Sunday, June 28, 2009

Breast Feeding while Drunk

All hail the the North Dakota officials who have prosecuted a new mother, 26-year-old Stacey Anvarinia, for breastfeeding while intoxicated. There is no social group more in need of protection than infants, and what are they to do when even the people who are meant to protect them the most fail in their responsibilty? Often we hear of quite absurd legal rulings eminating from the the good ol' US of A, but this one needs to be applauded.

I can't stand the way people neglect and abuse their children. A few months back I was interviewing Father Chris Riley, a Sydney priest who established the 'Youth off the Streets' program in Australia. He told me that we didn't treat our children very well, a comment that shocked me.

His comment did however, make me sensitive to the media reports of child neglect, and with credit to Fr Riley, I now think he's correct. Just this week in Australia, a man and woman have been found guilty of starving their autistic daughter to death.

Could this be any more disgraceful?

The seven-year-old girl died in November 2007 at her home in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, weighing just nine kilograms. Officially, she died of malnutrition and dehydration resulting from starvation. Worse still, the trial heard the girl was so thin that she looked "mummified" to paramedics.

Both parents had pleaded not guilty to murdering the child but several doctors testified the girl suffered the most severe case of malnutrition they had ever seen, with one expert saying the child's head resembled a skull wrapped in skin.

This is just beyond belief. Is it case of mental illness? Poor social skills? And what of the local community? What were the neighbours doing? Didn't anybody notice? And it wasn't as though these parents didn't know about having children. The couple's three (yes...three!) other daughters have now been taken into care by the state. Bravo! But perhaps too late.

Not only did the parents fail in their care of this poor child, but so did the community, and so did the state.

Can this be fixed?

Sure it can. It takes a village to raise a child, and we all need to be aware of the circumstances around us. In the same way that we ensure our personal safety on a daily basis, we also have to mindful of those around us, especially the most vunerable, being the children who (unfortunately it seems) only have the grown-ups to trust.