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This is a very strange little book; apart from ...
on 20 August 2015
This is a very strange little book; apart from adding to the Penguin Underground series, and giving some income to Keeping Kids Company Ltd. (actual name of the charity, and the company), making a case for keeping open the old fashioned ‘mental asylum’ (page 122-23) I cannot quite see its purpose.
It contains some odd statistics - claiming that the 2011 riots in Britain cost the country £200 billion (page 28); and that the average of those entering prostitution is 12 years (giving an online source which does not support this figure, page 9) amongst other spurious figures. Quite a few online sources cite the average age of 12, and give credit to the 2004 Home Office consultation paper 'Paying the Price' - it says no such thing.
Then we go on to find some unusual citations of the literature on child development and neural plasticity familiar to me from working over 25 years inside psychology and neuropsychology. No one in the 1980s when I studied under one of the authors that she cites, did anyone adhere to the 'maturation theory' of human development, which she claims on page 60-61. There are, however, lots of debates on the long-term effects of childhood stress, maltreatment and abuse. Purely on basic ethical grounds we should take care of children and keep them from harm: we don't need neuroscience to support this. There is no evidence for 'bodily memory' for trauma -- or repressed memories. And very little evidence to support ideas of Attachment Theory bound up purely in the quality of the first relationship. Konner (2010) clearly shows that cultures raise their children in diverse ways, including children being raised by their just older siblings, without suffering permanent damage.
The 'personal accounts' are very clearly the recollections of now apparently successful adults (that's reassuring) but belong to the school of misery literature.
Yes, it is awful, and yes some children have been left with ‘parents’ and in ‘families’ not worthy of the name, but we are left asking quite what ‘therapy’ has done for the young people with the biographies, and cases, in the book. Keeping Kids Company might have done more by aiding the statutory authorities to fulfil their roles, rather than offering art therapy and Rekii to these children: from this little book we don’t know.