The other day the deputy manager of the home I work in left. He had been recruited externally and was only around for a few months. He made the decision to leave and for various reasons he wasn’t up to the task. Mainly, I would suggest, because the fairly rigorous nature of our psychoanalytic model can be exposing and superficial strategies for manipulating how people view you are ineffective.
Sentimentality is the curse of many people who work in children’s social care especially, but not exclusively, for workers who are relatively inexperienced. I would caricature this as a “poor thing” or “he’s a good kid really” attitude.
Perhaps a certain amount of naivety is required when you start out – awareness of the reality of what you will be dealing with would stop most from taking the job on I guess. And it probably helps balance out the more jaded attitudes of experienced staff.
This documentary, although filmed at a bigger, and slightly different, institution, represents fairly well the kind of work I did in a therpeutic community for children. Slide it forward to 1m 30s to avoid cheesy voice over… The embed below no longer works – click here instead.
If we are lucky as babies (and most of us are – our parents might not have been perfect but were probably “good enough”) we will experience a period of “primary maternal preoccupation“.
This concept was identified by Donald Winnicott (other theories are available – see Wilfred Bion’s “maternal reverie”) and essentially refers to the mother’s state of mind for a few weeks before and after the birth of a child. In very basic terms this means the mother becomes obsessed by the baby, thinking almost entirely of his or her needs, wondering what the child is thinking, what different noises and expressions mean and generally trying to work out what is going on for the child.
It hardly needs saying that the allegations in the news about Knowl View boarding school are very disturbing. Clearly children being looked after by the state should not be subject to this, or any, kind of abuse. I totally accept this is newsworthy and usually cringe when people say things like: “Why are there never any good news stories?” However, I am now going to do exactly that because I think the general public could easily have the view that children in care, especially residential care rather than foster care, live in nightmare homes run by paedophiles and pimps.
The worry that a child may make an untrue allegation (especially of a sexual nature) against a member-of-staff can often be rife in children’s homes. There is a slight risk and the consequences of it happening would be potentially devastating to the individual concerned. However, I have always considered the anxiety about it to be wildly disproportionate.
In reality it happens very rarely and the chances of someone actually losing their job or being prosecuted if it did happen are even slimmer. Otherwise we would hear endless stories about children’s home staff being charged with sex offences – and we do not.