, this is a ramble. But it is a ramble because, to paraphrase, Theoden, “What can men do against such reckless wank?”

  • Lee Moore

    from the few that warn us that parents aren’t always good

    True. Though it seems to me that if t’law was stricter on the question of whether parental abuse/neglect was sufficient to justify the government stepping in with its agents, the relevant officials would have more time to spare for those children who really do need the state’s help.

    The problem – OK, A problem – is that if the state tries to mother all children, it will mother no children, and will merely hector officiously instead.

  • NickM

    Roue,
    Gimme strength. It is not like that. Quite a few late teens manufacture reasons (with parental support) to get a council house. I have met them. This included one whose father collaberated with her claim he was sexually abusing her. It was totally untrue but it got her a very nice flat off the state. Note, I’m not saying off the tax-payer because it has gone well beyond that…

  • NickM

    Lee,
    I briefly considered going into teaching. The Gov were at the time offering rather good terms for maths/physics grads. I didn’t because the Gov had also redefined teaching as a kind of child-rearing. I’d be happy teaching algebra or thermodynamics but being a surrogate parent/best-mate/social-worker/whatever was not on my agenda. If I’d wanted to be a parent I would have had children.

  • John

    Coming back to the OP I wonder how old was Kevin?

    There are many aspects to consider above and beyond the “abuse or neglect” distinction but this basic fact might provide a starting point.

    Granny’s grudging agreement that her own flesh and blood could stay the weekend but emphatically not come back suggests something more serious than him simply not being the kind of kid one instantly warmed to. (There is of course a fair chance that this is a selfish and callous family, character defects passed down for at least one generation. Is it significant that while granny was contacted no mention was made of grandad).

    In an admittedly extreme scenario Kevin could have been a strapping 12 or 13 year-old with well-developed anti-social tendencies sufficient to give granny good reason for not wanting him under her roof.

  • Granny’s grudging agreement that her own flesh and blood could stay the weekend but emphatically not come back suggests something more serious than him simply not being the kind of kid one instantly warmed to.

    Not necessarily. Given the relative meanness of UK state pensions, she might reasonably have felt that, regardless of Kevin being kith-and-kin, she couldn’t afford to put a roof over his head and feared being stuck with him without additional support.

    The wealthy “boomer grandma’s” of today are a very modern feature, mostly caused by the explosion in values of relatively meagre homes.

  • bobby b

    When you do the contract-basis public defender route as a way to help your new practice pay the bills, you also get a certain percentage of juvenile court assignments. (Think, $300 for a case no matter how many times you have to go to court on it.)

    After several years of handling the more serious Kevins of the world, I decided that there is no one way, no one system, that will handle all of the kid problems (or the problem kids.)

    It’s simply a matter of, some kids luck into that concerned and capable advocate in the social system, some kids luck into that concerned and capable parent or guardian, and you never know which it’s going to be until the kid comes through.

    I had social services come through with flying colors, and I had them fail miserably. You just learned which workers’ phone numbers to keep close by.

    (By the time I saw those kids, it had already been sorted as to which group their parents belonged to. If the parents were great, I never – well, seldom – had cause to meet the kids.)

  • Granny’s grudging agreement that her own flesh and blood could stay the weekend but emphatically not come back suggests something more serious than him simply not being the kind of kid one instantly warmed to. (John, April 11, 2022 at 5:46 pm)

    Just for the record, I am not entirely sure that Kevin was in fact Granny’s flesh-and-blood. Granny and Kevin were clearly very largely strangers to each other. There were so many ‘step-‘s in the article I did not bother to spell out my (in any case uncertain) impression that Grandad (now deceased) sired Kevin’s mum with one woman but married another.

  • Dr. Caligari

    2 docts:
    1.) Is there a good article somewhere about what happened in Rotherham?

    2.) From a biological point of view, it is unfortunately to be expected that non-biological parents tend to care less than biological ones.