goodenoughcaring.com is an arena for the discussion of issues of
interest to parents, foster parents, residential child care workers, counsellors, youth support workers,
social workers, teachers, mentors, social pedagogues, educateurs and to young people who are,
and adults who have been, in care. If you are interested in, or involved in the care,upbringing and
education of children and young people or in the nurturing of children and young people who are unable
to live with their own families goodenoughcaring.com is a site for you. The website
welcomes thoughtful views - personal, practical or theoretical - about the care of children and
young people. If you want to comment about child care or about goodenoughcaring.com
then e mail email@example.com.
The goodenoughcaring.com site is archived at the British
The goodenoughcaring journal is an online publication which invites anyone wishing to
publish papers and articles about parenting, nurture, child care work and related fields or those
wishing to write about their child care experiences to submit as e mail attachments papers or articles
for publication to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org. com. The members of the editorial group are Cynthia Cross, Evelyn
Daniel, Siobain Degregorio, Jeremy Millar, Jane Kenny, Ariola Vishnja, Mark Smith, John Stein and Charles
Sharpe. The current issue was published online on 15th June, 2013 and the next issue will be
published on December 18th, 2013.
The Journal index can be found at http://www. goodenoughcaring.com/
News and Opinion
Social Care Ireland Conference, 2014 : Diversity in
The Social Care Ireland national conference takes place on April 1st, 2nd and 3rd at the Silver Springs
Moran Hotel, Tivoli, Cork.
The theme of the conference is Diversity in Practice.
main speakers include Kathleen Lynch, Paddy Doyle , Gordon Jeyes
, Denise Lyons , Catherine Byrne , Janet Rich, Colin
McGinn , Rachel Moran , Kieran McGrath , and Frieda
For further information and to register for the conference go to http://www.socialcareireland
This is almost a news bulletin : a newish new look is promised for the goodenoughcaring
When the next issue of the goodenoughcaring Journal is published online in June, the entire
website will have a newish look. Don't fret if you're a fan of antiquarian websites, it will retain that
overall feel of the kind of website that was prevalent at about the time of the Napoleonic Wars but it will
have taken a small, partial step towards a style favoured more in the modern era. Don't forget you first
read about it right here.
Fresh out of the stove comes the piping hot issue 14 of the goodenoughcaring Journal
It's out ! It's hot! We hope it's to your taste. In this issue Luci Ashbourne asks how we can
understand the organisational re-enactment of traumatised children and young people. Kevin Ball
feels quality in residential child care can be enhanced by an effective Regulation 33 visitor and
John Burton writes about compliance and abuse in care settings. Cynthia Cross
suggests Donald Winnicott remains relevant to residential child care, while John Fallowfield
cites Donald Winnicott among others in his penetrating essay about child development and observation in
social work. Joel Kanter explores new ground in his explication of Clare’s and Donald’s
notion of the social worker/therapist as 'transitional participant' when in relationship with children
traumatised by dislocation. Kiaras Gharabaghi commits to the necessity of giving those whose
work is to look after troubled children an education worthy of their profession. Patrick
Tomlinson uses Winnicott’s game "The Squiggle' to develop his unique thinking about communicating
with traumatised children, and Charles Sharpe mines into Clare Winnicott's interview with Alan
Cohen, and the writings of others to excavate the gems she has to offer residential child care. Jeanne
Warren’s article comments on the Scottish philosopher, (and contemporary of the Winnicotts) John
Macmurray’s and the American educationalist, Nel Nodding’s ideas about the importance of relationships in
the education of children. Charlotte Witheridge writes about the application of psychodynamic
thinking to residential work with children and Mark Smith questions the application of the
psychodynamic thinking to residential work with children.
Bob Royston adds to our
series of childhood memoirs, in a poignant account of the time he spent living in a ‘country club’ when he
was a boy. John Stein remembers Richard T. Cass, the first social worker he ever met.
Sara Kirkwood gives a touching account of children's experiences of foster respite care in a
Scottish hutting community. We round things off with an article from a magazine conducted by Charles
Dickens. The article “The Girl from the Workhouse” might lead us to think that soeme things never
change. Yet it also tells us that some things do.
Three cheers for the increased support to children in foster care ! Now let’s do it for those in
The current United Kingdom Conservative led coalition government has not altogether
covered itself in glory in its treatment of troubled families and troubled children and so the announcement
made today, December 4th, 2013, by the government minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, that
children being looked after in foster care in England will continue, if they so wish, to have their foster
care and support funded until the age of 21, is one to be welcomed. This is something that foster carers and
others involved in the care and education of children looked after in the care system have long called
Mr Timpson, whose own family fostered nearly 90 children, stated that the government would pledge £40m to
this initiative over three years and the measure will be introduced during the third reading of the Children
and Families Bill next year. I congratulate Mr Timpson. His intention will give us something of which, as a
community, we can be proud.
There is of course another smaller, though significant, group of looked after children. These are
children in children's homes and they are perhaps the most vulnerable group of young people in our
community. They are children who for a variety of reasons are not available for foster care. Too frequently
their difficulties are seen as 'more problematic' rather than - as they should seen - ‘different.’ So the
residential care they are provided with becomes, quite wrongly, understood as a 'last resort’ sump of care
when it is clear that for these children it is a ‘first resort.’ It is what they need. Let us hope that
within a very short period of time the government will announce a similar level of support for children and
young people who are in residential care beyond the age of 18 years. Their needs for further support may
well be different, perhaps more expensive, but if such support is provided it will be a further welcome sign
that as a community we are attempting to edge towards becoming civilised. We will have demonstrated that we
are as determined to establish, as much as we can, positive future prospects for young people in residential
care, which are equal to those now being put in place for children growing up in foster care.
Information source BBC news at
John Stein writes :
agree with your comment about residential child care being 'first resort' rather than last resort. I
couldn't agree more. (Except that I strongly prefer the term, 'residential treatment' to residential care).
Virtually every child I met in residential placement needed coordinated treatment in the life space. 'Care,'
especially here in Louisiana, implies 3 meals a day and a roof and a bed with an adult with no more than a
high school education to look after them. After all anyone can care for kids. That attitude is all too
pervasive in our social work profession here, and it runs the programs.
More to ponder : some observations about home life and schooling from a Scottish
"In the unhappy home, discipline is used as a weapon of hate. Obedience
becomes a virtue. Children are chattels, things owned, and they must be a credit to their owners".
"I believe that in state schools it's all wrong. It's based on fear. The mere fact that children
who should be moving all the time are sitting on their arses for about six hours a day is all against human
nature. It's against child nature."
Alexander Sutherland Neill (1883-1973) was a Scottish progressive educator, author and the founder of
Summerhill School. Established in 1923, Summerhill School was first situated in Lyme Regis in Dorset,
England and was later moved in 1927 to its present site at Leiston in Suffolk. The school continues to
follow and develop his educational philosophy. In the 1960s Neill's ideas about education were influential
throughout the world and they remain so among those who believe children learn best when in the main they
are supported to make their own discoveries rather than being compelled to follow a prescribed and narrow
curriculum based more on the needs of the state and less on the needs of a child.
"Dominie" is a Scots
word for a male school teacher. In their time both Neill and his father were dominies. Neill was born in
the town of Forfar and lived there before his family moved to Kingsmuir, a nearby village when his father
was appointed to the post of head teacher at the local school.
In the late 1960s whilst still at college a few of us arranged to visit Summerhill.
We had read the Penguin book Summerhill and were keen to meet the man and his school. This was like no other
school we had visited before or taught at during teaching practice. The young people we met on arrival
seemed calm and self-assured and showed us around. The tour was completed with a question and answer session
held by Neill in his study. It was crowded and the day was very warm as he sat comfortably in his armchair
and patiently answered the our questions -no doubt the same questions he had answered on Saturday visiting
days done for years. One such question was how could we take his ideas on child-led education into the State
school system. His answer gave us a mixture of disappointment and hope. Michael Duane, the headteacher of a
secondary school in Islington, London, had tried the Summerhill approach. Unfortunately the powers that be
didn't support him and he resigned. However Neill also persuaded us not to give up because of this and to do
small things that would help to put the child first.
Link : A. S. Neill Summerhill film
More Comment on Richard Webster and his book, Bryn Estyn : the making of a modern witch
May 26th, 2013
The issues of alleged child abuse in residential child care and alleged false accusations of child
care workers continue to create deep concern for all who have been involved in this field : for children and
young people who are placed in residential care settings, for adults who experienced residential care
during their childhood as well as for those who in a variety of roles are or were providers of residential
child care. The sadness and anguish we feel as these issues cast a shadow over residential child care is
surely because the latter is a human endeavour which springs from an altruistic desire to give unfortunate
children a better chance in life. Richard Webster's book continues to be a focal point for the
tensions that these matters inevitably create.
Rory Connors has written to us commenting on John Molloy's
article about Richard Webster's book. John's article has been re-published in the
goodenoughcaring blog in order to give context to Rory's comments and the others that were sent to
us at the time of Richard Webster's death. The article was originally published here in the goodenoughcaring Journal.
A link to Rory's wider writing about these issues can be found at Irish
The discussion and comments which took place in this blog about Richard Webster as
both a man and an author at the time of his death can be found on the goodenoughcaring blog along
with Mark Smith's tribute to him.
Mark Smith's article "Two book reviews : Kathy's Real Story
by Hermann Kelly and The Secret of Bryn Estyn by Richard Webster can be found in the goodenoughcaring
Digital life story work
We have been informed of a new BAAF Publications book by Simon Hammond and Neil J Cooper, Digital life
story work : Using technology to help young people make sense of their experiences which is a practical
guide aiming to bring the benefit of life story work - most often undertaken with younger children - to
young people and adolescents. With the use of free software, smartphones and camcorders the authors
demonstrate how digital technology can support and become an integral instrument of life story work. It is
the authors' intention to show how new digital technology can be used to further the therapeutic process
of helping young persons build a relationship with a caring adult while reflecting on their lives.
About the authors
Dr Simon P Hammond has contributed a number of articles to the
goodenoughcaring Journal and he is a lecturer in Psychology at the University of East Anglia. Simon
developed the idea of integrating the use of digital technology with life story work while he was a
residential child care worker in Sheffield.
Dr Neil J Cooper is a Senior Lecturer in
Psychology at the University of East Anglia.
For more information about Digital life story work view the BAAF catalogue at BAAF
Residential child care in practice.
The Policy Press has written to us announcing the publication of Residential child care in practice
Making a difference by Mark Smith, Leon Fulcher and Peter Doran. The book is about residential child
care practice beginning from the standpoint that residential child care involves both children and adults
sharing a common life space in which the quality of the relationships between the people involved is key. It
is a very practical book which aims at being of interest and value to a worldwide range of practitioners and
managers as well as to students at different academic levels. It draws on the ideas and traditions of a
variety of theoretical and practical fields of thought including child and youth care and social
The authors of the book, all experienced practitioners and academics, are : Mark
Smith, a regular contributor to the goodenoughcaring Journal, who worked for 20 years in
residential homes and schools before becoming a university teacher and is now Senior Lecturer in Social
Work at the University of Edinburgh ; Dr Leon Fulcher, another contributor to the
goodenoughcaring Journal, has for over 40 years practiced in, and taught, residential child care
across the world and is now the Chair of the the International Child Care and Youth Care Network; Peter
Doran, who recently retired as the Chief Executive Officer of a residential school in Scotland, having
spent his career in residential child care and who, since his retirement, has undertaken work for The
Scottish Government on the education of children with complex needs.
The book will be
reviewed in the next issue of the goodenoughcaring Journal. For more information about Residential
child care in practice Making a difference go to The Policy Press
Austerity and the Tragic Triumph of Academic Ideology over Reflected Experience
Charles Sharpe writes :
I noticed recently that a welcome contributor of articles to the goodenoughcaring Journal felt
moved to write an apology in the preamble to an essay he had written about residential child care for an
academic journal. His regret was that his essay was based solely on observations and reflections from his
own long experience. Fortunately the journal's editor knew an excellent piece of writing when he read it
and published the piece. No sooner was I beginning to wonder why the author's regret had been necessary
when the answer came in a different kind of apology received by the goodenoughcaring Journal from
another generous contributor. He wrote, "In the age of austerity measures, rising tuition fees and falling
university applications, I'm currently trying to get as many peer-reviewed publications as possible in as
many 'high impact' journals as possible. Seemingly in this era of the Research Exercise Framework (REF)*,
the 'impact' of academic work is measured by how many citations the work receives in other academic
journals as opposed to how many people actually read it. For this reason I've been unable to contribute an
article to the Journal lately and hope that you understand my reasons and accept my apologies."
Another contributor writes, "I am a 'pure social scientist' by background but the whole thrust of my
teaching and research over the years has, until very recently, always been focused on the life experiences
of young people growing up in care. I now find that I am directed to study the inner mechanisms of the human
mind in a purely psychological way, and to forget about what happens to these processes when they work upon
the real lives of children. There seems to be no place any more for qualitative research."
Of course academic research and writing importantly inform the field of interest which
goodenoughcaring is concerned with and we prize the significant number of excellent academic pieces
which have been published in our Journal. However academic writing is only a part of our story and the care
of children and young people has been equally enriched by the writing, speaking and performing of those who
have been in care, of those who have been practitioners, as well as all the poets, songwriters, composers,
performers, novelists, playwrights and others who have helped us gain further insight of the human
Cynthia Cross comments : I so agree with you. I look at some of these research papers and say to
myself 'so what' or you have not thought about some factor which would change it all. We are always trying
to avoid the complexity of things with disastrous results. Also we are keeping out of further education the
very people who could really help the next batch of workers to do the job!
writes : we should recognise that the scholar/researcher/scientist has a valid role and that it is
different from the practitioner's but it is regrettable that their important relationship breaks down very
often because they do not speak the same language.
Jeremy Millar comments : I sympathise
hugely with those academic colleagues who are being badgered and 'bullied' to chalk up citation 'hits'.
Coming from practice relatively recently without being 'socialised' into the academic culture I have found
it interesting that there is an apparent lack of critical thinking surrounding this whole evidenced based
approach. It appears that some buy into the academic status and dutifully churn stuff out. I tend to refer
to this, as research into the bleeding obvious. Others contribute genuinely new takes on the workings of
our field and within that do critique many of the policies, generally ideologically rather than evidence
driven, that conspire to thwart, divert and distract us from addressing the self evident truths regarding
children and families that come to the attention of the state's mechanisms of oppression. It seems to me, in
my regressive idealistic youthful state, that academics need to take a lead in highlighting the paradox that
determines that as global corporate interests supported by ideological political opportunism create ever
more 'complex problems' for them to 'solve' using the 'neutral research evidence base', they are in fact
furthering the abject conditions of poor and vulnerable people when the evidence base exists, and has for
many years, to actually take steps to end social injustice.
Thankfully the REF fascists don't loom as
large at the school of social studies at the Robert Gordon University and we have our in-house social
scientist to offset the burden.
John Stein writes : thought on having one's work cited. I
remember how thrilled I was when I found someone had cited my book in her work. Then I looked up where she
had cited it. It was in a paragraph in which virtually every sentence had at least one citation, and often
two or more. The sentence for which my work was cited contained two other references, if memory serves me
right. Thing is, I don't remember ever expressing that thought, or even having had that thought. It looked
to me as if she had not read my book, but rather only cited it, along with many other books and articles, in
a lengthy bibliography to impress people with how well read and informed she was. But perhaps it was just an
Thoughts on quantitative research : I have learned much from quantitative research. Writing
my book on residential treatment in the early 1990's, I spent months in university libraries reviewing years
worth of every journal they had on psychology, sociology, social work, and anything else that might be
relevant. Sadly, I found surprisingly few articles that were relevant to what I wanted to write. Because of
the need to quantify and measure and control variables, articles were so case-specific or situation-specific
as to have limited applicability to practice. Then, I figured out the reason for my frustration. In the
residential setting, it is extremely difficult to control all other variables while you study just one. For
example, shortly before taking a new position in a small group home, I had read an article about the
positive effects on elementary school children from replacing standard fluorescent light bulbs with natural
or daylight fluorescent bulbs. My new boss allowed me to make the change shortly after my arrival. It was
expensive. I would have loved to do a study to document whether there were, indeed, any positive changes,
but that would have been counterproductive for the program. First, I would have had to leave things as they
were in the home for sufficient time to collect baseline data. Unfortunately, changes were needed
immediately. We had to hire two new staff. Staff scheduling had to be changed because of low staff morale.
The punitive point system needed to be changed. Older boys who served as a role models were ready to be
discharged back to their own homes. New boys who needed placement would pose challenges for the milieu.
Behaviour improved dramatically during my first few months, but there was no way to attribute improvement to
any one specific change. Qualitative research might have been more meaningful, but no one had the time.The
priority was treating children, not publishing research.
Thoughts on evidence-based practice : who can argue with evidence-based practice? Well, for one thing,
evidence-based studies are often either so case- or situation-specific as to have limited relevance to other
cases or situations. That is, they don't readily generalize to other people or other settings. It is much
more effective, in my opinion, to use one's knowledge about child development, developmental psychology,
sociology, social psychology, group dynamics behavioural psychology, to be creative and flexible in
developing programs and interventions to meet the needs of real, unique people in real and unique settings.
Too often, I have seen an over-reliance on evidence-based practice serve to limit practice rather than to
inform and expand practice.
While I recognize the importance of quantitative studies in developing one's knowledge and understanding,
including my own, in my opinion, essays and articles based on observation, reflection, and experience can do
more to inform practice than quantitative studies.
Take the money and run : big organisations and child care ethics
Jeremy Millar writes :
I begin to wonder if for the sake of financial
expedience we compartmentalise our core ethics as child care workers and as child care providers when we
allow the care of vulnerable children to be in the hands of large companies and organisations whose track
record on human rights has been condemned by institutions like Amnesty International. I draw readers
attention to the following links about G4S running children's homes and Barnardos running detention
facilities for young asylum seekers.
I think these instances of questionable care provision for children - and
sadly I believe there will be others - deserve wider coverage and debate. As a teacher in this field it
seems to me the ethical message being forced upon me is to invite the students to "Take the money and
Love and Education : Something for us all and Michael Gove to think about ?
Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire suggested,
'It is impossible to teach without the
courage to love, without the courage to try a thousand times before giving up ...We must dare, in the full
sense of the word, to speak of love without the fear of being called ridiculous, mawkish, or unscientific,
if not antiscientific.'
Ref : Freire, P.(2005) Teachers as Cultural Workers,
Cambridge Massachusetts: Westview Press, 2005, page 5.
Earlier opinion and observation pieces published on this page may be found at http://goodenoughcaring. blogspot.com
items can be found http://