Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Current policy is bad for children

Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk obtained her PhD in developmental psychology and is based at the University of Dundee. In 2011, she set up an "independent training enterprise to disseminate more widely the science of the early years."

Here she is speaking at the Parenting Across Scotland conference. (PAS is a partnership of charities which offers support to children and families in Scotland.)

 "What babies need is love," she says. "Because if they don`t feel love that feels safe it effects their brains and their world and their futures and the way our whole society functions."

That is a huge statement. She has gone from developmental psychology to the whole of society and many would say she has jumped out of her field of competence, but grandiose statements like that are encouraged these days.  It is called `attachment theory.`

She tells the story of a grandmother who disagreed with social workers when they recommended that her two year old grandson, who had speech delay and lacked confidence, should attend nursery in order to address these difficulties. "The child is clingy," the grandmother told the social workers and needed to stay with her.

But the Scottish Government stipulates that all two year old looked-after-children should attend nursery. (Looked-after-children are those supervised by social workers.)

The result of that clash was that the social workers came to the grandmother`s home, took her screaming grandson out of her arms and transported him to nursery. At that point, the grandmother gave in, fearing that protesting would mean she would lose the child. Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk pauses to allow the audience to absorb the image of the screaming child.

It is not that professionals do not understand that separating children from their carers is distressing to children.  In 1952 John Robertson campaigned for children in hospital to have visitation rights with their parents. He explained that young professionals may have been affected by the child`s trauma in the beginning but over time they developed a second skin. Hospital staff, nurses and doctors, had numbed themselves to the detrimental effects of isolating children. After all, nurses and doctors were under pressure and had work to do.

"Do we need more evidence or do we need our hearts to move with anxiety?..." asks Dr Zeedyk.

The key predictive indicator for a bad outcome for children is losing their parent and having a bereavement when young.

Social workers who desperately want to do the right thing are under pressure to secure placements for children who require accommodation but there is a lack of foster carers. This explains why children are taken from their foster carers and placed within 10 days with their proposed adoptive parents. When social workers remove a child within that short space of time they know they have damaged a child. The child experiences the break from their foster carer as a bereavement.

"You are brave to confront this uncomfortable truth.." Dr Zeedyk tells the audience.

"We need to do this knowingly, we need to know that bereavement for a three year old child is a bad thing.  Our current policy is letting us do that ."

She said it ! 

What she did not say is that current policy encourages quick adoptions and foster carers are also put under pressure to adopt their foster children which is one way to lose foster carers.

And notice how she has little to say about a child`s original separation from its parents.


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