Editorial 3 : Love is enough?

By The Editors

Date Posted: Wednesday, 25 June 2008



Love is enough ?

Bruno Bettelheim famously entitled one of his most influential books Love Is Not Enough.  He argued that the kind of care to be given to troubled youngsters is of a different quality than the love given by parents to their own children.  Until  recently there seems to have been a general acceptance that when it comes to looking after other people’s children love is not enough. Yet we have become aware of a trend in the articles submitted to the goodenoughcaring Journal which seems to question Bettelheim’s aphorism. Perhaps we need to think of  love as having a wider meaning than Bettelheim felt able to own at the time he wrote Love Is Not Enough .
The difficulty for us is that we seem  at best resistant and at worst fearful of the word love. It is not sufficiently professional or  scientific for us. It doesn’t tick boxes.  In the throes of our professional and personal  terror of failing to protect children, we have allowed ourselves to forget that there is a boundary  between the acting out of aggression and sexual desire and the more mature love of parenting figures for their children. Our fears and anxieties have prevented us from establishing healthily concerned and loving  relationships with the children we look after. We struggle to free ourselves from the shackles of a professional defensiveness which ironically has its source in procedures primarily developed  to protect children. At its extreme what has grown out of this compound of procedure and professional, as well as personal angst,  is the frozen adult who fearing to be accused of being abusive, will  not put a comforting arm around a troubled child’s shoulder or the  adult male who abdicates his  responsibility to help a distressed child in the street for fear of what he might be accused. As Jane Kenny points out in her article in this edition of the Journal, in our rigid adherence to procedure we have created many more subtle ways to de-personalise the relationship between the child in care and the carer.  We should be alive enough and sensitive enough to discern, without a total surrender to the forces of procedure, the sexually and aggressively driven behaviour of abusive adults  – however plausibly and subtly exercised –  from the mature love that good enough parenting figures have for children.
We would put forward another reason why professional carers are resistant to the notion of love in our work. It is a notion which speaks of duty, of commitment and intensity of concern. It speaks of ‘stickability’, of’ ‘through thick  and thin’ and of cherishing. Some of us struggle with these elements in our own personal relationships but  we should ask the question, ‘Do the children we look after need all these things from us?’ It is a big ask, but we know the answer. If we cannot give this kind of love, whatever we put in its place in our relationships with children will not be enough. If we do give it this will inevitably mean risking giving up more of ourselves.
The mantra for this edition of the goodenoughcaring Journal, for our conference and for our book is that ‘love is enough’. It must be the right kind of love and there must be enough of it.

In this issue :

Mark Smith   considers the possibility of relationships between children and child care workers being  ‘characterised by love’  rather than fear.
Jane Kenny   finds that defensive procedure and practice in children’s homes gets in the way of  relationships ‘characterised by love’.

Jeremy Millar   asks fundamental questions about the personal qualities required of a professional carer and asks us to challenge the validity of the current social inclusion/ social exclusion paradigm

Douglas Cameron  explores  different elements of the relationship between a young person in care and the adults who represent the care system, and, how the system works against the formation of consistent concerned attachment relationships.
Martin Wigg  describes how in work with vulnerable people love,care and concern  is subsumed by the government’s pre-occupation with enforced targets.
Jo Nash  describes her work ‘cultivating the good heart’ at a school  in India and she emphasises the importance of mutuality in relationships between children and staff.
Jan Noble’s   poems tersely,edgily, wittily and tellingly observe  human experience in impoverished communities, in broken relationships and in love starved families.
Patson Musumali  looks at some of  the difficulties which can arise when catering for individual dietary needs of young people in children’s home.
David Murphy  gives a personal account being in residential care in the 1960s.
Robert Billingham  tells of his experiences of working in a children’s home during his summer vacations in the 1960s.


Conference News

The goodenoughcaring conference takes place at the Maria Assumpta Centre, 23 Kensington Square, London on Saturday, October 4th from 9.30 to 4.30. The theme is Love Is Enough : sincerity and professionalism in the care of young people.  The roll of guest speakers is still being finalised but we know we have the prospect of a stimulating and entertaining day.
There will be exhibition tables for delegates who wish to bring promotion literature, about themselves, about the services they provide, or any other related information they might wish  to broadcast.
We will also be launching the goodenoughcaring book which has the same title as the conference. It will be on sale at a special conference price.
Lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments are provided and we have managed to keep the cost down to £40 for the day which in London is an achievement which lies somewhere between a minor and major miracle.
The booking form is to be found in the contents list of the Journal. Click on it and do a quick copy and paste job, print it and send it to us.
Places at the conference are limited and are given on a strictly first come first served basis. We do hope you join us.

Evelyn Daniel, Siobain Degregorio, Jane Kenny, Ariola Vishnja and Charles Sharpe

The editorial group



01 Sep 2008,    Martin Wigg writes
This remains a very sensitive area because we are still living with the inheritance of the 70’s/80’s when 4 nationally known child care figures turned out to be paedophiles. 
09 Jul 2008,    Rod Harvey comments
OK Love should be enough but so few are really prepared (and think about that last word) to give it. 
25 Jun 2008,    Mark Smith writes
Just had a look at the journal. Some very nice pieces of writing. It’s significant how strongly and consistently the criticism of proceduralism/protectionism comes through and the need for relationships – well done for bringing this out.