Monday, 6 June 2016


A logic of its kind

Yesterday I was looking through some old papers that had lain forgotten in a garage. Among other things, including 101 Imperial Russian roubles in credit bills, I found a transcript of a short exchange with a young girl who more that forty years ago now had been remanded for three weeks into the care of a local authority social services department by the juvenile court, 'for reports'. She was placed in a residential observation and assessment centre, where I met her –
'I've been to see a psychiatrist.'
'What's that?'
'Me Mum says they can tell why you did it.'
'But you didn't do it.'
'I know.'
'What did she do with you.'
'She asked me to draw a picture.'
'What for?'
'So she could tell why I did it.'
'But didn't she ask you if you'd done it?'
'No, she could tell that from the picture.'
(14 September, 1973)

I guess that I had kept this fragment because at the time I was fascinated by the belief systems to be found within child welfare, including the already fast-welfarising juvenile justice system, and as here its internal logic.

That was a long time ago:
  • I had made no note the psychiatrist's name but if she was who I think then she went on to gain a minor national notoriety, and is now forgotten
  • social services and juvenile justice: well, I got a few publications* and some interesting experiences and insights from them but. within ten years of this conversation, I was abandoning the struggle with 'child care' as a lost cause (my life raft was Conductive Education!)
  • as for the girl, I hope that she made it, despite us all.

*   For example: Sutton, A. (1983) Social inquiry reports to the juvenile courts, in H. Geach and E. Szwed (eds.) Providing Civil Justice for Children, London, Edward Arnold

I see that hardback copies of this book, radical stuff in its time, can now be snapped up on line at a nominal cost of one penny a copy, post and packing extra:

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