Mind The Child

2013-03-16 07.26.58

I’ve just read Mind The Child by Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company – one of the Penguin Lines series. Everyone who cares about the state of the world, or works, as I do, to change it, should read this book. As should anyone who works with or meets children or young people – doctors, social workers, people in job centres. It’s not a happy read, but you need to know what you don’t know.

Read  Justin’s story, which begins on page 11 and ends with the sentence ‘He was sectioned and sent to a mental institution at the age of twenty.’

I couldn’t believe that last word, ‘twenty’. Surely after all that had happened, this man would be fifty? That so much could go on in a child’s life, and that for  many people he’d meet, all that stuff would be invisible, unimaginable… That’s why every person who works in a Job Centre/School/Health Centre/Police station should be asked to read this book.

And as for the rest of us? In a hundred years time, people of  the future will look back on us with horror, thinking of us as those who willingly went along with this appalling neglect of social responsibility. This book will be one of the things that will stand in evidence against us. They’ll think we didn’t care.

Given that what we currently do – in social care, education, health – isn’t working, why aren’t we following Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company’s lead and developing models of therapeutic love? Does it cost too much? Ladies and gentlemen, look at the mental health bill. Look at the  prison bill. ‘Compassion is the ticket,’ writes Camila.

We’ve got to pay our fare.  Buy the book, believe the stories, then ask yourself, what can I do to help?

Write to your MP, tell him/her you’ve been moved by these stories and that you want to see a new model of social care. And ask what’s being done to support Camila and the children at Kids Company, and how Social Services are learning from their model. Money is always useful but it is a transformation in thinking and feeling that we need most of all.

That’s where we readers come in, for what is literature for if it does not help us make real to ourselves these pressing matters?  My hero and  change-maker, George Eliot wrote, ‘Art does nothing if it does not teach.’

I’d like to develop a national reading sharing scheme – nothing to do with literacy (though if course it will turn out to be the way to do it) – and everything to do with love.  We’ve made a start with some of the work we’ve done with Looked After (sad misnomer) Children and with children in schools. If only we were running weekly shared reading groups with the adults who lead Children’s Services, or make social policy.

6 thoughts on “Mind The Child

  1. Joanne Donovan March 16, 2013 / 11:21 am

    Great post- I haven’t seen the book- but will now. I was at an event recently & shared reading was one topic (re increasing literacy in prisons) I was doing my usual -No No Shared Reading is a magical experience that has a lot to offer even the most experienced & avid reader. It will increase literacy- but that’s only one string to it’s incredible bow. Hope to see you soon,

    Joanne x

    • drjanedavis March 16, 2013 / 9:17 pm

      Thanks, Joanne. Glad you are going to read it.
      Yes – shared reading for is everyone because this isn’t a literacy project, or if it is it is redefining what literacy is… we keep saying it’s books and people. The people matter as much as the books. and so does the ‘and’…

  2. jennerous March 16, 2013 / 12:06 pm

    “Compassion is the ticket.”….Yes! Yes! Yes!! I have compassion in buckets and literary knowledge in teaspoonfuls….but compassion, with even the little literary knowledge I can muster, works as I’ve seen over and over again. And “Therapeutic Love”…..again Yes! Yes! Yes!! Going to buy the book now.

    • drjanedavis March 16, 2013 / 9:21 pm

      Hard word to use in public, ‘love’… but I was speaking to a very senior child protection officer the other day who said ‘it’s love that matters…’ Good to see some people know this truth, even if we haven’t found a social way to realise it. We’re thinking of calling one of the sessions at our conference ‘A New Language for Mental Health?’ and I wonder if the word ‘love’ will feature. (Actually, last year in the Looked After Children session, it did)

      • jennerous March 18, 2013 / 8:55 am

        I agree that its a hard word to use but its just simply ridiculous that this is the situation we find ourselves in. The expression ‘love is a verb’ is very meaningful for me. I’m not always good at ‘doing’ love but in my work I’m very aware that it is love I am doing.

  3. Colin April 22, 2013 / 5:34 pm

    Not a comfortable read. And because you have invited requests for future blogs… I recently read ‘Home’ by Marilynne Robinson. The book left me emotionally exhausted and a month on it’s still getting to me. Incredible intensity and sensitivity of writing. I wondered if you might blog your thoughts on the book one day? Thank you.

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