This article has been specially requested to be republished
An article published in the Huffington Post 4th April 2017
An effect of trauma can be experiences of disorientation and disconnection. Impingement on a person can be so severe that it has the potential to inhibit the development or fracture fragile identity, or there is a need for pathological compliance with the demands of another that are inimical to your own best interests.
An effect of trauma can be experiences of disorientation and disconnection.
Impingement on a person can be so severe that it has the potential to inhibit the development or fracture fragile identity, or there is a need for pathological compliance with the demands of another that are inimical to your own best interests.
A colleague asked me how the residential sector had maintained itself during what he observed as ‘the last two years of perpetual denigration’ of residential child care options for young people. He asked why homes had not been vociferous. I quoted Denis Donohue writing about art and disaster; ‘ There is sometimes a level of impingement which issues in a brute silence rather than in a high level of articulation.’
Resilience is described, briefly, as the ability to overcome life’s obstacles. Resilient people can give examples of – ‘I am’, ‘I can’, ‘I have’.
So, on the one hand residential settings are drawing on their resilience developed over decades. This is the magnificent achievement given the tsunami of negativity that has swamped any discussion, suffocating any acknowledgement of anything good. The sector has had few champions or indeed people speaking confidently about and for it.
‘I have’ is experienced through positive relationships. These past years a person has shown their affiliation often by how much distance they can put between themselves and even the thought of residential options being the positive place that young people often report. Children’s homes have had denied them that important feeling of belonging to the family of children’s services and settings.
‘I can’ shows through being confident in professional theory and practice, being validated by others. These past few years the previously known boundaries of what the residential sector’s role is for society have been changed outwith of the sector to the extent it sometimes is unable to know what it is allowed to do to meet needs in certain common situations in children’s homes.
Knowing who ‘I am’ comes from a person knowing they are valued personally and professionally and enabled to speak and act authoritatively. With the smallest amount of empathy needed it can be appreciated that the media portrayals of these last years have taken their toll on young people and workers alike, an identity has been knocked askew.
I met a young man and his key worker.
I looked into the young man’s eyes and as I did he said, ‘Tell me my name.’ I told him his name.
‘Tell him his,’ he said looking at keyworker. I told him his name.
‘Tell me who I am,’ said the young man. I told him he was a young man who was overcoming some experiences that were not of his making and he was growing to be strong in mind and body, and was creating a positive future.’ He nodded.
‘Tell him who he is.’
‘He’s the person who believed in himself, all he knows and can do, and believed in you to provide you with someone you could believe in, rely on and begin to leave as growing young people should do. He is doing his job well. It’s a difficult time letting go after holding on for as long as you needed him.’ The young man smiled, and nodded.
There was a moment of quiet, then he looked up into my eyes, ‘After all I have been through in my life at home, and then through the many fostering placements, I met a man who believed in me and that has made all the difference for me. Finally I belonged to someone and somewhere, and he and they belong to me’.
An island of achievement in a sea of chaos.
We need to provide the belongingness for our children’s homes that this home provided for this young man.
We have all got to work to change the constant alarm footing homes have had to be on, get them off the emotional rollercoaster. Then we must assure them they no longer have to be in an alert state where thinking isn’t so flexible. We must consciously provide for our homes a period of calm where they can once again feel a recovery from the impingements of the past few years