(Cautionary note: if you have issues around child abuse, you may find this material disturbing)
I may have mentioned in previous posts that my wife is a child therapist. One of the problems with being a therapist I would imagine is like the rabbi who went golfing on a Saturday and hit a hole in one: who do you tell? In other words, while of course professionals confer together about the various patients under their care, there is a vast landscape of feelings and emotions it would not be appropriate to share. So- who do you tell? In what follows I have tried to give the gist of one of the many conversations my wife and I have had about her work. Obviously names have been omitted to protect the innocent. As for the various parents and carers involved, I leave them to Heaven.
Me: So how did it go today?
Wife: (fuming) I don't believe these people. We got a referral form today, you know, one of those check lists where they try to summarize behaviour? This child is five and he has frequent uncontrollable rages where he breaks his toys and attacks classmates. He uses fouls language and has been known to injure small animals. OK? Then down at the bottom of the page it says 'Enjoys school lunches.'
M: So it's not all bad.
W: ( giving me a dirty look) You wouldn't believe the kind of things they try before referral for therapy. There is this seven year old boy who lives on a farm, and one day he got angry at his parents and went out and stomped a chicken to death.
M: Isn't that one of the markers for sociopathic behaviour?
W: (with heavy irony)You think? So what do they do? They give the kid a pamphlet from the RSPCA on being kind to animals.
M: I suppose it was cheaper than therapy...
W: Cheaper? If the child had a broken leg they'd move Heaven and Earth to get treatment. If his teeth were crooked they'd spend a fortune on braces. So what do they do when a child starts torturing animals? Wait twenty years and put him in prison? Do you know how much that costs?
M: (correctly assuming the question is rhetorical) I can imagine.
W: Then Child X. You remember I told you? The little girl who was raped by her stepfather at the age of three? Who has had four foster placements?
M: (wincing) I remember.
W: She's had ten sessions of therapy and we were just beginning to make progress. Ten Sessions! No, therapy is too expensive, it's been decided to end the foster placement and put her in the care of her Grandparents.
M: Well I suppose they think that preserving family ties...
W: (paying no attention) The same grandparents who produced four children, none of whom will speak to them, three of whom have been arrested on drug charges and the little girl's mother who denies any knowledge of the abuse her daughter suffered. Do you remember Child Y?
M: Is that the one whose grandfather says Child Y is possessed by an evil spirit?
W: ...Among other things. The kid lost his mother when he was three, and he's been bounced around three foster homes before ending up with his grandparents. There's nothing wrong with him except he never formed a Maternal Attachment. Now the Grandfather wants to discontinue therapy. Do you know what the Social Worker said to me on the phone?
W: She said, 'No one can blame us, we did all we could.' How's that for an epitaph? I should be treating the adults. I should quit my job and stay home and raise Alpacas . Is there any wine?
M: I'll open a bottle. How are these kids going to grow into adults if no one helps them?
W: No offence, but you're wrong. Everyone has a child still inside them. The difference is , some are happy and joyous, and some are still crying for the things they missed or are scarred by the things that were done to them. Do you know who plays with the toys in the Waiting Room at work? The parents. It's like some of them never had the chance...
M: I'll drink to that. Here's to all the children..