9 MAY 2008
WRITING 45 YEARS AGO ...
Integrity and warmth: Children recognize both.
They know when warmth of affection is there and when it is merely
assumed. They resent the `professional' approach, they equally reject a
`sentimental' attitude —` It is my duty to God to love this child'. A
foster-child said recently about her foster-mother, 'She does not love
me, she takes me only because she feels it her duty.'
Given true affection from his adult world there should spring confidence and, with confidence, the power to express emotion, to verbalize love, hate, fear, jealousy, and, given the right relationship with the adult, to verbalize his fears and hopes. For every child demands consciously or unconsciously recognition of what is to be his best and worst side, and if the understanding adult is there and can reach him and he will express himself, even in his rebellion, he finds the chance of realizing his hunger to be himself. It may be a long time before a damaged child will accept such affection, and for months only in the safe environment of a patterned life does he find relief.
Most disturbed children have never known an `abiding place', often literally, in the material sense, sometimes in personal relationships. They find rest in the recurring round of a safe daily life and in the continuing presence of the responsible adults. A children's Home with a constant change of staff can never provide this essential ingredient.
On the material side a children's Home, if it is to satisfy a child's needs, must offer a rich field in what-for lack of a better term-may be called a cultural life, and comfort. There are many activities to choose from, and many should be available. Even the child of low or average intelligence can absorb and enjoy toys, books, pictures, music, art, all of which can be simple and direct, but which possess quality. Too often the less intelligent child is given cheap comics, second-rate picture books, badly written and worse illustrated, cheap `pop' records, and vulgar plastic toys. `Culture' is not necessarily highbrow, and there is a rich field of good literature, good crafts, good music, upon which to feed these restless children, rather than the secondrate material to be found in so many playrooms.
The problem of the disturbed child is not peculiar to children found in children's Homes. Everywhere we find disturbed, restless children presenting behaviour problems within the framework of their own homes. Where the parents face their difficulties with intelligence, courage, and hope, miracles occur. The child `in care' tends to be `passed on'; patience with his disturbance although often prolonged, is not infinite, and secure continuity is often lacking. If we can build round them a social structure that will tolerate their idiosyncracies, with people who are aware of the difficulties which may arise in the daily round, and who are quick to obviate them as far as possible, we may slowly create for them a sense of well-being, a knowledge that in spite of all their troubles they are still wanted and loved for themselves, we may find the most unlooked-for results-but we should remember that it may take years before we see these results.
L. M. RENDELL
Rendell, L.M. (1963). The disturbed child in a children's home. An ABC of Social Problems - and Therapy, 2. Magazine of the Residential Child Care Association. pp. 35-36.