As he worked, James began thinking about all the other children in the world and what they might be doing at this moment. Some would be riding tricycles in their gardens. Some would be walking in cool woods and picking bunches of wild flowers. And all the little friends whom he used to know would be down by the seaside, playing in the wet sand and splashing around in the water.
Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach
Sadly, the experience of James in Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story is far from being just a story for countless children around the world. Each year, in England alone, at least 50 children die as a result of child abuse and neglect; many, many more live with the ongoing reality of a stolen childhood. The invitation to live freely and lightly is nothing more than a distant, unachievable dream.
And yet the answers to this lived reality are far from easy.
Child protection workers struggle to do their best for children and families, often providing amazing supportive services. In spite of that it seems they so often get criticized from all sides: either for getting it wrong and failing to intervene to protect the most vulnerable children, or for intervening too early and intruding on ordinary family life. And, in the midst of it all, they too can feel tired, worn out, burned out on their relentless work.
And yet, there is hope:
- In the amazing resilience of children themselves
- In the love and nurture that most parents do feel
- In inspiring and creative programmes of support
- In depths of understanding through research
In these pages, I will aim to explore some of what has and can be done to protect children, and to capture again that love and hope that all children, indeed all of us, need.