Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Orphanages and a new twist on Oliver

I am a mother , a teacher and a grandmother. I Like children, and I worry about them. I think that children are powerless in society and that when children grow up in dysfunctional homes they are often damaged in ways that can make them in turn not the best of parents. I am not saying anyone is a deliberate bad parent but that some have little understanding of the needs of an infant.

In my childhood I read a lot of books and stories about poor children who lived in orphanages. I guess after two world wars there were large numbers of children that lacked two parents or one fit parent . Grief and loss were accepted with a stoicism that is unseen in our young people today. The book Goodnight Mr Tom was a classic example of abuse and hunger and poverty after the second world war. Thousands of children were also evacuated to safety . Many out of England and to Canada or New Zealand and Australia.

The 60's changed the way the world thought about war and contraception and the me generation, X and Y and it's subsequent offspring, have a sense of entitlement, unheard of too.

 I see, little children in sad homes , hungry, neglected, poor and abused. How do we deal with it. Many blame. Some blame drugs and others race and inexperience. Is there help and adequet support and if you were 3 or 6 or 9 years old where would you go for help? Would you have somewhere to go for help? And would you? Children never tell on their parents, most think all parents are the same. Some are told not to tell or the consequences may be worse treatment!

In our "don't tell" culture, people are labeled narc if they report suspected child abuse. Famlies can conceal abuse and a code of silence surrounded the death of two babies in this country.  Do I have an answer? I am not sure, but I think that our model of keeping the family together although well intended overlooks the child and it's whole environment.

Why don't we take all the children who are at risk out of the dysfunctional families altogether? We know that families are often ALL part of the cycle of abuse. If Nana or Grandad beat mum or dad , I would figure that all the Aunties and Uncles have been treated the same way. Sexual abuse, violence, alcohol and drug problems are connected as is the family.

I wonder if large modern and State run Orphanages or residential homes for kids are needed to supply the stability and security that has been lacking in their lives. The parents are not excluded but the children who are deemed unsafe within their own family need a fresh start and deserve something better . Something a lot better than many of them have been used too. A good breakfast, a warm bed, a bath or shower and a clean and dry towel plus schooling is the most basic needs of a child. Yet many  are missing out. I know this seems against the grain , but maybe purpose built places for children where their own families can visit and learn how to be better parents, budget better, or reduce drug and alcohol use are what is needed.

In other words we value our children and as a country we are not going to allow them to be in cold unsafe and violent homes any more.  I am not suggesting this is going to happen to anyone not already familiar and part of the system already. but CyF's policy of placing children and paying people to care for them is unsatisfactory in my opinion for the young person. Too often they get moved from home to home or placement to placement. I have worked with a young person who had had 51 placements. This is a disservice to this young man who is unlikely to ever feel secure when he can be moved when things don't work out. I go so far as to call it a form of structural and institutional violence. The person being protected- is not.

For this reason I wonder if we need to actually invest real money in creating happy and safe environments  for our young children to grow up as wards of the state , together is a group where children are part of a group , and can form a new kind of family . Paid well qualified and trained staff work round the clock as house parents. I know that there have been problems with this arrangement in the past but I am sure we can do better.

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