From the Introduction…
Several weeks ago I realised that this was a very special occasion, not simply because I’d been asked to give the opening and keynote address, and hence my ego had been polished nicely! No, it’s something else as well. It must be, because I have been thinking very seriously about this talk and the theme of the entire Conference for over six months. Usually when I agree to speak on a date many months in the future, I put it in my diary and then forget about it until not long before. (I think that I sometimes agree to speak because I half believe that it’s so far ahead the day will never arrive!)
But not on this occasion. It’s been on my mind and in my mind a great deal. So I thought about why there is this difference, and the answer came quickly. I have devoted my entire adult working life, either directly or indirectly since 1974, to residential child care and treatment, and this is a conference hosted by the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care and entirely focused on residential child care.
And here is a group – in the largest part not forced by duty or obligation to be here, but wanting to be here – because we are like-minded, at least in so far as we have a positive regard for such provision. I suspect that we also share an intense curiosity about children and young people who come into residential care and how we can help them live, learn, change, grow and, not infrequently, heal, and not just be hotelled or warehoused.
Not on this occasion does residential child care have to accept a space offered almost as an afterthought in a gathering keen to focus elsewhere, or indeed offered only rather grudgingly after our persistent ‘harrying of local or national government officials to took beyond compliance with minimum standards or, for example, to remember that in England Choice Protects is supposed to be about increasing choice of placement across residential as well as foster care. i
So, today and tomorrow residential child care is centre stage and in the spotlight, and right now so am I (so to speak)! Such a responsibility; such an opportunity! Part of me wants to go all “Fidel Castro” on you and, dressed in combat fatigues, declaim from a balcony for 6 or 7 hours I as you stand attentive below while I tell you about all the things I’ve been thinking about for the last six months.
However, fear not. Taking my fantasising largely in rein, I realise that I’ve got to use as my model Willie Wonka, who greeted Charley and the other Gold Ticket winners by saying, “Welcome, my friends. We must away. There’s so little to do and so much time to do it in! No, wait; turn that around.” So, with a lot to say and little time in which to say it, where do I begin? Where better than, like Mr. Wonka – with the children?!
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