Reflections from Love Barrow families
I recently attended the Conference “Future risk of emotional harm” in London. Love Barrow families has been through an upheaval during the last few months and I am only just starting to think clearly again and act upon the need to connect with other like-minded others out there. I feel strongly that if we are going to work with those families in our community who need us most then we need to make sure that what we do is well thought out and utilises the best current evidence. My community of Barrow-in-Furness has my heart. We are good, proud people who struggle every day to cope with the impact of deprivation-upon our town centre and upon our families and their quality of life. Having a conversation about this with the “system” seems impossible, the way in which we work is at odds with what has become a machine. Once it begins it is very difficult to halt and rare that any proper thinking can take place.
The conference was inspiring and I was struck by the humanity, openness and humility of the presenters who were all esteemed and well thought of within their field. Thoughts that I was left with were inspired by Annie and also the open discussion at the end of the day. Working with families who face injustice and multiple disadvantage requires experience, knowledge and passion but also a sense of having some firm ground of your own so that the things that need to be said can be said and heard. We all struggle in our own way and depend upon our families, friends and colleagues’ honesty to continue to move forward. Our recent blog “Conversation with the project lead” was written by one of my team in an attempt to document the day to day challenge of living up to good values and principles. Done properly and taken seriously it’s not so easy particularly when many of us have been trained to follow the guidelines of our organisations rather than responding to an individual family’s needs.
One of Love Barrow families fundamental values is understanding. The use of validated assessments such as the Adult Attachment Interview often lead to an uncovering of the real problem; the impact of trauma or loss and the consequences for perceptions and behaviour. Also providing a map for each person and family which honours their strategies for coping with daily life and relationships. I found myself thinking about this as I listened to the presenters discuss court assessments and reports that often lack the detail that is needed in order to make decisions.
A last comment relates to love and the need for a sense of belonging to one’s neighbourhood and community. I was lucky enough to have a family who could provide this for me. Not everyone has this and until we start to listen to what’s important and address this fundamental need we are going to continue to respond in ways that may be well intentioned but are harmful to children and their families. I take my hat off to Kathy Evans, Sue White, Brid Featherstone, Sarah Phillimore, Louise Tickle and many others who are consistently highlighting and challenging the injustices that continue to rain down on our most vulnerable families. I stand with you all.