Obviously the word “family” is complicated and painful for all children in care because, irrespective of the circumstances, all of them are united by one simple truth – they are not living with theirs.
Images of “perfect” families abound in popular culture – films, books, even TV adverts, constantly bombard these kids (and, let’s face it, all of us) with idealised versions of what a family “should” be like. Sure, siblings may argue but they make up in the end, or come together when they need each other – blood is thicker than water and blah, cliche, blah.
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.
So, last night myself and a colleague restrained Mo in a variety of different holds for nearly two hours. Mo kept hurting us – biting, spitting, head butting, punching and on two separate occasions kicked my colleague, Jane, in the crotch. Sometimes I held him on my own. This is considered poor practice but we had other children to look after who are all capable of kicking off if they feel ignored. The child in question wanted to be held as his behaviour, and what he said, indicated.