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Only way Tracey stood a chance was if she had been adopted

Sunday Independent, Sunday March 07 2010

Poor girl's troubles didn't begin in State care, they began with a selfish mum who put her own needs first, writes Carol Hunt

WHEN Tracey Fay was put into the care of the then Eastern Health Board, she was 14 years of age and a dead girl walking.

Listening to the various reports of the desperate life that Tracey endured for her 18 short, sad years, it's easy to point the finger at our social services, the State, the HSE, the damned invisible system that just won't take responsibility for our children.

It's much easier than admitting Tracey was betrayed initially and repeatedly by her family -- that much lauded cornerstone of Irish society.

Yes, the social services made mistakes; yes, they are short-staffed and under-funded; yes, we need radical changes in our care system, but really, would anything have made a difference when one considers the facts of this case?

While I have the greatest sympathy for any mother whose child dies, especially in such a sad way, the facts show that Doreen Fay was not, as she repeatedly insists, "a good mother to my daughter".

And yet, she expected the State to be and now claims repeatedly in the media, that she is being "abused" by them as her daughter was.

Last week I heard a commentator say that Tracey's troubles began when her mother left her in the care of the State. This is bullshit.

The damage that was done to Tracey Fay had already happened: through the years of neglect, physical and emotional abuse, and most damaging of all, the lack of love -- from a father who didn't want to know and a mother who put herself and her men ahead of her child's most basic welfare and seemed to think the State should provide everything she needed in life.

If Tracey was ever to have half a chance of a decent life, the State should have intervened when it was obvious that her natural mother was not able/willing to care for her, when Tracey was a toddler, and put her into the permanent care of a loving couple.

But of course, even if they had wanted to they couldn't do that. "Parents" have rights in Ireland that seem to supersede those of the child. Unfortunately, some parents don't accept that with these rights come responsibilities. And responsibility to a child means not putting them in harm's way. It's not allowing your child to be repeatedly physically assaulted and psychologically abused by you or your partners (recorded in Tracey's case in Britain), and certainly not abandoning them to social services at the tender age of 14 while you live with your other children in another country.

Increasingly, we seem to live in a society where some people expect, nay, demand multiple rights -- to a home, to a financial income, to a myriad of state services -- but are unwilling to accept that they also have a responsibility to contribute to that society if it is going to work.

The bottom line is: there is only so much money to go around and if we all take from the system without contributing it's bound to collapse. This culture of demanding dependency can be seen everywhere, from the way parents refuse to take responsibility for their children to the extraordinary mindset of privilege and rights shown by certain sectors of the public service.

Tracey Fay should never have ended up being cared for by the State. She had grandparents (admittedly her now deceased grandmother had told the social services her daughter wasn't a good mother), and a large extended family.

Should they not have demanded that Doreen Fay cop on, face her responsibilities, get herself back to Ireland, and with help from them, care for her child?

Tracey gave birth to two children who were given up for adoption to loving, responsible parents. She herself, God love her, would most probably still be alive today if she had also been so lucky.

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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