A collaboration between the Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care and the International Journal of Social Pedagogy.
As England moves towards its promised to be broad Care review, ‘a review like no other’ for James Anglin, it is salutary to be reminded that in the seven reports of the Scottish review of their care system the word ‘love’ is mentioned 85 times. It is also pertinent to the current consideration by the English government to separating support from care in some social care settings. This opens new discussions, can there be support without care? What is the relationship of care work and love? There is a further question that never seems to be examined, if it is absent then what is this practice, and what are the effects?
In this special edition, and rich exploration, of the SIRCC Journal and International Journal of Social Pedagogy Thrana gets to the heart of the matter, “The question to be asked is not if it shall be taken into account in professional social work, but what kind of love is expected from the social workers, and how love can be encompassed in social work practice”. The issue, then, is relevant to all children’s services wider than residential child care, but as so often residential living provides a lens. The articles are an example of the discursive and developmental methodology needed to establish a robust process of how theory and evidence are constructed over time
A Canadian Minister of Child Welfare on commenting that ‘We can’t legislate for love’, had the response, ‘No, but you can legislate the conditions in which love can happen’. The Guide to the Quality Standards for children’s homes in England identifies Love in its principles for practice.
This special edition considers the central role of love and its multiple meanings. Care, acceptance, empathy, sympathy, compassion, presence, recognition, respect, honesty, commitment, trust, regard, affirmation, sense of community, striving to understand and ensure the well-being of the other, are all identified throughout the literature as key components of loving interactions and loving relationships.
As a source of references it is valuable, and includes researched and evidence proposals for practice. In the many definitions and descriptions here there is not a jot of sentimentality, Vincent specifically differentiates love in this professional context from the kind of love present in private relationships. Here are researchers and theorists exploring complexity drawing from a range of scientific and professional perspectives.
The various authors take different starting points and have many perspectives demonstrating the search for an appropriate consensus.
Contesting the idea that Love is not a competency that can be measured (Hargreaves, 2000) an empirical study, included here, by Lausten and Frederiksen, of 1,400 children in out-of-home care considers the subjective feeling of love amongst children living in out-of-home care found two key factors, feeling secure through long-term care of more than five years. This factor increases the likelihood of
feeling loved by a factor six. Young people in England on average spend less than 6 months in a children’s home. By short termism it may be we actively destabilise the efficacy of a residential place, we turn it from an opportunity to a placement. The second factor is high social support, this too comes with time.
Many writers in this edition cite Honneth and the notion of recognition. Honneth is under recognised in English social work and care. His work extends the work of British authors such as Bowlby and Winnicott. Seeing it insufficiently scientific Bowlby replaced ‘love’ with ‘attachment’ thus enabling a greater psychological perspective. Love requires teaching by doing, attachment first comes from parent. A note here from Howe (2011) shows Friere and Winnicott look at the capacity to love coming through ‘a consistent, available, responsive parent who is able to attune to and notice their needs and to know how to sooth and respond at times of stress or challenge.’ Here we are dissecting the performative. Recognition for Honneth is a communication, as it is in Winnicott’s concept of mirroring. In infant:parent play there are the foundations for future love, rights and solidarity that are central to the experience of recognition as a human being and the growth of identity and self-esteem, ‘the experience of being loved is … a necessary prerequisite to participate in public life’ (Honneth, 1995)
We are reminded here by one writer that the ‘doing’ of care suggests a one-way experience; the adult doing care to the child rather than care of each other, a reciprocal experience (Tronto, 2010). The valuable insights of Gerhardt (2015) are included, children by experiencing attuned care learn to internalise trust in themselves and in the outer world, they gain a sense of themselves as worthy of love (as ‘loveable’) and learn what it is to love (Gerhardt, 2015). Love is both a set of actions and of feelings.
The writers here absolutely appreciate that Love alone is “not enough”, as Bettelheim observed, to ensure positive outcomes for children. Practitioners must also possess the appropriate knowledge of human development and be able to apply that knowledge in their everyday interactions with children.
The stages of Love in a relationship are identified by Thrana in ways that will be readily recognised by residential workers, (and similar to Eriksons’s stages of emotional growth); rebellion and exclusion (anger, outside society, experience of not being loved, no belonging); intervention (opposition, distrust, more difficult, loneliness; perseverance in the relationship – the turning point – (scepticism, insecurity, one fails – been seen, been understood, activity and joy); new identities (I am okay, I am recognised and loved , I have possibilities, and I am able to choose ); participation in society (restoration, belonging to family and society, I benefit and others like me). It seems persistence is often the ultimate test of whether you really are worth loving, and loving.
In another SIRCC journal article not in this special edition Feeny reports on Turning Ordinary Love Into Extraordinary Outcomes at East Park
Here all the theory and research is shown in practice in the achieving of the organisational goal of developing a reliable cultural approach. The five questions asked could be used by many others;
Overall – Do you believe our staff should show our young people love?
1. What should this look like?
2. How would they know they are loved?
3. Does their diagnosis have an impact on their perception of love? (sometimes it seems defining what love means to young people with complex and multiple diagnoses is needed)
4. How do we manage to preserve professional boundaries when showing love?
5. Are there situations that arise where showing or responding with love can increase risk?
For a child, through a value base taken into practice that encourages loving, trusting and meaningful relationships then assessing, planning and practicing in a way that is cognisant of each young person’s interpretation of love, by recruiting staff with this capacity and embedding it in induction, with supervision, peer assessment in daily observation and coaching improvement, comes an understanding that ‘our (staff) behaviour is based on love for them and not power, they can trust our motivation and in turn staff can take calculated risks to explore more creative interventions. ‘