Parents v Politics – the ongoing debate

Rotherham, South Yorkshire, November 2012. Three young Slovakian children have been removed from their foster home by social services under the belief that their foster carers are supporters of the British political group UKIP. This is not the first time these children have been uprooted; they were also removed from their birth parents home and separated from their other three siblings. At what cost does a child’s happiness have to be sacrificed in the society we live in today?

The children were moved from their original home and from their Slovakian birth parents amidst claims that the father had sexually assaulted one of the young daughters and held a knife to his wife’s head whilst she was holding their baby. Although the couple deny these allegations, the trauma it caused the three young children is enough to impact them for life. Their home was raided by 20 police officers and Social Services whisked them away and re-homed them with temporary foster parents who are supporters of the United Kingdom Independence Party; a party who are linked with opposing Eastern European Immigration and whose slogan is “vote for your country, vote UKIP”. When the Labour council in Rotheram made this discovery they opted to promptly remove the children from their home.

There have been various claims over why the children were removed from their foster home. Firstly because of the foster parents support of UKIP, which Rotheram Labour Council claimed, made them unable to fulfil the children’s “cultural and ethnic needs”. Secondly the Social Services felt that the children should be placed with Foster parents who spoke the same Eastern European language, thirdly, their time at that particular Foster Home was coming to an end because the placement was supposed to be temporary and finally because their were safety concerns that the birth parents may find out where their children were.

When I spoke to Colin Hingston, a member of the Southampton UKIP branch he clarified that “there is absolutely nothing in our policies or manifesto that would make a couple who support UKIP ‘unfit’ to raise children.” “When I first heard the news of the removal of the children, my reaction was shocked disbelief, which turned to anger.” When I questioned Colin on his party’s policies and links to “racist attitudes” he held that “if it is ‘racist’ to be deeply uncomfortable about completely-uncontrolled immigration from Eastern Europe, that that words meaning has become seriously corrupted.”

UKIP are honest about their policies on immigration with a pledge to “end open-door immigration which let in 3 million people in 13 years” with plans to “end benefits in cash or in kind to anyone who is not a British Citizen.” Colin claims that “people are out to smear UKIP, especially the more support it gets and the more its policies resonate with popular opinion.” With nearly 1 million votes at the last election it’s easy to see some underlying issues in the story and perhaps why these children may have been used as a “political gain” ahead of the local by-election.

Colin obviously feels appalled about the situation in Rotherham, “the behaviour of Rotherham Council’s Social Services Department has been a wake-up call to many about the pernicious growth of perceived Orwellian ‘thought-crime’ and political incorrectness.” As touched on earlier, the situation has raised issues surrounding the local by-election that came on the following Thursday as claims have been put forward that UKIP set the situation up so that people would give them the sympathy vote. This claim was dismissed by Mr Hingston because “if the incident in Rotherham has been “exploited” by UKIP, then the council has only its own stupidity to blame” adding that “the Europhiles had decided to politicise child-care, imagining an opportunity to attack UKIP which blew up in their face.” Colin believes that “the righteous pontifications of that senior-social-worker woman were chilling to behold.”

Jake** grew up in foster care from the ages of 9-18 and was uprooted four times before settling with a permanent foster couple at the age of 13 where he stayed for the next five years. He believes that this made him “detached” and never felt like he could integrate into his foster families.  Jake came to feel “mistreated and emotionally neglected” which included having to watch the other foster children of the same age “be openly spoilt” in front of him whilst he had to go to bed at an earlier time than them. Even at a young age Jake recognised that “it quickly became evident that this particular family was only interested in making money from the social services” with no regard to the child’s feelings. It wasn’t until he finally settled into his final foster home with a lesbian couple as his foster parents that he truly felt like a “real person” who “was treated like an equal.”

When he was in his final foster home he believes that the couple taught him lessons that “set him up for life” including “manners, understanding, fairness, passion and how to be a good person.” The couple “took the time to learn who I am as a person and invested love and energy into moulding me to be the best person I can be” for which he is eternally grateful.

Jake expressed strong views on parents and politics by saying that “as a country that prides itself on freedom of speech and the right to believe in a religion or follow a political party I feel it should be viewed as completely unjustified to ruin a child’s stability which needs to be treated as careful and special in such an environment that is a foster home.”

Although Jake’s parents had different political views, one parent supported the Labour Party and one supported the Liberal Democrats both are left leaning, or in muddled political terms today, slight left of the centre line. As a teenager Jake asked questions about politics to his parents but was never “preached upon or pressured into having any political stance.” He took an active interest in our country and researched himself which party he believed would run our Country the best and when he came to vote for the first time in the June 2007 election he chose Gordon Brown and the labour party. Jake said that he plans on having children in the future and is certain that like him, they too will ask questions about politics and he will engage in “normal and healthy banter and discussion on politics” with them however will not dictate to his children which party to vote for. He added that he “would encourage them to take an interest in what is happening in our country and how it works” but give them the “freedom to choose themselves” as he knows the importance of finding your own voice and being encouraged to use it.

Obviously Jake’s case when he was growing up isn’t the only one like this. Fostering is a sensitive subject and Sarah Bogle, councillor for children’s services in Southampton, believes that fostering is “very important as there is a significant amount of children who need that alternative support or family of their own” and these three children in Rotherham are clear examples of the kind of children Sarah is talking about. Sarah believes that Social Services “first duty is to protect children from harm.”

Since it’s clear that the children were not at risk in this particular foster home as the foster parents had brought them Christmas presents and “encouraged the east-European children in their home to speak their own language” and, as Colin added, “learnt to speak some of this themselves” how necessary was it to up-root them if they felt nurtured and cared for? Perhaps the problem isn’t current; perhaps there were fears for what the future held for three children from Slovakia living in a home with parents who support policies that oppose immigration but if people act on what they believe might happen in the future, nothing is ever going to be secure.

** Name change for personal reasons.
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