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.

As you may have guessed from the above remark…I didn’t like him. So naturally that will bias my view of his leaving.

We take endings very seriously where I work and there is a structure around them. Each child had a final outing with the adult and we have a community gathering which adults and children attend. The children showed in various ways that they were upset and disturbed by the deputy manager leaving. Even though, to my mind, they hardly knew him (he was absent quite a bit during his short time with us and even when present in the house often seemed not very “present” in the emotional sense).

The reason they were distressed is because when one adult leaves, it reminds them of all the other relationships that they have lost (not least because all the children have experienced multiple placements (previous foster carers/children’s homes). But also because it suddenly makes all their existing relationships feel very fragile. E.G even if they’re not that bothered about the individual adult who is leaving, it reminds them that any member-of-staff might leave at any time. Perhaps one that they are attached to.

And the problem is – they are right.

This is a terrible dilemma and unavoidable flaw in our model. To help the children it is essential they attach to us (or to one or two significant adults – more on why another day), but we cannot promise them any permanence in the relationships…so the children never truly take the emotional risk (which is very real).

Sarah is currently very in touch with the reality that her parents were a long way from being good enough – sometimes this is expressed with sadness and, other times, with real anger and violent revenge fantasies. There is no doubt that her long-term well-being depends on her being able to accept that her birth parents will never be the parents she wants or needs. She talks a lot about wanting to stay with us until she is 18 but only if certain staff members remain (this is surely healthy – if we expected her to hold all staff as equally significant to her we would in effect be encouraging an indiscriminate attachment disorder). She also often asks questions about how much contact she could have with staff when she leaves.

She is asking herself this question: if I reject my family, what will I have left when I leave here…
I don’t know how to solve this very painful riddle for her. Answers on a postcard please…