Letter: Cures for abuse

Sir: As a social worker till 1980 I had a wide experience of childcare, abuse in families, and of the care offered in children's' homes.

The voluntary sector, including those run by religious brothers and sisters, were no better than those run by local authorities ("Take children's homes away from councils, says Hague", 16 December). I have been distressed by the facts now coming to light of physical and sexual abuse in these homes where I placed children.

I have come to the conclusion that we are still putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Children prefer their own home and parents to any substitute offered by social services, or foster parents. Placing children in care is simply a remedy for inadequate care, but it does not tackle the causes.

Have we really made any efforts to support and educate willing but immature parents? Do we acknowledge and seek to remedy violence in the home (One in five women is abused by her partner)? Are we aware that violence often erupts as a consequence of alcoholism? Drug addiction is another factor that impoverishes parents, and causes them to be less than caring for their children. More women and children die behind their own front doors than are killed on our streets.

As with physical illness, it is necessary to work on causes rather than offer palliative treatment for poor childcare. So think again, William.