Me as a toddler



All societies and religions of the world have always had ceremonies that celebrate the major steps of our lives, which change according to our understanding of priorities at the time. But in view of shocking recent revelations of widespread sexual abuse in homes and institutions in the last decades, our priorities must now be focused on children.

The State passes laws for the proper development of each child, providing education and health care, supporting the family in its duty to take care of the child until the age majority of eighteen.
The status of children in their family has been discussed throughout history, but it was always assumed that the child belonged to its parents, owing them respect and obedience, stating that they were their property.
Helena Kennedy, QC reminds us in her book: ‘Eve Was Framed’, that: ‘The common law upon which our legal system is based developed in the Middle Ages when, drawing on the Roman Law traditions, women and children were placed under the jurisdiction of the paternal power, the head of the household, and were deemed to be his property.’

A new law for the benefit of children

As the child has come to be considered as a human being and less of an appendage, it seemed timely, after centuries of status quo and in view of the ill-treatment and exploitation of children throughout the world, to re-assess the law and grant human rights to the child to put a stop to shocking and widespread suffering.

This topic has been debated and fought over between couples, families and societies and in more recent times in parliaments which is why the wisdom of nations, in the form of the United Nations, has formulated the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC 1989).
New legislation in this area redrafted the deal between parents and children and some did see the new law as a contradiction: this child is your child and yet you may not own them?

The UNCRC is an international human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention (CRC) defines a child as a human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation. Nations that ratify this Convention are bound to it by international law, while compliance is monitored by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Most countries (197) are party to it, and it includes every member of the U.N., except for the United States, all others having ratified it over time apart from South Sudan, Somalia and the United States, mostly for religious and labour law reason and the fact that each of the American States has its own laws.

Compliance, however, is a different story and progress is slow, as 90% of the world’s population live in countries where corporal punishment and other physical violence against children is still legal, and it is to be deplored that England and Northern Ireland are still refusing to ratify the law on corporal punishment.
In England, section 58 of the Children Act (2004), provides for ‘reasonable punishment’ of children. Similarly, in Northern Ireland, article 2 of The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Northern Ireland Order allows ‘reasonable punishment’. (Wales and Scotland have agreed to comply with the Children Act.)
There are concerns that section 58 Children Act 2004 continues to breach Article 19 UNCRC by failing to provide children with equal protection under the law on common assault.
We should wonder on the reasons: why is physical violence on the child still so prized in these countries by so many adults who would call the same: ‘common assault’ on other adults and pay a price? Considering the child is at its weakest physical and emotional stage, is it not a ‘privilege’ too far, and too close to cruelty?

Opponents have argued that the Convention is anti-family and that ratifying it would undermine the freedom of parents to raise and discipline their children: this, to my mind, comes from a standpoint of ownership and everything in me cries out against this notion. I am only too aware of the crimes perpetrated to this day in families where this stands for the law of the household and the psychological, emotional and sexual abuse that too often follow.

We cannot pretend to be uninformed of the often-dire conditions in which many children are born and forced to grow up nowadays, when our claims to be enlightened and progressive could make us think that we are at last treating our children as we should.
It is enough to read the newspapers at random over a period of years to get a broad and distressing view of all our failings:

  • “BRITAIN HAS THE MOST CHILD DEATHS IN THE EU.” (The Independent, 27/03/13)
  • “U.N. TELLS UK TO BAN CHILD SMACKING AT HOME.” (The Times, 27/07/15)
  • “SEX ABUSE FILE SHUT UNTIL 2056.” (Sunday Times, 29/03/15)
  • VATICAN PAPERS REVEAL THAT INCEST IS THE SIN MOST CONFESSED TO. (Hellmut Karle, on BBC radio 4 in interview with Brian Redhead_/

It is widely agreed that the State is currently failing in its duty to keep our children safe. Some of our laws are far from making child protection a priority, and when they do, they are rarely implemented: in Great Britain, our place in international comparison leagues is often extremely poor: the reasons why should be faced and addressed.
At a time in the social history of this country when we are overwhelmed with stories of lack of care in so many institutions, widespread neglect and physical and sexual abuse, in spite of the role of well-meaning officials appointed by successive governments, there still remains a reluctance to recognise that children’s problems are everybody’s business and reflect on us all.

As I sought to give more updates, I found online on The INDEPENDENT of 23 January 2019 an article by Lizzie Dearden, the Home Affairs correspondent, titled:

Government spending on children at risk of abuse slashed by 26%.

and I think: as a species, what are we? And as individuals in in a ‘civilised’ society: who are we? These facts and figures are damning and call for more individual involvement in the cause of children, as it is shockingly obvious that any child is in danger from the moment it is born, mostly from its parents and would-be carers, first in their general ignorance that a child is nowadays born with rights. As usual, the solution for this is in our own hands, individually and globally.

To my mind, the obstacles are many:

  • ignorance, hence the prime importance of education, at all times of life.
  • assumption that the parents own their children and know best.
  • a tradition of laissez-faire.
  • resistance: a powerful and common instinct to stay with the status quo, not question difficult subjects, and protect oneself.
  • criminal intent, unconscious or deliberate: power over the child is used for private, psychological, emotional, sexual or financial gratification. By all accounts, this is frequent.
  • and, secretly, we do not wish our children to be aware of the danger they run in some of their parents’ hands, because we are ashamed that some of us, and we as a species, are capable of such things. Cowardly, we choose to do nothing.

Then the State itself is responsible when it seems to tolerate this law-breaking. When it is seen to default through the scandals revealed, public opposition may force a government to conduct an Independent Inquiry into whatever has caused this lapse.


The Inquiry

This is what has happened in 2015 through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales, in families and institutions, following the greatest scandals of abuse of children in schools, children’s homes, churches and charities ever to be known.

This Inquiry, initiated in 2015 by then Prime Minister Theresa May, which gave its conclusions this year, on 21/10/22, was conducted by Prof. Alexis Jay, took over seven years, cost £186.6 million and heard from more than 7,300 victims and survivors of abuse through 15 investigations, with men accounting for 89% of abusers. Last year, girls accounted for 59% of children at risk.

10, 431 allegations of child abuse were made to the police, resulting in more than 100 convictions. A conservative estimate is that 15% of girls and 5% of boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16 (half a million children per year).
Alleged abuse at schools was most common, followed by children’s homes and religious institutions.


  • The Inquiry says children have faced ’limitless’ cruelty and that the problem remains ‘endemic’, permeating all sections of society, but as a Statutory Inquiry, it could not determine criminal liability of named individuals or organisations.
  • The Inquiry recommends the mandatory requirement for people working with children, in both paid and voluntary roles, to report allegations of abuse, but only if they are the victim or witnesses of it; this includes priests told in confession; (reports from a neighbour ‘should be ignored’, providing a huge loophole). Some other countries have such laws, the UK should too.
  • The Inquiry recommends the creation of child protection authorities in England and Wales, in the form of a cabinet-level minister. This used to exist under New Labour.
  • The Inquiry recommends a requirement for the registration of all care staff in residential care, young offenders’ institutions and secure training centres. (Children in care homes are four times as likely as other children to be victims of abuse.)
  • The Inquiry recommends a compensation scheme for all victims of historical abuse in England and Wales.
  • The Inquiry recommends a ban on ‘pain compliance techniques’ for detained children.
  • The Inquiry recommends that internet search engines block all known child sexual abuse images from being uploaded.
  • The Inquiry recommends that all social media apps strengthen their age verification processes. The huge recent rise in reports of online abuse so far suggests that the overall position is getting worse rather than better. The Online Safety Bill, preventing social media child abuse, is presently going through parliament. (Dec 2022).

The government intends to consider the recommendations made in the final report, then decide whether to accept them and legislate if necessary and give its reply in six months’ time; the government’s reply should therefore be made public in August 2023.


From my own experiences in life, readings and study, a 27- year career as a secondary school teacher, and further study, qualification and work as a counsellor, I can see that the obstacles to progress are many. Among them, a few stand out:

  • Imbalance of power between abuser and victim.
  • Tendency to disbelieve the victim. (The Rotherham and Rochdale scandals provide good examples).
  • Refusal of this recent Inquiry to consider the testimony of neighbours (in my experience, neighbours know a great deal) which stands out as a major loophole.
  • Child protection professionals have no minimal training expectation on child sexual abuse, some having no training in it at all.
  • Permissive institutional failures: no recommendation of sanctions for social media companies and search engines that fail to block child abuse images or check the age of users.
  • Requiring people to go to the police is sometimes a disincentive given the chronic failures of the criminal justice system in relation to women and girls revealed in several recent scandals (2021/2022) where policemen themselves were the abusers.
  • We are not generally aware of the potential for harm of most of us and refuse to acknowledge the abuse that takes place within families, as it is a terrible realisation.


As a result, I created a ritual: The PROMISE, to be a major part of the registration of the child and/or religious ceremonies chosen by parents/adopters/carers, and also: staff of all and any establishment dealing with children (nurseries, schools, play and youth centres, hospitals, libraries, sports and dance venues, holiday centres, etc. The Promise should expressly represent the wish and commitment of the person(s) responsible for the child who would sign it and fulfill those requirements to respect and protect the child according to the International Convention of Children’s Rights.


Here is what we should be doing: greeting babies, children, those born to us as well as those we adopt or foster, promising them our love and care, but also, solemnly, respect and protection in a form of words which is signed and legally binding.

It would be called: THE PROMISE, the equivalent of marriage vows but made to the child by its parents or carers in their own words (at any age but preferably soon after birth/adoption or fostering). It would be a public acknowledgement of the duties of protection and nurture that we have to the human being who is at the mercy of our goodwill and capabilities.

In view of terrible and shocking revelations about the cruel treatment of children not just in their families but in any institution that was supposed to have the care of the child at heart, it is urgent to underline the specific meaning of the word ‘respect’ when it comes to the child’s body which should never be hit or touched sexually by any adult. It also comes with the acknowledgement that a child’s feelings should be dealt with thoughtfully as harsh words can have a deep and long-term effect. Children learn respect from the way they are treated by adults and are then able to reciprocate the feeling as they grow up.

The PROMISE will be a joyful affair, a celebration. And it would spread the knowledge of the true place of the child among us. Many will wonder: ‘Why should I make an official promise to care for my child when I know I can be a perfectly good parent without going through this palaver’, and they may well be right. This was and is a common reaction when discussing the comparative benefits of marriage and partnership, and it is obvious that a public promise to be faithful or to remain together ‘till death do us part’ doesn’t necessarily stop lies, betrayal, or simply failure.
Still, few if any who made these vows can have regretted making them at the time. The significance of such moments of intensity lies in the fact that they anchor us deeply in ourselves and the unfolding of our lives. More than a step, they are a milestone of which we are aware at the time and can never look back upon later without feelings of sadness, disappointment and failure if they haven’t held good: it was important, and we know that something of great value at the time hasn’t materialized or lasted.

It is in this context that we must look at the place we make for children in our societies. Some religions may well celebrate and confirm the role the new child will play in their midst but there is, I believe, a need for a public promise of the nurturing role we shall have to play at least until this child is an adult; of our joy at its arrival and the recognition of our duty in its essential forms:


(Sadly, we cannot legislate for Love, the necessary bonus)

The PROMISE would have value as a commitment, and there is value in example: in the end, each one of us creates a world in our own image, and as Barack Obama said recently: ‘What we do echoes through generations.’



At a time in the social history of this country when we are overwhelmed with stories of lack of care in families and institutions, widespread neglect and physical and sexual abuse, in spite of the role of well-meaning officials appointed by successive governments, there remains a reluctance to recognize that children’s problems are everybody’s responsibility and reflect on us all.

  • This could begin to be remedied by an addition to the registration process, when the new parents would be given a copy of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child, required to read it, then sign it, committing them to its conclusions and the duties they infer.
    This new duty of commitment should be extended to every group and institution that deals with children and their welfare, state-funded or private, lay or religious, and signed by every individual involved.
  • All social work training must be required to include Child Sexual Abuse. Safeguarding recommendations must be improved and implemented. Budgets must be increased.
  • The mandatory reporting of all allegations of child sexual abuse must be legally binding, and subject to sanctions.
  • In view of peer-on-peer sexual abuse, frequent in schools and universities, children and young people must be taught how to deal with it, helped to report it, and when at school discuss their difficulties in assemblies, small groups, or privately.
  • School children should be given a copy of their rights as defined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child (an easy-to-read copy is available, as shown in this book and on my website: and asked to discuss them.
  • They should also be asked to PROMISE to respect and protect each other.

We must spread the information that child abuse is the rot that affects society in all its forms, as it disempowers and confuses the victim, is a major factor in increasing crime, putting stress on the judicial system, increasing suicides and mental illness, increasing demand for more hospitals and treatments, increasing financial demands on care in the community as well as the public purse.

The psychiatrist, researcher and writer Bessel van der Kolk says in his book:

Mind, Brain and Body in the transformation of trauma.

“Child abuse and neglect is the single most preventable cause of mental illness, the single most common cause of drug and alcohol abuse, and a significant contributor to leading causes of death such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and suicide.”

I could not recommend this book more.

At a time when members of the present Parliament are letting other people’s children go to school hungry, it is high time for us all to act.
By acting, or not acting, each of us decides of the fate of children who so far have been so ignored or damaged. Ideas matter, and I cannot be alone.

We can all dream, but in some cases, thanks to new laws, the media and the goodwill of many people, results can be attained that can change attitude and society. So, WHO is going to do something about this, IF NOT US, NOW? I shall do all I can and ask you to support me in this campaign.

Helene Pascal-Thomas. November 2022.


  1. Everyone under the age of 18 has all the rights in the Convention.
  2. The Convention applies to every child without discrimination, whatever their ethnicity, sex, religion, language, abilities or any other status, whatever they think or say, whatever their family background.
  3. The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children.
  4. Governments must ensure every child can enjoy their rights by passing laws to promote and protect children’s rights.
  5. Governments must respect the rights and responsibilities of parents and carers to provide guidance and direction to their child.
  6. Every child has the right to life. Governments must do all they can to ensure children survive and develop to their full potential.
  7. Every child has the right to be registered at birth, to have a name and nationality, and, as far as possible, to know and be cared for by their parents.
  8. Every child has the right to an identity. Governments must respect and protect that right, and prevent the child’s name, nationality or family relationships from being changed unlawfully.
  9. Children must not be separated from their parents unless it is in their best interests (for example, if a parent is hurting or neglecting a child). Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this could cause them harm.
  10. If a child’s parents live apart in different countries, the child has the right to visit and keep in contact with both.
  11. Governments must do everything they can to stop children being taken out of their own country illegally by their parents or other relatives or being prevented from returning home.
  12. Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes including during immigration proceedings.
  13. Every child must be free to express their thoughts and opinions and to access all kinds of information, within the law.
  14. Every child has the right to think and believe what they choose and to practise their religion.
  15. Every child has the right to meet with other children and to join groups and organisations, if this does not harm other people.
  16. Every child has the right to privacy. The law should protect the child’s private, family and home life and reputation.
  17. Every child has the right to reliable information from a variety of sources, and governments should encourage the media to provide information that children can understand and is not harmful.
  18. Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their child and governments must create support services to help them.
  19. Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them.
  20. If a child cannot be looked after by their immediate family, the government must give them special protection and assistance Including continuous care that respects the child’s culture, language and religion.
  21. Children who cannot be looked after by their own family should be looked after properly by people who respect the child’s religion, language and culture etc.
  22. Refugee children separated from their parents should be reunited with them and have the same rights as children born in that country.
  23. A child with a disability has the right to live an independent, full and decent life with dignity and play an active part in the community with the support they need.
  24. Children have the right to the best possible health care with good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food, and a clean environment and education on health and well-being. Richer countries must help poorer countries achieve this.
  1. If a child has been placed away from home for care or protection (for example, with a foster family or in hospital), they have the right to a regular review of their treatment.
  2. Every child has the right to benefit from social security. Governments must provide money or other support for children from poorer families.
  3. Every child has the right to food, clothing and a safe place to live so they can develop in the best possible way. Governments must help families who cannot afford to provide this.
  4. Every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Children should be encouraged to attend school to their highest level and discipline in school should respect dignity and never use violence.
  5. Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.
  6. Every child has the right to learn and use the language, customs and religion even if these are not shared by the majority of the people in the country where they live.
  7. Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.
  8. Governments must protect children from economic exploitation and work that is dangerous or might harm their health, development or education. They must set a minimum age for children to work and ensure that work conditions are safe and pay appropriate.
  9. Governments must protect children from the illegal use of drugs and from being involved in the production or distribution of drugs.
  10. Governments must protect children from all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation.
  11. Governments must protect children from being abducted, sold or moved illegally to a different place in or outside their country for the purpose of exploitation.
  12. Governments must protect children from all other forms of exploitation, for example the exploitation of children for political activities, by the media or for medical research.
  13. Children accused of breaking the law must not be tortured, sentenced to the death penalty or suffer other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. Children should be arrested, detained or imprisoned only as a last resort and for the shortest time possible. They must be treated with respect and care and be able to keep in contact with their family. Children must not be put in prison with adults.
  14. No child under the age of 15 should take part in war or join the armed forces. Children affected by war and armed conflicts should be protected.
  15. Children who have experienced neglect, abuse, exploitation, torture or who are victims of war must receive special support to help them recover their health, dignity, self-respect and social life.
  16. A child accused or guilty of breaking the law must be treated with dignity and respect. They have the right to legal assistance and a fair trial that takes account of their age. Governments must set a minimum age for children to be tried in a criminal court in a justice system that aids their reintegration into society. Jail should be the last resort.
  17. If a country has laws and standards that go further than the present Convention, then the country must keep these laws.
  18. Governments must actively work to make sure children and adults know about the Convention. The Convention has 54 articles in total.

43–54 are about how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights, including:

  1. UNICEF can provide expert advice and assistance on children’s rights.



WHEREAS the peoples of the United Nations have, in the Charter, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person, and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, WHEREAS the United Nations has, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, WHEREAS the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth, WHEREAS the need for such special safeguards has been stated in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924, and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the statutes of specialized agencies and international organizations concerned with the welfare of children, WHEREAS mankind owes to the child the best it has to give, Now, therefore, Proclaims THIS DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD to the end that he may have a happy childhood and enjoy for his own good and for the good of society the rights and freedoms herein set forth, and calls upon  parents, upon men and women as individuals, and upon voluntary organizations, local authorities and national Governments to recognize these rights and strive for their observance by legislative and other measures progressively taken in accordance with the following:

  1. THE CHILD shall enjoy all the rights set forth in this Declaration. Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.
  2. THE CHILD shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.
  3. THE CHILD shall be entitled from his birth to a name and a nationality.
  4. THE CHILD shall enjoy the benefits of social security. He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care. The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.
  5. THE CHILD who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition.
  6. THE CHILD shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic, in any form.The child shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or employment which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere with his physical, mental or moral development.
  1. THE CHILD, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support. Payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of children of large families is desirable.
  2. THE CHILD is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents.The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right.
  3. THE CHILD shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief.
  4. THE CHILD shall be protected from practices which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, and in fullconsciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.