A crisis of care

June 4, 2013 at 9:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is really revealed in the current controversy regarding childcare? It’s not just problems with pay rates, registration, standards and regulation. The problem is much deeper. There is a crisis of care itself and a crisis in how we regard and deal with our children.

The crisis in care is centred on an inadequate underlying philosophy of what actually constitutes the practice of care. There is a limited understanding in the design of our care systems that the subject and object of care is the human person – with all of their individualities, peculiarities, specificities. Once we construct a ‘care’ system that categorises, regularises and seeks to normalise people then we are going to have inevitable problems. Thus, the notion that all children must eat, sleep or play at the same pre-determined time, in collectivities, is a fundamental category error. It assumes people – be they children or the elderly – are akin to objects which can be subjected to standardised regimes of performance and behaviour.

We need care practices that are truly person-centred. This is best ensured through dialogic approaches which include the individuals – yes, even small children – in deciding their programme for the day. (What will we do today and when?)

We do regulate our care systems but we regulate the wrong things – quantifiable objective measurables – rather than the quality of intra-personal relationships. Regarding our children we need:

1. a proper understanding of children as playful and appropriately self-focused who need maximum response and attention as specific individuals;

2. a care approach structured around the evolving rhythms and needs of each child through a process of age-appropriate dialogue.

More generally we need to consider how our children are actually regarded socially. Here we need to consider:  oppressive hospital birth regimes; widespread family abuse and neglect (eg SAVI Report); poverty and social exclusion leading to hunger and anxiety; foster care standards; social work practices; direct provision abuse; detention regimes for young offenders.

In short, there is a deep silence over the true extent of childhood suffering and neglect in our society. It is not just our creches that need attention.

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