By the Editors
Noticing that this issue of the goodenoughcaring Journal was number 13 a superstitious member of our editorial group suggested that a theme for this issue might be the influence of luck, chance and fortune on a childhood but this idea was not broadcast as efficiently as it might and though only one article deals directly with the theme – and what an extraordinary story Roger Lewis’s article tells – as it turns out all the articles in one sense or another deal with chance, luck and fortune.
First and foremost each deals with chance of birth. The children. young people and adults who are the members of the cast or are the focus of the articles are unique not merely because of their genetic make up but also because of the randomness of their birth and of the nature of the environment into which they were born . Each in very different ways has had horrendous obstacles to overcome, cruelty to suffer and the illness of parents to be endure. Faced with poverty, hunger, loneliness and a lack of education, they have few prospects of enjoying the rich opportunities in life that most of us experience as we grow up.
Yet Roger Lewis and George Orwell make us aware that children who are born into good enough or even privileged families face loss, separation, ill-health and cruelty with extraordinary fortitude. Darren Coyne and John Burton show us that many young people who have been in care have honed and hewn survival skills from the most difficult of extremes and courageously find a determination to live even in the most emotionally barren and impoverished of circumstances. They struggle through in a way few of us who have not faced these difficulties could ever hope to achieve. Perhaps we can all learn and gain from their attributes.
Frequently we fail to engage with these children and young people. When they leave care we dump them all in one basket and as Darren Coyne suggests we equate their being or having been in care with the notion of troublesomeness and even criminality. Werner van der Westhuizen suggests that our help should respect individuality and be offered in context. Jane Dalgleish provides ideas about how residential group living can be a nurturing environment which respects the needs of each youngster. Joan Pritchard recalls how she and her colleagues provided nurture for each child in school for children who expereinced emotional and behaviour difficulties. Moira Devlin tells us about meeting the adults who were the young women she taught in a Community Home with Education in the late 1970s whose happiest memories of their time there are of being respected and loved by the teaching and residential staff. John Stein reflects on the kind of life experienced by a child nowadays compared to the one he experienced as a boy in the 1970s.. Charles Sharpe reviews a book about residential child care practice which emphasises the importance of healthy warm relationships between individual children and adults.
In different ways both directly and indirectly each article draws out a sense of the uniqueness of a human being and highlights the need for this to be respected. Children do not come out of the same mould. Yet how often we say that about people.
One member of our editorial group when he was a young residential child care worker in a children’s home told an angry and unhappy 13 years old newly admitted to the home and away from his family home for the first time in his life, that he was not to worry and said with all the sympathy he could muster,“You’ll soon get used to it here. I know exactly what you’re going through, you know.” The boy stood up from the chair he was sitting on, pushed it over and walked away saying, “The f–k you do !”. After work when our apprentice residential child care worker asked the senior worker who had shared the shift with him why his sympathetic overtures had been so swiftly and ungratefully refused, she replied by wondering if saying he knew exactly what the boy was going through only served to make light of his suffering. “Maybe,” she continued to ponder, “he wanted his feelings acknowledged or wanted some time to own his miserable state and not have it be thought one that we all go through. He might even have liked to hear that he was not the same as everybody else.”
Marcia Cannon writes. I have read some of the write ups and find your website very interesting with information that we can all share and use in the Child and Youth Care Centre set ups. Thank you very much. This is also challenging us to write and share experiences. Well done for setting up this very informative journal.
Keith White sends Congratulations on another superb edition: I really don’t know how you do it!
Jonathan Stanley comments I love this issue!