This morning's Dom Post reports that CYF are taking growing numbers of newborn babies from their mothers, through fear for the babies' safety. High profile child abuse cases are leading greater numbers of the public to raise the alarm about kids they think are at risk of mistreatment.
When this happens, I feel desperately sad for everyone involved. The safety of children has to be paramount; but I can't imagine there are many mothers who don't feel distressed by having their babies taken from them. I remember only too well the first few weeks of my first child's life - the stress, sleeplessness, and feeling that I was on the verge of losing my mind - and feel sympathy for other mums who aren't coping. If you don't have good support during that time, it can be terribly hard.
Some years ago, I went to a lecture about the treatment of Maori families by the state. Through much of last century, Maori children were removed from their homes and placed in state care at a vastly greater rate than kids of other ethnicities. Underlying this policy was the widespread racist assumption that Maori simply can't be trusted to raise children properly. Sometimes, the state gets things horribly, horribly wrong. The deaths of children in CYFS care suggests this problem hasn't gone away.
What to do, then? The state may be an imperfect beast, but when it comes to the welfare of children, I think we need to err on the side of caution. I don't like to think of myself as someone who hides suspiciously behind her curtains, making judgements about those 'other' people out there and their terrible parenting. Still, if I thought a child near me was at risk of being harmed, I don't think I'd hesitate to pick up the phone and dob in my neighbour.