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Can Social Services Deny You From Having a Family?

When Social Services Interfere in People's LivesNot Bright Enough to Marry?

For 17-year old Kerry Robertson, what stands in her way to marriage and motherhood is her learning disabilities. Social workers already canceled her wedding to her 25-year old fiance Mark McDougall 2 days before the church ceremony. The Fife Council where Robertson lives feels that her learning disabilities render her incapable of understanding the institution of matrimony. Under such circumstances, according to Scottish Law, authorities have the right to refuse sanctioning a marriage. Her age is not a factor here because the minimum legal age for getting married is the UK is 16. Although some places require written consent from guardians of those under 18, this is not the case in Scotland where Robertson lives. Besides, Robertson’s guardian is her grandmother who doesn’t oppose the nuptials.

Not Bright Enough to be a Mother?

Robertson’s lack of mental capacity to comprehend marriage also extends to her understanding of motherhood, the authorities say. She won’t therefore be allowed to keep her baby boy after her delivery in January next year as she lacks the mental capacity to take of the baby. What about the father of the child? He, too, is not deemed eligible to keep the baby boy because he’s not legally married to Robertson in the first place.

Social Legislation Gone Awry?

To be fair, social legislations are in place to protect those who need protection. But how far should the authorities meddle in people’s affairs on the grounds of benevolence and protection?

In halting the marriage, the social services feel they are protecting Robertson from getting into something that she might do her more harm than good, something she might regret later. Well, tell that to millions of people who entered matrimony and got out again, many via messy divorces.

In taking away the baby from his mother, the social services feel they are protecting the baby. The baby will be placed in an institution and put up for adoption. Would the social institution prove to be a better alternative to a mother who wants and loves him?

What’s Social Services Have to Say?

The authorities say they cannot divulge all the details that made them reach their decisions for confidentiality reasons. However, according to a spokesperson, they try to “balance risk and welfare while supporting people at times of personal or family need.” Platitude or genuine concern?

What the Couple Has to Say

According to Robertson and her fiance, Robertson’s learning disabilities are “mild”. She can read and write and she is “loving and caring” and “enjoys being pregnant. They already named the unborn baby boy Ben.

Social Services Mean Well But…

We may never know everything about this affair or hear what the full truth from both sides. But we know for sure that this isn’t the first time nor last time that social services or child protection authorities interfere with people’s lives for the “right” reasons. In most cases they succeed. Think about how many children are rescued from their abusive parents each year. But in some cases they fail.

Take the following cases:

  • A teenager who committed sexual offenses was placed by social services in a foster family in Wales who wasn’t informed of his personal history. He sexually abused the family’s two young children. In protecting the teenage boy, social services failed to protect the foster family.
  • In the US, a 5-year old girl and her younger sister were taken away from their birth mother and placed in a foster family. The 5-year old was found dead in the foster family’s cellar. She was restrained in a high chair with duct tape and died of asphyxiation. The foster mother was a respected case worker at Maine Department of Human Services.
  • More painful is the plight of Australia’s stolen generation wherein aborigine children were taken away from their parents to be raised in a “civilized” way.

Do you think social services have the right to stop Robertson’s marriage?

To take away the baby from parents who want him?

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