On the way back through Paddington at the end of a day in the High Court yesterday I was not astonished to see a rather distasteful piece fronting up the Evening Standard. From reading the information emblazoned across the front page one might reasonably have formed the view that Ms Shoesmith, formerly of Haringey had personally and forcibly snatched a child from its foster carer for the simple reason that she was not of the same ethnic background as the child, and then placed him with abusive adoptive parents for no other reason than their ethnic background and without proper regard to their suitability as parents. In fact, if one read on through the whole article it became apparent that the plan for adoption had been aired over the course of a 7 day hearing and had judicial approval. The decision to remove therefore was the Judge’s decision and not Ms Shoesmith’s. The Judge would also very probably have sanctioned the Local Authority’s choice of adoptive parent.
Although it is plain that if the article is accurate there may be some real questions about the manner of removal by Haringey and probably about the effectiveness of the vetting process for the adoptive parents, the stringing together of all the various issues raised in the headline for this piece as if they were somehow directly causally related to one another and that they were directly carried out or sanctioned by Ms Shoesmith was potentially misleading and sloppy.
Whatever Haringey, and Ms Shoesmith in particular, may have to answer for – this article was media frenzy at it’s worst. Failures in the care system ought to be reported but they must be reported objectively and sensitively and without being driven by the desire to scapegoat and ratchet-up already highly charged issues for the sake of a headline. I’d like to know what caused things to go wrong in the case concerned, but this article did not help me form a sensible view about it.