food for thought

If you have problems then perhaps one of the members might have a suggestion or tell you how they coped with a certain situation. Also we could post links for all children that are missing and need to be found. All aspects of child welfare discussed here, new and old cases. Children that have been let down by Social Services and the authorities.

food for thought

Postby cushty » Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:37 pm

found this rather touching piece in the Guardian:

Abandoning mothers? Ask the children packed off to boarding school
The Guardian (London); Mar 29, 2008; Anne Karpf

"I woke up suddenly. I'd dreamed that I'd forgotten all about my baby, and left her somewhere untended and unfed for two whole days. In reality, she was standing by the door, asking me which I thought looked better - the grey T-shirt or the red one? What a relief. All this talk of abandoning mothers - the monsterised Fiona MacKeown and Kate McCann - had me over-identifying, but what really did it was a trip with aforementioned child to the Foundling Museum in London.

It's a tiny treasury, hidden away in a corner of Bloomsbury, containing memorabilia from the Foundling hospital. When Thomas Coram returned to London after a life working in Massachusetts, he was appalled to see the discarded children lining the capital's streets. In 1741, he opened a hospital where mothers (some of them in Newgate gaol, others simply poor) could bring infants that they couldn't afford to support. Such was the demand for the limited number of places that a ballot was introduced. My daughter gravitated right away to the lottery game that recreates it: if you drew a white ball from the bag, your child was in; if black, then she wasn't.

My ghostly grandchild got black.

The children admitted to the hospital were baptised and given new names, but what's really touching are the personal tokens that despairing mothers left with their infants, so that they could identify the child if, one day, they came upon better times. Maria Augusta Handel, b. April 15 1758: key, jewel, crushed thimble, ring. Another mother scribbled on a note to her child: "Go gentle babe . . . And all thy life be happiness and love." Most tragic was Lucy Reeves, who applied in 1767 to reclaim the daughter she'd left seven years earlier, not knowing that the girl had already died. All my daughter and I could do was weep for them 241 years later.

The babies, we learned, were fostered and wet-nursed, often in salubrious country surroundings, only to experience a second abandonment when, at the age of five, they ceased being a member of a family again and had to move back into the hospital. Here they were given a uniform hairstyle and led regimented, stigmatised lives. Though the food was relatively good, in that era there wasn't of course a language of emotional needs, no concept of attachment and separation.

The sadness stayed with me and my daughter. She ran it off in nearby Coram's Fields, while I sat and watched the mothers and their babies gathered there, and marvelled at their friskiness, parents and children both. I also uttered a silent prayer for the welfare state. When I got home I found, quite coincidentally, that I'd been sent an issue of a new journal called Attachment, which looks at what one psychotherapist has called the trauma of "the privileged" child in boarding-schools. In it, Simon Partridge poignantly describes a workshop for "boarding school survivors" that encouraged him to remember the charged moment when, aged eight and dispatched to prep school, he had to say goodbye to his parents. To survive the experience, a child has to switch off all feeling, compress all thoughts of home into a tuck box of the mind. The pain of losing the parents can't be mourned at school - God help the "blubber": an instant target for bullying. I know many ex-public schoolboys, and all but the tiny few who protest (too much?) that "it never did me any harm" admit that this ability to switch off takes a lifetime to reverse.

Isn't it astonishing that wealthy parents today continue without any apparent sense of revulsion to abandon their children in boarding prep schools at the age of eight, actively choosing for their kids (holidays excepted) what was a last resort for poor, beleaguered 18th-century mothers? And shouldn't we be concerned that one of the by-products of globalised labour is that parents from the Philippines to Poland are having to leave their children to travel further and further in order to find work? These are the separation questions that should be concerning our media and politicians, not the individual stories, absorbing though they are (I plead guilty), of the MacKeowns and McCanns.

But that's all from me, as this is my final column. Goodbye."
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