Debate needed

07:10 26 January 2013

In his thought-provoking letter (January 17), Pastor Lee Emerson makes a number of interesting points.

One area he addresses is parenting ability.

I would like to offer some thoughts based on 30 years of professional child welfare experience.

For 14 years, I worked as assistant director in Scotland with Barnardos, a major children’s charity with a Christian tradition.

One of my responsibilities was to make the agency decisions about who would make a suitable adopter or foster parent, and which child to match with them.

The children to be placed were often the literally hundreds of youngsters that local authorities themselves had found too difficult to place.

Barnardos was able to recruit some quite remarkable carers.

Against the odds, they gave very needy children a positive and successful parenting experience.

We recruited people of different faiths and people of no faith.

We recruited families with experience of children and families without previous experience.

We recruited single carers. We had carers who were heterosexual and we had gay carers.

The point was not which of the above pigeonholes these successful carers fell into.

Rather, it was about whether they had parenting ability.

It is quite wrong to conclude that gay people are intrinsically inferior parents.

Mr Emerson does ask a perfectly legitimate general question about whether some children are short-changed by parents who selfishly put their own needs ahead of those of their children.

Undoubtedly some do and undoubtedly some would like to be better parents, but don’t know how.

A full public debate about what constitutes “good enough parenting” is long overdue.

That debate also needs to include two key questions: first, how we enable people to acquire an acceptable level of parenting skills, and how they are supported in this hugely important task; and secondly, what should we do if parenting is still not “good enough”.

Alan Swift

Via email

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