Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Fifteen
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Fifteen Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
All Pages

Those that had been orphaned, abandoned, neglected or ill treated in some way were 'received' into care and would end up in a Children's Home where, in the main, they would be treated, as far as possible, like children from a large family, that is with a relaxed, benevolent kindness by staff who were usually highly motivated in what they did and why they did it. Such was the position where I was working.

Those children 'placed' [as distinct from received] into care, usually on a court order as a consequence of offending behaviour were likely to be sent [or remanded] into a more custodial setting such as an Approved school, Remand Home or a Borstal institution. A care order could also be made by the courts on a child who had not offended but had been removed on a place of safety order. Such children would not have been placed in a 'penal' setting.

In those days, children could also be brought before the court by Education Welfare Officers for non school attendance and a care order could be made. Children on care orders could not be removed from care without the court giving permission.

Children who were afflicted by physical or mental handicap would be placed in 'Special' residential schools or Institutions geared to their special needs, and staffed by people trained in their specialised care.

Similar special care was provided for children suffering from severe personality disorders and mental illness who would usually grow up in the children's unit of long stay mental hospitals.

Now, as the result of a Commission of Enquiry into child care provision in the late sixties, there were major changes by the mid seventies - just as I started - and a new type of home, known as a Community Home would be introduced. Much greater emphasis was also to be given to fostering children out to live with families.

This was the beginning of 'Care in the Community' and the 'generic' Social Worker who would be all things to all people. This led to the closure of many of the larger homes, and children were moved about to live in different places, with children from different categories now living together under the same roof. Some people would refer to the changes, which were not universally popular, as lumping together the sad, the bad and the mad. A rather cruel definition but it shows the feelings some of the care staff held. It also led to the stigmatising of many children by their schools, prospective employers and the community at large as they began to equate Children's Homes with places that housed delinquent children.

My own view was that this mixing of children was to the great disadvantage of those sad little ones whose only 'fault' in life was to have suffered, usually loss, bereavement or cruelty, and now had to share their home and possessions with some quite unpleasant youngsters who, had they been a little older would have been remanded into prison, and not into a children's home. There was a belief held in some places that there were no such things as bad children, and that they were made bad by life experiences; the old argument of nature versus nurture, and that by placing a bad one amongst a lot of good ones, a change for the better would follow. If cause and effect were really that simple, I bet the apple farmers in my area would love to know how to do it.