A 10-year-old girl I look after – lets call her Sarah – has the “worst” case history I have ever read. The word “worst” is in inverted commas because there is something slightly uncomfortable about comparing different children’s experiences. The children I look after have all had, by any measure, terrible early years, and to say one is the worst implies the others are better. But there really is no getting round it – Sarah’s is the worst.
Her referral paperwork read like a public enquiry waiting to happen until she was finally removed from the family nine years too late. Years of physical and sexual abuse, numerous referrals to children’s services over the years from various parties – including one from the school saying she had presented with “severe vaginal pain” – but nothing done. So she remained in the hands of her sadistic, disturbed father and collusive mother (they are all collusive but more on this another day).
How does this happen? Well there will be lots of real world reasons. The stuff you read about in your Laming reports and so on about communication between agencies and lack of assertiveness from CP practitioners. But the truth is more unconscious. People just don’t want to accept it is really happening – the material is so difficult and toxic people won’t/can’t contemplate that it is really happening and defend against it…
Once they’re in care the problem is slightly different. At that point treating everything a child says as a CP disclosure and the procedures and protocols that involves become the defense against really having to think about what happened either as workers or with the child. It prevents us from having to ask the really difficult questions in case we “jeopardise” a future prosecution. And this saves us from having to confront the toxic material. Surely when there is no realistic chance of a prosecution we should just let the children talk and the focus should be on helping them recover?