A report of a mother's sentencing this week has been haunting me. The first thing to note is that the woman, a recent immigrant from Fiji, aged 29, had suffered long-term domestic violence. In other words, her husband regularly beat her up. She was also suffering from a "major depressive episode" and was not copng with her youngest child, a toddler, so Child Youth and Family removed him and his older sister. However, they then put him back with her. They later admitted that this was a mistake, due to the case being handled by "an inexperienced social worker and an overloaded supervisor" and failure to complete "final checks".
After the child had been home for two days, his mother left him alone in a deep bath and he drowned. The judge accepted that "she had no intention of killing her son". But this week she was sentenced to two years and ten months in prison. Her five-year-old daughter, who had been sexually assaulted by a 13-year-old boy while she was in CYF care, was being looked after by her father. (It was not clear whether this was the same man who had inflicted the "domestic violence", or a different man.)
I can't see that sending this woman to prison for two years and ten months was the right and just thing to do. She should obviously have been getting help, not simply so she could cope as a parent, but for her own sake. But the only solution was to remove the children - which I would have thought wasn't calculated to make her feel any better about herself. Nor was it safe to leave them with her on her own - as the little boy's death so tragically proved. I do understand how difficult it must be for CYF to cope with such cases, but somehow it seems that it was no one's job to look after her, and everything else stemmed from that.