Secret social worker: unsafe parents

Lila Halliday on what unsafe parents are really like

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In recent weeks the story of Lexi Draper and Scarlett Vaughan, just three years and 17 months old respectively, emerged. They were killed by their mother, Louise Porton, less than three weeks apart. Reports said she had no diagnosed mental illness that could have led to such behaviour and showed little remorse. The prosecution’s cited motive was that the two little girls were getting in the way of Porton’s love life.

While reading through the comments section of the various articles reporting on this tragic tale, I read calls for the death penalty and all manner of horrors to be inflicted on this woman while accommodated at her majesty’s pleasure. A few comments particularly caught my eye, including “this is an all too familiar story”. Is it? This woman murdered her child in a planned and calculated way, waited just over two weeks and did the same to her other child and reportedly does not show remorse. I would say that is a very unfamiliar story.

I have worked with hundreds of parents, many of whom have been unsafe – people who have broken their children’s bones, shaken them in a rage, people who have fatally injured their children – and one thing most of them have in common is that they are deeply, palpably sorry. And not just for themselves but for their children, for their family and for their loss.

It is a rare day when you encounter a parent who doesn’t love their child. The parents we work with – from the parents who just need a little bit of support to get them on their way to the parents who have had their children removed – are parents like everyone else. They’ve just faced far more obstacles than most. There are so many mothers and fathers I have met who need parenting themselves and so don’t stand a chance when all they know is poor care and adversity and have never managed to break the cycle.  There are parents who are doing a far better job than their parents did with them and it still isn’t good enough and they just don’t understand why not, because why would they? You’re not born knowing how to raise a tiny human – you learn from your parents and your family. You’re not even born knowing how to be a human. You have to learn that too. If your teachers can’t do it for themselves then everything is going to be harder and in some cases impossible.

Of course there are people who have had horrendous upbringings and go on to be successful people and good parents but usually they’ve had some other person in their lives to guide them. All people need that and if you or I hadn’t then we may have find ourselves sat in a courtroom fighting for our children.

Lexi and Scarlett’s story isn’t as rare as it should be. Many children lose their lives every year due to the actions of their parents and whatever the parents’ issues are, it is inexcusable and truly tragic. Louise, however, is not the parent you usually meet in these situations. From what has been reported, her actions and her motives are unfathomable and horrific. There aren’t innumerable people walking around who could do this to their worst enemy, let alone their own children. Unfortunately for these two lovely little girls, this very rare individual was their mother.

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