Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Child Protection and Home Education

To return to this knotty one, (which I think we should be prepared to answer, even if we don't have to, iyswim...)

From reports such as this one from Unicef, it is clear that a child is indeed far more likely to be abused in pre-school years. Something in the order of 88% of child abuse occurs before a child is 5 years old. The reasons for this that are given in the reports, are NOT that the child is not regularly surveilled as they would be in school, or that schools offer respite to parents, but that the various demands upon parents are greatest at the infancy stage because of the nature of infancy itself and the newness of the situation for the parent.

I would argue that this is so, not only because these are the reasons that is cited in these reports, but also because of the oft-repeated reports of the experiences of those parents who have both HEd and schooled their children, from which we gather that sending a child to school is not actually any less stressful than HEing a child, since there are almost universally issues to do with helping a child to deal with the complex problems that school attendance presents, even for the most school adjusted child. HE can be comparatively a very relaxed way of life...you don't have to get up or go to bed at prescribed times, for example, you don't have to attend meetings that don't suit your needs etc etc...

In which case, we would argue that school attendance is NOT the reason for the sudden lessening of in the rate of abuse of children when they reach the age of 5. The reason why 5 year olds plus are less likely to be abused is because of the maturation of the child and the lessening of stresses of infancy upon the parents.

The argument therefore that HEors should be targetted because their children are not in school, and are therefore at high risk of abuse, does not pan out. Instead, if the government is really serious about tackling abuse, it should be concentrating upon the under 6s:

In this age group, studies such as this one (from Australia but still relevant in principle, I think,)
suggest that the way to approach the problem of detection and prevention of child abuse is to enact primary, secondary and tertiary levels of intervention.

The primary level of detection involves the offering of health service screens by health professionals.

Secondary and tertiary interventions involve referrals to other agencies, regular screening visits and much more intervention in parent education and other forms of support.

The question that pertains to the situation of HEors, given that the rate of abuse in the age of our children is so significantly lower, and that there are good reasons to believe that these rates are as low, if not lower in the HE community given that many if not most HE families find their lives relatively unstressful, what level of intervention should the HE community accept?

Presumably, in the situation of a primary screen, we could only reasonably be required to accept the same level of intervention that is asked of the group with an apparently much higher risk of abuse.

At this stage in time, this would involve accepting offers of health checks in any environment of the parent's choice and at a time of their choosing.

The questions then are:

1. Would this be an effective way to detect abuse in this age group of

2. Would the home educating community accept this offer?

Answers very welcome!!


Pete said...

I think from a legislative standpoint, the main questions are:

1) Is the commensurate infringement of personal freedom proportional to the prevention of harm that the new course would provide?

2) Is the cost of additonal training, staff and legal costs proportional to the prevention of harm?

That's before we start bringing EHE into the picture.

From personal experience, the present system of post natal health visitor support has been woeful; inadequately trained, prejudiced and repeatedly ultra-vires in their assessments. Any expansion of this sytem would have to be accompanied by a rigorous training and certification regime for any and all health practitioners involved.

There is further ranting to be done, but I'll be doing that over on my LJ: pete_darby.livejournal.com

Carlotta said...

Thank you for saying the above, Pete. Words out of mouth sensation here...am off to check out your rant.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that the argument that 'parenting is less stressful after the child is 5 so there is less abuse after that age' can genuinely be the main factor to account for the lowering of abuse at this age.

Whilst I don't believe that school has to be obligatory to prevent abuse either, I think that in England given the peculiar relationship of, perhaps, most adults to children, this element of school watchfulness might be more significant than should generally be the case.

It is possible, for argument's sake, that parents abuse their pre-school aged children more because they can, because the child has no one to turn to, is unable to express itself and is easy to dominate. Older children are harder to dominate - but not, for many parents, easier necessarily. People in England are extremely concerned (sorry for the generalisation but this could indeed be an English, or rather British, trait) about what others think. School might, in the absence of the good supportive community at large, actually purely accidentally act as a deterrent for the average parent. What will little Peter say to teacher? Oh, I better control myself...Bullying is SUCH an endemic part of British society...

Also, following the lesson of the happy children and the attitude of the society in which they live, it seems evident that a children's genuinely autonomy respecting, loving and guiding society just isn't here in Britain.

School is, perhaps, for many the best of a bad lot.

However, I do think that the home ed society betters the school big brother deterrent enormously. There *IS* an exceptionally loving, guiding, but largely autonomy respecting lot out there looking out for each other.

ps I would agree with Peter that to go down the line of big brother style trained 'experts' judging and condemning would be unweildy and probably unsuccessful, and would end up, imo, as another very sub-optimal deterrent.