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Beyond A Boundary. Linking The Learning From Cricket To Residential Child Care (1)

Beyond a boundary. Linking the learning from cricket to residential child care (1)

#1 in the series of four.

What’s the link between cricket and residential child care?

English cricket and residential child care have turned towards short-termism. In cricket the one-day game has proliferated and now dominates fixtures. Residential child care has increasingly had to resist the external demand for it to be a short-term intervention only.

The difference in short term and long term is the thinking that begets the skills

The ability to hit sixes and make runs rapidly by wild innovation of strokes, or to smash wickets through electrifying exhausting pace, is a different set of skills than patient innings building or containing a person at the wicket.

It is being said that the manner of the loss of the Ashes shows that being fit for purpose for the fast one-day game in all its formats has potential to make a player not fit for purpose in a steady five-day game where an over of no runs stopping things getting worse and creating a breathing space can be to make a solid platform for a resilient future.

The residential child care practice for short term interventions might not be the same as for longer term relationship important practice.

Short term management of boundaries and achievement of a stability is often sought to allow longer term options to be understood or pursued. Relationships are often with an ever-changing set of individuals. There is a debate as to whether this falls into the definition of what is understood as residential child care where the establishing of a primary care relationship is paramount for everything else that can occur, such as engaging with school or therapy.

The linking of theory and practice, form, and function, is important. ‘Form’ as Mike Brearley, a former England captain and now psychotherapist, observes in his book of the same name, matters. There is a connection between mental attitude and performance. Brierley cautions of an imbalance of stress and rest. “Emotions that arise out of threat or deficit – fear, frustration, anger, sadness – have a decidedly toxic feel to them and are associated with the release of specific stress hormones, most notably cortisol.” We can link this to another Brearley caution, “Because we have overridden the natural rhythms that once defined our lives, the challenge is to consciously and deliberately create new boundaries.”

Writing about cricket but it could be residential child care

Speed and urgency, skills for the one-day game where everything is expedient, in another circumstance leads to a lack of insight which in turn leads to the organisational approach not being analysed, which in turn leads to a lack of visualisation and preparation. Culture and structure have been removed being replaced by agile innovation. There is no time to make plans or schedules that build good habits and break bad ones. No time to be precise, specific, and positive. In this anxiety ridden state “Losing the capacity to stand aside and watch with a professional’s eye may be suicidal.” It appears to be the case for England in the Test series, and commentators muse it is not just these games but endemic, the result of too many one-day chases in the English game whereas these are fewer in the Australian game. The Indian cricket structure is to insist on good batting basics, meanwhile in England it is to hit hard and have fun.

To think that short term is the sole purpose possible of the residential option is to open the door to defining it out of existence.

There is no one thing called residential child care or a ‘children’s home’ there is no singularity only plurality. The only way to appreciate residential child care is as a diversity with the options determined by task and function, and each is a specialism, and this includes long term mainstream family group options as much as therapeutic group living as much as secure children’s homes as much as solo homes for specific reasons.

True appreciation of the opportunity of each of these residential child care options comes through having experienced the individual skill and collective effort involved.

Residential child care is not, solely, a short-term quick fix intervention, and to define  it so is to exclude its potential. Whether it is a home or a sector, to be efficacious requires an amount of time and intensity of provision directly determined by the needs of the child not the external determinants of the manualised programme or the budget.

The England cricket team Ashes defeat has been attributed to inadequate preparation, defective batting technique, dropped catches, poor spin bowling, and lack lustre coaching and captaincy.

Now if you were an Ofsted inspector looking at a children’s service or setting you might rack up these negatives and conclude there is a structural weakness.

You might think it emanates from too much short termism, the marginalisation of the long form of cricket, five-day test matches, in favour of one day slog fests, in all its formats.

There is a place for the shorter formats, but not to supplant long established ones. The short-term idea blunts, dissolves, obscures the full range of the roles and tasks of anything.

The learning here for residential child care policy makers and providers is to be very cautious concerning new structures like multi-homes, emergency registration, and new standards removing care and making the focus and ambition only support.

The second in the series will consider teams and time.

The third in the series will consider practice and social context.

The fourth in the series will consider the role of children’s homes and open the important and necessary discussion concerning residential child care, class, race, and gender