Melanie McDonagh

Social workers have become the new moral arbiters

Social workers have become the new moral arbiters
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You’d never think the country’s short of foster parents, would you, though we’re 9,000-odd short at the last count.  I wouldn’t qualify myself, even if I were solvent. Because if you open your trap in the presence of a social worker to say that a child is best off with a father and a mother, viz, probably the view of most actual parents, you can kiss goodbye to your chances of looking after a child unless it’s one you have given birth to.

I refer, obviously, to the case of the Catholic couple who’ve been told they can’t adopt a couple of children they’ve been fostering since the start of the year – warm and loving is how they were described - because when they were told that a gay couple was looking to adopt the children, their reaction was along the lines of – you are joking, aren’t you?

Bad mistake. When they then formally applied to adopt the children themselves - they’d said several times before that they were interested in doing so – they were told they couldn’t; that their views about gay parenting were 'concerning'.

The couple have appealed against the council’s decision. As they say, they have 'not expressed homophobic views, unless Christian beliefs are, by definition, homophobic.' They go on: 'we are Christians and we expressed the view that a child needs a mother and a father. We expressed our views in modest, temperate terms based on our Christian convictions. We love everyone (regardless of sexual orientation …The children love us; we love them. All the reports show that we are a loving, caring and stable family. What more could a child need?'

Well, it turns out that what children need is not just a mother and father who love them; what they need is parental care plus the provision of views on homosexuality compatible with those of the council’s social services department.

We’ve been here before, obviously; the last foster couple seen off because of unsound Christian views on homosexuality (not, I should say, hostility to gay people) had their appeal thrown out in court. We’re not talking here about  homophobes who’d give a child a hard time if he came out as gay; we’re talking about principled individuals with views that were utterly uncontentious until about fifteen minutes ago.

We’ve been here before in another respect. Harriet Harman’s Equality Act made clear that the provision of goods and services must be offered impartially to all comers  – an uncontentious measure, you might think – but it turned out that adoption was included in service provision, like say, hairdressing or, ahem, cake decorating. The upshot was that really good Catholic adoption services, who gave explicit preference to married heterosexual couples were found to be in breach of the Act and had to close, something that David Cameron was happy to go along with. It wasn’t even that they never placed children with gay parents; they simply put married heterosexual couples at the front of the queue. They’re out of the game now…thank you for that, Harriet. And the losers are children.

Now I do realise that in contemporary Britain we already have children being reared in all sorts of families, many of them perfectly happily. Single parent families are pretty well normative all over the country; in some areas, resident fathers are conspicuously absent.

But if we’re talking about optimal outcomes for damaged children – and these were the offspring of a drug-addict mother - then I think we are entitled to make value judgments and I’d say myself that a loving, stable, married mother and father are exactly what these children need.

There’s another aspect of the thing we should perhaps ponder. If people are being barred from adopting children because of unsound views on homosexuality, what exactly is there to stop the state from removing children from natural, biological parents who share precisely those views? They’ve come for the foster-parents; how long before they come for the rest of us?

Written byMelanie McDonagh

Melanie McDonagh is a leaderwriter for the Evening Standard and Spectator contributor. Irish, living in London.

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