19 September 2014

 It’s a shame we don’t like children in these islands of ours 

I am writing this on September 19th. The day we have found out that marginally more people who live in Scotland want to remain in the United Kingdom than don’t.


Stephanie came to me in the office this morning suggesting that we post our weekly tweet (@diversecare); naturally my thoughts were on our Scottish neighbours -- and whilst a political comment about our happiness or sadness on the outcome of the referendum was a possibility (I am disappointed on a personal note), after some chat we decided on a more child relevant theme. So I was thinking about children, but Scotland was still there:


A few years ago, I was gadding around the country screening the film that Tim Kemp and I wrote, ‘Hell’s Pavement’ (you can find the trailer on youtube -- let me know if you want a screening). We were in Glasgow and were screening at a lovely theatre on Sauchiehall Street. Our audience for this tour typically had a few social workers, Foster Parents and Local Authority employees scattered amongst the general public. At the end of the film -- Tim and I would go up on stage and have a conversation with the audience about the themes contained in the film. The film is a fictionalised year in the life of an eleven year old girl in foster care (based on real experiences). At the end of this particular question and answer session I had a Scottish gentleman come up to me and introduce himself. He was the head of social services for Glasgow at the time. After complimenting the film and offering some, as you would imagine, very astute comments he made the following statement, “It’s a shame that we don’t like children in these islands of our’s”. Initially I was quite surprised by this comment coming from a chap whose responsibilities included looked after children’s issues. But the more I thought about it the more I have come to understand this man’s point.


As part of my work I have to go to a few conferences each year (few would go by choice!), and many speakers who speak with confidence and conviction on matters associated with children and foster care wouldn't know which end of a child is up, and yet some of these people have the ears of the policy makers. When I met a well known minister in the Department for Education, he quite matter-of-factly stated that, “children don’t vote,” and that therefore children’s issues are low down on the priority list during parliamentary debate and budget considerations.


I believe that some of our opinions about children are a Victorian hang-over. ‘Children should be seen and not heard’. We have all been in restaurants, or on trains, or in shops or on planes where our or someone else’s children are causing a ruckus. It is uncomfortable for all concerned. Contrast this with the actions of people in Spain, Italy and Greece: I was lucky enough recently to enjoy a lovely little holiday in the Canary Islands with my family including my 4 and 1 year-old daughters. We went into a tapas bar one evening and when the waitress saw Maeve (1 year old blond baby with blue eyes) instantly scooped her up, kissed her head, pinched her cheeks and proceeded to show her off to all of the other diners. Nuala (4 year old with blond hair and hazel eyes) was left at the table with us old fogeys looking decidedly left out. A waiter instantly noticed this and ran over gushing over his ‘beautiful princess’ -- she was pleased. Children in the Mediterranean are celebrated and enjoyed, rather than produced scrubbed and on parade just before they’re marched off to bed. I am not qualified to say which method produces more well adjusted and contented adults. But I am qualified to say which is more pleasant.


Coming back to the director of Glasgow Social services, I quoted him on twitter with the emphasis on ‘it’s a shame’ that we don’t like children. If we did, I believe we would behave differently towards them, and fostering would be very different in this country. The reason that Jimmy managed to convince me to come back into this area of work after my sabbatical is that he convinced me that I could still make a difference in the service delivery of foster care in the UK. This is a work in progress but keep watching Diverse Care and this blog for further developments.


Image credit: Raumrot.


written by

Keith Gorman

Director & Registered Individual


Last modified on Saturday, 27 December 2014 10:57

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