Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Wally Herbert on the background to abuse in children's homes

Wally Herbert, a former president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, has written a guest post for Cathy Fox's blog on the institutional and political background to the abuse of children in public care:
We should be careful not to sully the good name of every employee in residential children’s services during that period. Some community home staff worked with considerable skill and dedication. There were successes as well as failures. But good quality care was sometimes achieved at a heavy price in terms of stress to staff. 
In larger homes it was relatively easy for staff to conceal abusive behaviour from the officer in charge. Shift systems complicated communications and children were generally disbelieved. Officers in charge tended to respond to allegations of abuse informally. It was not in their interests to acknowledge maltreatment. 
During visits to a family group home a casual visitor was likely to see at firsthand how staff and children related to one another in unguarded moments. It was much more difficult to ascertain this in a CHE where, because everything was on a larger scale, there were seldom opportunities to discern the quality of relationships. Visitors placed greater reliance on the word of staff. 
This was true also for governors of homes who mostly took their responsibilities seriously, spending many hours on visits. But they almost invariably saw children in groups and were escorted by staff so had limited opportunities for casual exchanges with children.
You may also be interested in my 2008 post Why were so many children in care on Jersey?

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