The Corner

Licensed To Hug?

The British think tank Civitas has issued a new report analyzing a problem also evident on this side of the Atlantic: well-meaning measures to protect children against abuse or exploitation have made many potential volunteers and mentors fearful of getting involved with troubled children. From the BBC coverage:

Report author Prof Frank Furedi, of Kent University, said: “From Girl Guiders to football coaches, from Christmas-time Santas to parents helping out in schools, volunteers — once regarded as pillars of the community — have been transformed in the regulatory and public imagination into potential child abusers, barred from any contact with children until the database gives them the green light.”

Instead of relying on Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, adults should be allowed to use their “discretion and professional judgment” to decide who should work with children.

[snip]

Civitas called for child protection regulations to be relaxed, but the Home Office said that from October 2009, a new Independent Safeguarding Authority would be created to tighten the rules even further.

Beverley Hughes, minister for Children, Schools and Families, said it would become a criminal offence for a parent to let a child stay at their home on a foreign exchange visit without having a CRB check.

Horrific cases aside, there’s no good evidence for the assumption that child molestation or abduction is either an epidemic or increasing. Government-by-anecdote rarely ends well.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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