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Living with the legacy of care…

8th Apr 2009 | in

Living with the legacy of care…
I’m taking today’s title from an article I have just read, again on the BBC website (can you tell that I tend to go there first for news?) Living with the legacy of care mostly talks about a lady who was in Kendall House care home in Gravesend in Kent in the 1970s and 80s (she left in 1984) which was run by the Church of England. Apparently she and many other girls there were not only heavily sedated but, from the sounds of it, basically given overdoses of all sorts of dangerous tranquillisers without much good reason.

I do accept that there must be cases where sedation is the only way to prevent, for example, a mentally ill person from harming themselves or others, and that this is likely sometimes necessary in children and teenagers. But from reading this article and another (which to be honest repeats a lot that is in the first) it seems that at least some of these girls were not “out of control” but were just coming from bad circumstances. Thinking about it, maybe it comes back to what I was saying in my last-but-one post, about children having “labels” forced apon them. Maybe the psychiatrist in charge at this care home felt that, because of whatever unruly behaviour they displayed at home, they would automatically be uncontrollable even though they had been taken into a completely different situation and, I think, might have behaved totally differently once they had been removed from what was presumably a damaging situation at home…

Kendall House is no longer a children’s home. I note that the church has declined to investigate themselves, which actually is probably right - it is the place of the police and/or social services to conduct an independant investigation. I guess that it never would have come to light if it hadn’t been for this lady, Teresa Cooper, who has made the connection between her children’s birth defects and what happened to her at the home - and then the crucial bit, she started asking other previous residents about their children and found it wasn’t just her! Well done to Teresa for speaking out.

These articles don’t talk at all about how things are done nowadays, and I would like to know more. I know that there are many more, and tighter, regulations on all care homes, not least that they are now required to make detailed records which it seems the staff at Kendall House did not do. Also I know that when it comes to the care of “looked after” children most local authorities (and certainly Kent) push for places in foster homes with families rather than institutionalised homes. I think generally children do much better when they are placed with a real family. Obviously there are some whose behaviour can only be managed in a more controlled setting like a children’s home, but from what I understand this is almost always a last resort solution and children’s homes are no longer the impersonal, prison-like places like Teresa describes. But do they still sometimes sedate children who are uncontrollable? I honestly don’t know, but it’s caught my interest so will try to do some digging to find out, although I haven’t a clue where to start!


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