As it is becoming more apparent that society needs to provide more support and have a better understanding of an individual’s mental wellbeing, it seems the legal system has some catching up to do!
Most notably in care proceedings, a frequent concern raised by local authorities is the parents’ mental health and how this is impacting upon the children involved. Whilst children’s needs are paramount, questions arise as to whether the parents had sufficient support in the first place – enough to prevent drastic intervention from
One particular case that stands out was a mother who openly stated she was struggling with her mental health and pleaded for help and assistance to get herself back on track. Unfortunately, the response was for her to either continue as she was, or for the children to be removed from her care. This is obviously an outrageous suggestion. Whilst it must also be considered that local authorities are limited in funding, and are overworked, this does not excuse the fact that parents who desperately seek help, are often met with unsympathetic responses, or even ignored.
This mother was given Hobson’s Choice. Does she sacrifice her mental health to ensure the children remain in her care; or does she take the chance to focus on herself, at the expense of losing her children? This kind of decision is not made with a light heart.
Very often, due to the timescales involved in care proceedings, parents do not have sufficient time to begin therapy and make substantial progress to ensure the children are returned home. In a vast number of cases, parents are told, the waiting list for therapy is too long and the children cannot be left in limbo whilst the parent undertakes work; or, alternatively, there is too much trauma, requiring a significant amount of work before the child can be returned to their care.
There is a recurring theme that parents are almost punished for having mental health issues and once deemed as not being able to care for a child at that time, it seems social services almost write them off. It is very clear that the care system is full to the brim with children who need placements, and, therefore, it would not only be morally acceptable, but also logical to give parents with mental health issues the help and support that they desperately need. An individual does not choose to have mental health issues, and yet it seems the system blames people who do.
If charities, local services and authorities could work together, along with the legal system, to give more help to parents with mental health problems, maybe we could save many more children from being torn away from their family.
The lessons we teach our children to speak up and seek help is almost blind-sided by the fact that at times there is no real or consistent help available. How can we help parents with mental health issues, when they are being set up to fail in this way?