There are times when it’s best not to say anything. We all take a long time to learn this, especially people like myself, who favour being honest and open at all times. An example where some things were better left unsaid was when I was called upon to move one of my clients from a children’s home to a secure unit.
The child, a thirteen year-old girl, was being groomed by a group of Eastern European men for sexual purposes. The police were sure of this, but unable to prove anything. The situation was made worse by the fact that the girl and several of her friends, would leave the home each evening and not return until sometimes after the curfew, which was ten pm. In those days you couldn’t keep a child in when they wanted to go out. All you could do was warn them of the dangers, which usually went in one of their ears and straight out of the other. It’s probably best to mention here that these girls had all been rejected in one way or another by their parents. This left them with little self-esteem and made them ripe pickings for predatory men, with no work, who could pimp them out and make money.
In addition to getting up to, who knows what, each evening my client also displayed disruptive behaviour within the children’s home. The staff were at their wit’s end with her and were also uncomfortable that she wielded a lot of influence with the other children. It was decided that her disruptive behaviour was due to her unsavoury lifestyle and that she should be moved to a secure unit. This would keep her in each evening and, hopefully, would calm her down enough to give her some therapy.
Two policemen accompanied me the day I arrived to take the girl away. We expected a scene, because even after the adults always said otherwise, most children’s home kids regarded a secure unit as prison.
We waited in the lounge and the keyworker (a member of the home’s staff) brought the child to us. The girl was calm, and chatted quite well to the two policemen, who clearly wanted to get her out of the door without any problems. Then, the keyworker ruined everything by deciding to give the girl one last dressing-down about her behaviour. I couldn’t believe my ears when the following spilled out of the silly woman’s mouth, “You know you are only being moved because of the way you behaved. If you had come in earlier and not been so bad to the staff, this wouldn’t be happening.” The girl tried to argue her case, but the keyworker continued with “You are always disrupting mealtimes and you always left your room in a horrible mess. Worst of all, you started going with men older than yourself. You got the other children to run around for you…you did this…you did that…
The two policemen stared at the floor in their discomfort. I knew that intervening risked undermining the keyworker, but I had to do it. “I’m sure so and so is aware of what you think about her,” I blurted out. “And I don’t think she needs to hear anymore. She has some very good points and a spell at her new home will help to bring these out of her. The keyworker asked to see me outside and let rip about how I’d undermined her and that she would be making a formal complaint against me.
We managed to transport the girl without any unpleasantness. On the way home, the two policemen voiced how relieved they were when I interrupted the keyworker’s tirade. “It was inappropriate for a telling-off like that,” they said, “to be directed at a vulnerable young adult.” Although they didn’t know much about my client, they knew she came from a chaotic home with little or no parental input. In view of that, it was no wonder they said, that she behaved the way she did. They finished with, “If she (the keyworker) makes a complaint against you, contact us, and we’ll put in a good word for you.”
In the event, the keyworker didn’t file a complaint. Many times after that incident, I wished that some of the staff in children’s homes had received better training. Before getting my social worker qualification, I worked in several of these homes myself. I knew that for the most part, the staff were totally dedicated to their clients. There was always one or two, however, who just didn’t get it. They blamed the child for the circumstances they were in, and were too blinkered to see that actually, the child was very much the victim of these circumstances.