The social and economic costs of child abuse and neglect are difficult to calculate. Some costs are straightforward and directly related to maltreatment, such as hospital costs for medical treatment of injuries sustained as a result of physical abuse and foster care costs resulting from the removal of children when they cannot remain safely with their families. Other costs, less directly tied to the incidence of abuse, include lower academic achievement, adult criminality, and lifelong mental health problems. Both direct and indirect costs impact our society and economy.
A new law in the UK which will criminalize the “emotional abuse” of children could target parents who drink alcohol in front of their children as child abusers, giving the state an opportunity to snatch kids on the flimsiest of pretexts, with parents being punished with up to ten years in jail.
Under the new “Cinderella Law,” denying love to children could be characterized as a crime in the same league as physical or sexual abuse. The definition of such “abuse,” being solely in the hands of the state, opens up a pandora’s box of potential behaviors that could warrant government interference in family life.
Writing for the Independent, Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent, warns that virtually any behavior that could be perceived as harmful to children could be ensnared by the new law.
“Once the emotional behaviour of parents becomes a target for policing, every mother and father is at risk of being labeled an abuser,” writes Furedi, adding, “These days, parents who smoke or drink alcohol in front of children risk being characterised as child-abusers….Health activists denounce parents of overweight children for the same offence. Mothers and fathers who educate their children to embrace the family’s religion have been characterized as child abusers by anti-faith campaigners.”
The professor also draws attention to the ambiguous list of examples of child abuse defined by The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which include “making fun of” what a child says, which is an integral part of virtually every family’s life where parents and children trade jokes at each other’s expense.
The Cinderella Law is merely the latest example of the state extending its tentacles into family life in the UK, following the passage of the Children and Young People Bill in Scotland, which assigns every child in the country a “state minder” from birth.
Christian groups have complained that the law, which was passed in February, represents a contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights and are demanding a judicial review before the legislation is enacted.
Fat and obese children are routinely removed from families by social services in the United Kingdom, but not before they are placed under “Big Brother” surveillance with social workers moving in to homes to strictly police eating habits, impose curfews and monitor lifestyles.