Pubdate: Mon, 01 Aug 2011
Source: Times, The (Malta)
Copyright: 2011 Allied Newspapers Limited


Mothers misusing substances are increasingly becoming a problem in
terms of child protection, according to Appogg; agency's
children services manager Ruth Sciberras.

"It is not only the mother who would be misusing substances that is of
concern but if the mother is carrying the child, it is going to have
an impact on the unborn," she pointed out.

This would mean that, once born, the baby too would suffer from
withdrawal symptoms and would have to be put on medication to cope. In
situations where an abusing pregnant mother is referred to the agency,
it would work with her and support her to receive the necessary
treatment from the appropriate agencies.

It is only in situations where the mother does not comply with such
treatment that Child Protection Services would need to actively
intervene, Ms Sciberras explained.

She pointed out that the child protection agency was focusing on
positive parenting. "We feel that it is not enough for parents to be
told not to abuse their children or criticise them but they need to,
at least, give some guidance because parenting is very complex," Ms
Sciberras said.

Contrary to common perception, most parents were cooperative because
they wanted the best for their children, she said. This was true even
in abusive relationships.

"Sometimes, we hear horrific stories and you'd think these parents are
monsters but you have to look at what these parents have gone
through," she said.

Most children wanted the abuse to stop not for the agency to remove
the parents or the children from the scenario, she said, which was why
it was important to work with the parents and try to understand why
the abuse was happening.

"My experience is that when you read what's happened to a child you
assume that you're going to meet something of a monster but when you
actually meet the parent you often find a very vulnerable human
being," James Blewett, from the Social Care Workforce Research Unit,
King's College London, said.

Most parents wanted the best for their children and when problems
arose it was mainly because they were overwhelmed with circumstances
and did not deliberately want to hurt their children, he continued.

Going back to the initial topic, drugs, it was important to assess the
pattern of use and the impact on the parent and the environment,
rather than the nature of the substance itself.

"So drugs which can be seen as quite mild, like cannabis, can
nevertheless have a major impact while somebody on a controlled drug
programme, like methadone, can be coping quite well with parenting,"
Mr Blewett exemplified.

Mr Blewett, who has been to Malta seven times, said that child
protection on the island was similar to the UK but, with Malta having
a smaller society, there was a stronger pro-family ethos than in some
parts of Britain.

"It is fascinating for somebody from the outside. What really strikes
me is how the closeness of the system encourages networking between
the different entities," he said. There was a passion about child
protection locally and, like every country, there were not enough
resources but, yet, the people in Malta made it stretch a long way, he
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