Sunday, 27 October 2019

Scottish childhoods: drugs, alcohol and beatings?

Or a simplistic view of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

[Alan Sinclair: Third Force News]

"Across Scotland today one child in four is assessed as vulnerable when they arrive at primary school. Vulnerable means they lack confidence, social skills, emotional maturity, language capability and good physical health. They have poor wellbeing. Many have experienced serious trauma in the form of abuse (sexual, drugs, alcohol), violence and neglect. There are 15,400 Scots children currently in the care of social services."

"Across Scotland in 2017, £310 million was spent on 1,600 young people in residential care. In Glasgow, 93 children were placed in specialist residential care at an average cost of £228,000 a year. Most of these young people have complex needs and have lead traumatised lives. What does that say about us as a society and as adults?"

"The latest medical and scientific research into the lifelong consequences of poor parenting on the development of babies’ brains points to the fact that damage begins in the womb, where the foetus suffers trauma through experiencing external influences ranging from the mother’s drugs and alcohol use to beatings from violent men. This damage is exacerbated once born if the baby suffers a lack of the loving care that mothers across most species devote to their young..."

"The result is generations of young Scots who are incapable of recognising love when they find it, and cannot give it when it is required. They are damaged beyond repair in their first 1,000 days of life, from conception to two years old, and society bears the huge cost of coping with their lifelong struggles."


A more academic approach to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

"The notion of ACEs has become internationally mobile from its creation in the USA two decades ago...The concept of ACEs is gaining increasing traction in the UK and more widely as a means for policymakers and professionals in a range of services, especially health, social work and policing, to develop and use ‘tickbox’ protocols that generate individual ACE ‘scores’, and to make algorithmic-based decisions: about how to target resources and at whom, and when and how to intervene..." 

"In the UK, ACEs have found a foothold in relation to the Troubled Families Programme, with its focus on targeted, intense and time-limited intervention to ‘turn around’ families displaying dysfunction according to a set of social indicators, to address and prevent the ‘root causes’ of mental and physical disease and intergenerational social disadvantage in early childhood experience (Crossley, 2018)."

"Macvarish and Lee provide an analysis of the various perspectives on the advantages and limitations of an ACEs approach..., arguing that there are links into the wider ‘first three years movement’ which homes in on parents as both the cause and solution to childhood adversities and determining of future outcomes..."

"Mcvarish and Lee identify the way that ACEs discourse is heavily gendered, with mothers positioned as deterministic mediators for their children with little consideration of their own adversities. Davidson and Carlin consider class-based inequalities and values in resilience-informed youth policy and practice in the ‘ACE-aware’ nation of Scotland, to unpack the way that injustice is reframed as individual deficiency and young people in deprived areas are assessed and held to account against middle class social values. They call for policies that change circumstances rather than individuals."

The myth of the first three years

"John Bruer offers a voice of sanity, common sense, and genuine expertise to counter the latest fad from the witch doctors of child development. Nothing is more important than understanding the growth of children's minds, and Bruer insightfully reviews the state of the art with admirable clarity, balance, intelligence, and humour. This is an indispensable book for parents, professionals, and anyone else who is interested in the fate of our children."

[Steven Pinker Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, MIT, author of `The Language Instinct` and `How the Mind Works`]

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