As if deliberately to undermine my point yesterday about pools versus guns, in today’s Times is a report of a Manchester mother appearing in court charged with posssessing a pistol after her 12 year old daughter was shot dead at her home in April. A 17 year old boy is charged with the girl’s murder. Ignoring that inconvenient fact for a moment, I re-read the chapter in Freakonomics about guns and pools. In the US, Levitt & Dubner claim, a child is 100 times more likely to die in a swimming accident than to be shot, yet we tend to think of guns as very dangerous and pools as fun leisure facilities. Parents are peculiarly susceptible to an expert’s fearmongering: ‘Fear is in fact a major component of the act of parenting. A parent, after all, is the steward of another creature’s life, a creature who in the beginning is more helpless than the newborn of nearly any other species. This leads a lot of parents to spend a lot of their parenting energy simply being scared.’ Risk evaluation has to be part of a parent’s job. The trouble is that parents are often scared of the wrong things and find it difficult to work out who to listen to. What they suggest is that we react more strongly to certain risks, even when the feared event is very unlikely to happen because of the presence of outrage. Quoting expert risk assessor, Peter Sandman, we take risk seriously because of the dread factor: “when hazard is high and outrage is low, people underreact. And when hazard is low and outrage is high, they overreact”. The reaction to the sad news of Anna’s death by drowning in the Daily Mail’s coverage is not to analyse the nature of the risk presented by pools, but to stoke up outrage about the care system and link the death to the recent campaign on adoption targets. It may turn out that Anna’s foster carers have themselves fallen short of the good enough parenting standard and that would, of course, be an outrage. But I would be surprised if it turned out that foster carers were statistically more likely to be responsible for children’s deaths than either parents or swimming pools. In other words, generally speaking parents do not need to worry about death as a risk when a child is in foster care. None of which philosophical musing will be of any comfort to Anna’s parents and my heart goes out to them.