There is of course a fine line between making someone a scapegoat and making that person accept professional responsibility for his or her shortcomings. The decision by the public prosecution department to charge a senior social worker with involuntary manslaughter following the death of a three-year old child in her care (see Friday’s DutchNews.nl) falls into the latter category.
And although the angry reactions from social service professionals are to some extent understandable, they are misplaced.
This is not ‘something that could happen to any one of us’ as one of them said. It cannot even be compared to a momentary lack of concentration by a surgeon which leads to the death of a patient or any other human error.
The official investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of Savanna indicates that the social worker concerned repeatedly failed to act on reports that the three-year-old girl was being mistreated. Savanna died in 2004 after being systematically beaten and starved throughout her short life by her mother and stepfather. She weighed just 10 kilos when she died. This is not something that can happen to anyone.
This is something that must not happen to a child. The public prosecution department’s decision to prosecute is a commendable move. It sends out a signal that ‘the system’ does care about what happens to children in this country.
It acknowledges that not only parents, but society as a whole has a responsibility to protect children.