Beyond Good Intentions; Towards A Good Life
Open Letter to Rachel Adam-Smith and her Social Worker
When did we stop believing that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? When did asking fellow community members for assistance in special needs parenting (or any parenting) become a potentially harmful act? And why would a social worker believe that a mother asking for the support she needs to keep her daughter safe is a demonstration of irresponsible parenting?
Rachel Adam-Smith is a UK blogger who is also a law student, patient with congenital heart disease, the daughter of a mother who has muscular sclerosis and she is the mother of a 15 year old daughter who has severe disabilities including autism.
Recently, Adam-Smith penned a blog post describing how the social worker assigned to her case did not believe she should seek assistance from strangers when her daughter became physically unmanageable during emotional meltdowns that occurred in public. The social worker maintained that Adam-Smith’s daughter might not understand that talking to strangers is a bad thing. Rachel Adam-Smith is a petite person with a serious heart condition. She is a single mother. She is economically isolated. When Adam-Smith’s daughter has a meltdown, she falls to the ground or tries to run away (including into traffic). She is always with her daughter when she asks others for help.
What are we to make of the idea that seeking emergency assistance from neighbours or community members is innately dangerous? Should we conclude that it’s equally risky to offer help to a vulnerable person who is clearly in distress?
I speak as the mother of a young man with severe disabilities and Cormac as a leader in asset-based community development. Here’s what Cormac Russell and I would say to Rachel Adam-Smith and to her social worker:
Donna Thomson and Cormac Russell
Donna Thomson is the parent of a young man who has severe disabilities. She is the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom (House of Anansi Press, 2014), blogs frequently at The Caregivers’ Living Room (www.donnathomson.com) and consults to government and health care institutions on issues relating to family caregiving.