Thursday, 29 September 2011

Cherish parents

Is this breaucratically possible?

Some definitions
  • Cherish verb  to hold dear, treasure, embrace with interest; indulge, encourage; promote, protect and aid, treat with care tenderness and affection; nurture, care about deeply, have highest regard for: recognise the worth, quality, importance of...
  • Antonyms  not care, abandon, forsake
I think this definition enough for present purposes.

Suspicion of parents

Anne Marie Carrie from the charity Barnardo's was on the radio this morning talking bout the recent fall in the rate of adopting young children in England. She said that one factor in this was that 'we do not cherish parents' the parents who come forward wanting to adopt a child. Instead, we (that is our child-care institutions) treat them with suspicion.

Adopting a child is about as human and humane an activity as you can get.. So is bringing up a disabled child. One might similarly say that we do not cherish parents who bring up disabled children. Instead we (that is the health-education complex) treat them with suspicion.
  • The result for young children awaiting adoption to rescue them from developmentally destructive limbo? They may wait, and wait, and wait... and maybe in the end just sink from view.
  • And disabled children and their families awaiting developmentally appropriate and cherishing services to rescue them from developmentally destructive limbo? They wait, and wait, and wait... and maybe in the end just sink from view.

What do they have in common? Of course causation is multifactorial in both, but through the distracting smoke screens of 'care', 'safeguarding', 'professional experise' etc. one may glimpse that – despite all the talk – that in both we (our governing and managing institutions) simply do not cherish and trust parents enough, indeed we distrust them, and care too little for their 'instincts' and what they understand might be best for their children.

What distinguisheds between the two? Well, at least adoption is something that is talked about, it is on the public agenda, failure to get it right evokes public concern.


Parents of disabled children may experiences 'differences' about the services to be provided for their children when they approach the responsible authorities.
  • This is not just, as may be the more readily expressed, a matter of cognitive difference, intellectual disagreement between on the one hand parents' understandings and choices and on the other those of the 'authorities' (both meanings, hence the inverted commas).
  • There is also a conative, affective, emotional disjunction between what on one side may be a matter experienced and expressed primarily as a matter of 'feeling', and on the other something that is primarily a question of problem-solving, professionalism, disposal.

What to change?

So back to Anne Marie Carrie. She was bold to express herself as she did (and it us interesting that none of the national newspapers who have covered the adoption problem this morning have taken up this aspect of what she said – indicative perhaps of how far 'cherishing' has fallen off the national agenda.
  • Can bureaucracies and their bureau-professionals become and act more cherishingly towards parents, who are as much their clients as are children? What might we do to enable or compel them in this, that would not in itself be to create further dehumanising bureaucracy?
  • Or is it better to recognise that the model through which our society frames its response to profoundly human and humane questions, such as adoption and disability, may be fundamentally wrong or, to use an awful managerialist phrase, 'not fit for purpose'.  To use a just-as-awful political one, 'it is 'time to move on'.

We should not and can not lose the human/humane factor in human affairs, so ultimately it is bureaucracy that must give way, in favour of better ways of running things.

It will be a long, hard road.

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