Obviously, as a professional, I have had to write stuff about the children I look after. In fact, I have done so everyday of my working life for the past 12 years. This can be anything from what they have had to eat, daily observations and phone calls with parents to reports for LAC reviews and so on.
Now, of course, everything I write is meant to be “objective” and “non-judgemental” and so on. But, of course, that isn’t really what happens – short of straightforward statements of fact such as: “he watched a film on TV” everything is coloured by how I experience the child or young person, and what I think is happening for him or her (in some reports I will be discussing their internal emotional world as much as their outward behaviour). This will be influenced by my experience, knowledge, training, world view and personal insight. It is certainly, to a large degree, subjective.
OK…let me be clear from the get go…I’m pretty jaded and did not expect to be shocked by the content of last night’s Panorama: Teenage Prison Abuse – but I was…
I thought I would see some excessive and inappropriate use of restraint, some swearing at the kids and that kind of thing. I did not expect to see staff openly engaging in a culture of thuggery and sadism. It was appalling, cruel, disturbing, a genuine outrage and so on and so forth.
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.
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.
So…I thought I would take a look at what’s out there in the blogosphere regarding kids in care, kids who have been in care, people who look after kids in care and so on.
There seems to be a lot out there about “forced” adoption and generally about the idea that the state are in someway child snatchers – as if the care system is abusive by intent and design. This is clearly nonsense and I intended to write a well argued rebuke and defense of the good work and heartfelt desire to improve children’s life’s of many working in the care “system”.
But I can’t because I started work at 7am yesterday and finished at 5pm today (I have worked much longer shifts) so I am exhausted and the well argued stuff will have to wait…
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.