In sp!ked, Tim Black takes issue with the blithe paternalistic comment by a British government minister that children should be more frequently removed from their homes and put into “care”:
Still, it is a dubious testament to Gove’s eloquence that he gave a striking expression to the state’s usurpation of the role traditionally played by adult family members. As he put it, ‘the rights of biological parents’ have for too long been treated as precious. It is time, Gove is saying, for these filial bonds, which have been central to society for centuries, to be demystified, disenchanted. After all, what is a mother or a father, or a daughter or a son, other than an arbitrary accident of nature? The words signify nothing more valuable than a set of random ‘biological’ outcomes. To privilege certain adult-child relationships on the basis of biology is to succumb to the allure of tradition, and to condemn many children to a lifetime of misery. ‘In all too many cases when we decide to leave children in need with their biological parents’, Gove concluded, ‘we are leaving them to endure a life of soiled nappies and scummy baths, chaos and hunger, hopelessness and despair’.
With the family blithely dismantled, and the roles of father and mother treated as little more than semiotic jetsam, Gove was able to propose his alternative to biology: the artifice of the state. ‘I firmly believe more children should be taken into care more quickly and that too many children are allowed to stay too long with parents whose behaviour is unacceptable. I want social workers to be more assertive with dysfunctional parents, courts to be less indulgent of poor parents, and the care system to expand to deal with the consequences.’
Gove’s is a frightening vision. As the meaning and value of being mum or dad is actively reduced by politicians to mere biological facts — in short, as tradition is wilfully disenchanted — so it becomes easier for the state, through its various agents, to assume the role of guardian. The result, complete with empowered or ‘more assertive’ social workers, and their correlative, impotent and less assertive parents, is a society with ever increasing numbers of children placed into Britain’s far from distinguished care system.
Quite why this scenario is considered progressive is not entirely clear. Living with a mum or a dad deemed ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ by a social worker would surely, in many cases, be far better for a child than surviving, parentless, even in a vastly improved care system. Besides, while Gove might not care to acknowledge it, the bond between parents and their children is not merely biological; it is possessed of considerable human and social value, too. Parents do not simply love their children; they help to socialise them, and act as a source of authority. To seek to erode this bond even further than it has been is deeply reckless.