April 25, 2014

Importance of establishing secure attachment relationships during infancy in order to optimise brain development

Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill

I am a mother to Jacqui, who turns 5 in December, Sasha who has just turned three, and Eliza who is 9 months old. I am very lucky to be a full time, stay at home mum, with plenty of support from a loving husband and close family, but with this privilege comes the temporary financial need to rely on Working for Families and my husband, who works full time. It is not easy to rely on others for support but as a mother, I only want what is best for my children. We made the decision that I would stay at home with the children and accept the government’s financial help so that we could concentrate on raising well adjusted, passionate children who will someday be able to positively contribute to our community and country.

Raising children is not an easy path and I stand in awe and admiration of those who raise their children solo. While the changes proposed in this Bill will not affect me, personally, in the immediate future, I felt compelled to speak up for those who are solo parents on the benefit and express my strong opposition to some of the changes proposed by the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill.

My concerns extend to the educational obligations as well as the sanctions recommended in this Bill.

In terms of the recommended educational sanctions, making 3 to 6 year olds attend an Early Childhood Education (ECE) centre or school breaches the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 26 as well as the Human Rights Act 1993 Part 4 Chapter 15 which states, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”. If a parent, no matter if they are a solo parent or a parent with a partner, chooses to educate their children at home, then that is their right by national and international law!
Forcing a parent to place a child into an ECE centre will put them into a position where they will have to forgo their right to educate and care for their child in a manner they deem best for their child. They will have to place their child into the care of a complete stranger at a centre they may not feel comfortable with because this bill, if enacted, forced them to decide that providing food, clothing and shelter for their child was more important than raising their child to the best of their ability.
We do not have the right to breach this basic human right by deciding who can and cannot choose how to educate their children!
The recommended education obligations also breach our right to “ensure the religious and moral education of [our] children conforms [to our] own convictions.” (Human Rights Act 1993 Part 4 Chapter 15).
No parent should have to choose between putting their pre-schooler into a stranger’s care and spending those few, precious years personally laying the foundations to raise a well-adjusted, committed member of society. By law, no one should have to make this decision!

ECE attendance rates are already high which indicates that many families, like ourselves, have made a carefully considered, principled decision whether or not to send their children to an approved ECE provider. I believe that we, as their parents, are the best qualified to teach our children about themselves and our ethics, culture, religion and morals. There is plenty of research out their which highlights the importance of establishing secure attachment relationships during infancy in order to optimise brain development. Sending a three to five year old, who is not ready to leave their primary care giver, to a stranger can have a detrimental effect, not only on their trust, but also on their brain development. Reference :(Karen R (1998). Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press)
(Fox NA, Hane AA (2008). “Studying the Biology of Human Attachment”. In Cassidy J, Shaver PR. Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research and Clinical Applications. New York and London: Guilford Press)

The health obligations recommended by this amendment are clearly aimed at protecting our children and I whole heartedly approve of this amendment. There are many who would argue that this amendment will provide health care providers with more opportunities to pressure parents into immunising their children. The decision to immunise a child is not made lightly. Any parent who has or has not deliberately chosen to immunise their child has obviously carefully considered their decision and should therefore be able to stand their ground when this decision is questioned. ‘Pressure from health professionals’ to immunise children is not a reasonable excuse to scrap this amendment when you consider the number of sick or abused children that could be saved simply because they took their child to their Well Child Check. This obligation does not take away our right to make an informed choice and if this obligation saves even one child, then it is worth implementing.

In terms of the sanctions recommended by this amendment, my concern surrounds the sanction to impose “individual and on-going case management support”. If a parent makes a conscientious and principled decision not to abide by any of the proposed educational or health obligations, they open themselves to a financial penalty as well as interference from already overworked social workers. The possibility, or even just the thought, of having their children taken from them strikes fear in any reasonable parent’s heart. Threatening parents this way will only dissuade them from seeking financial help from the government which will ultimately have a negative effect on the parents as well as the children this bill claims it is trying to protect. We should be encouraging parents to ask for help if they need it!

In summary, I understand the Government’s concern about wise use of tax payers’ money and helping people to get off the benefit, but I do not think that this is the way to do it. Being a parent is the most important thing we will ever have to do. We need to protect our right to choose how we educate our children because we know our children best, and we know how to best educate them. Don’t punish solo parents because they have chosen to educate their pre-schooler at home, with their morals, values, ethics and religion and not those of a corporation or strangers.
I would recommend we encourage at least one parent to stay at home with their pre-schooler so that they can create, develop and foster trusting and open relationships and raise a generation of children that can positively influence and improve our world.
I commend the health obligations recommended by this amendment. It takes strength and conviction to make any decision involving raising children, therefore as parents we should be able to stand up and defend our decisions when any pressure is placed on us. Being pressured to reverse your decision should not be an excuse to let more children slip through the cracks of our health care system. The health obligations recommended in this amendment will ensure our children remain safe and healthy.
I also commend the drug testing obligation and the ‘beneficiaries with warrants to arrest’ obligation.