By The Editors
Date Posted: December 15 2012
No policy, no procedure ever loved a child
It is outrageous that a child in the public care should suffer any kind of abuse. It is a disgrace that any child, now growing or grown into adulthood who has been the victim of abuse while he or she was in care should continue to suffer because their complaints have not been properly heard and investigated. For them justice has not been exercised and now, if belatedly it is, the emotional trauma of their experiences may in all likelihood never be assuaged. They have been denied the good, necessary experience that childhood should be. In the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile affair and all that is issuing from it, whatever the form of any subsequent investigation about the matter, be it carried out by the United Kingdom government, or another relevant body, it would – as long as apposite questions are asked which seek the truth rather than what is currently the most favoured version of events – be a good reflection on all of us. It would mean a sincere effort had been made to gain some resolution of this dreadful matter.
For children ‘looked after’ in the public care the settings in which they are placed, be they residential group care, or indeed foster care, are often cited as the fermenting vessels for the child abuse we are discussing here. The subsequent compiling of national standards for children’s homes and policies and procedures for foster care may have addressed a number of the issues which might contribute to an abusive culture. Yet, no policy and no procedure ever loved a child. Policies and procedures, helpful though they may be, do not and cannot address a fundamental of residential child care and foster care : the nature of the relationships within the group living or family : setting. These are relationships based on trust, concern and love, so unavoidably, however much we monitor them, they will be relationships in which risks are – and we would say must be – taken. To create a living environment where children are completely safe is, fortunately, an impossibility. Children who are entirely cosseted will not be able to engage healthily with what is an imperfect world.
Those working in a children’s home or providing foster care or supporting young adults who are preparing to leave the public care should have a genuine concern and healthy desire to love and nurture children and young people who are troubled. What is expected of the adults in these environments is emotional insight of the needs of each of the children, as well as an insight of his or her own emotional motivation for working in a children’s home or for providing a foster home. This calls for adults who, though fully committed to the relationships they have with children, are not unduly anxious about what they are being asked to do. Given the negative aura which has surrounded the sensationalised reporting of some of the happenings in what the media now refer to as “care homes” we must hope that people with the qualities we have mentioned will remain attracted to a career of looking after children in the public care.
In a competitive world with an economic system which demands that there will be winners and losers we may have to accept that abuse of all kinds will remain endemic in our society. While, hopefully, we seek a way of creating a fairer world we do still need adults who will go on caring for, and loving, troubled children. It is worth repeating, children are safeguarded not by documentation but by having a loving relationship with a good, if imperfect, adult. Tragically, as yesterday’s event in Connecticut demonstrates, in our troubled world even that may not always be enough.*
In this issue of the goodenoughcaring Journal our authors are, or have been practitioners in the nurture and support of children and young people in the public care. They don’t unnecessarily pontificate or provide the definitive solutions to the difficulties they face in initially establishing relationships with the children and young people for whom they have concern and, subsequently, in helping the youngsters engage healthily in the communities in which they live. Our authors bear witness to, and are in a dialogue with, what they face and in doing this they are directly and indirectly asking all of us to join the discussion about these issues.
*On December 14th, 2012, twenty children and six adults died when a gunman rampaged through Sandy Hook primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, firing a semi-automatic rifle before killing himself.