MON 07/09/2009 - Children's charity Barnardo's has called for more at-risk children to be taken into care soon after birth to reduce the number of cases of older children with complex behavioural problems.
Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo's, said the social services should be less focused on "fixing families that can't be fixed" and for social workers to be more pro-active about removing children at risk.
His comments come in the wake of last week's court case involving two young brothers who violently attacked an 11-year-old boy and his nine-year-old nephew in Edlington, near Doncaster.
The two young attackers also aged nine and 11, were under the care of social services at the time.
In an interview with the Observer Mr Narey said: "We can't keep trying to fix families that are completely broken. It sounds terrible, but I think we try too hard with birth parents. I have seen children sent back to homes that I certainly wouldn't have sent them back to. I have been extremely surprised at decisions taken.
"If we really cared about the interests of the child, we would take children away as babies and put them into permanent adoptive families, where we know they will have the best possible outcome."
Mr Narey added: "If you can take a baby very young and get them quickly into a permanent adoptive home, then we know that is where we have success. That's a view that is seen as a heresy among social services, where the thinking is that if someone, a parent, has failed, they deserve another chance. My own view is that we just need to take more children into care if we really want to put the interests of the child first."
But other commentators highlight the state's poor record of child care. Speaking to the Telegraph, Mark Pritchard, the Conservative vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Social Care, said early intervention should be the exception rather than the rule.
"In some cases even bad parents achieve far better outputs for their children when compared to the state's own record," he said.
"When you examine all the key indicators the state is the very worst parent any child can have.
"The care pendulum should avoid swinging too far towards failed models of state intervention."