The Key Texts: An Overview

We have published a total of 75 Key Texts over the last three years. (See the Appendix below.) In this article Robert Shaw looks back over the series to draw out the overall lessons for today’s managers, practitioners, students and trainers.

Among the retrospective reports, the Leicestershire Inquiry (Kirkwood, 1993) is the best written, the Hughes Report (Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels, 1986) into abuse in Northern Ireland comes a close second and the Monckton Report (Home Office, 1945) into the death of Dennis O’Neill a close third. All three could be read with profit by a student today. Among prospective reports, the Black Report (Children and Young Persons Review Group [Northern Ireland], 1979) takes the crown with the Skinner Report (Social Work Services Inspectorate for Scotland, 1992) a close second and the Kilbrandon Report third (Committee on Children and Young Persons, 1964).

Among the academic texts The adolescent girl in conflict (Konopka, 1966) is outstanding; it combines an interdisciplinary understanding with a deep commitment to her research subjects and the identification of issues which were not to receive further attention for another twenty years. Though there are several other examples of good research, none of them really come close.

Among the personal accounts, Anton Makarenko’s (1936) is outstanding, as Mr Lyward commented, for its honesty, Tom O’Neill’s (1981) for his capacity to relate personal experience to wider social and professional issues and Frederick Lennhoff’s (1960) for his understanding of how to develop a sense of responsibility in those for whom he was responsible. That is not to say there is not much to learn from other personal accounts but that these each bring something special to their personal stories.

However, the most interesting thing about undertaking this series has been the issues it has raised which have run through so many of the texts.

The medicalisation of care

The medical model of care was explicitly introduced by Mary Carpenter (1853) but did not really begin to take off until the twentieth century, reaching its apogee in the 1960s with the Longford Report Crime — a challenge for us all (Labour Party Study Group, 1964). In the 1970s the backlash against the Johnson administration’s welfare spending in the US led to a demand for demonstrable outcomes from interventions and the development of focused social work interventions (Reid and Shyne, 1969; Reid and Epstein, 1972) which had a knock-on effect on residential establishments which increasingly came to be expected to produce short-term outcomes rather than offer long-term care. This reinforced the medical model which was subsequently taken up by child protection practitioners, in part to justify, as some residential workers had done earlier in the century, the exclusion of parents from the care of their children.

In fact, the evidence that the medical model is ineffective had been accumulating since the first half of the twentieth century with the reports of the Home Office Children’s Branch (Home Office, 1923, 1938). To these were added the research by Taylor and Alpert (1973) and Fanshel and Shinn (1978) that parental involvement is the most significant factor for successful outcomes of care. Around the same time came the evidence brought together by Clarke and Clarke (1976) that short-term interventions without a long-term positive change in the child’s wider environment are ineffective. These general conclusions were implicitly supported in the research by Rowe et al. (1989) and Wiener and Wiener (1990).

Administrative and managerial failures

Common features of every retrospective report are administrative and managerial failures. The proposed solution is normally training but, as O’Neill (1981) points out, this made no difference for Maria Colwell, whose death occurred in strikingly similar circumstances to that of his brother thirty years earlier.

While we know that overwhelming people with paperwork doesn’t work (Crowther, 1981), even when the requirements were far less onerous than they are now, people simply didn’t carry them out (Home Office, 1945). Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, there has been no study of why people do not carry out the most simple requirements.

In relation to management, we can be on surer ground. Fieldwork and residential work are different types of work and need different styles of management (Drucker, 1955; Woodward, 1980). But that has never been recognised in the UK’s management schools, let alone in social services and social work departments where fieldwork structures tend to be applied to the management of residential units.

Residential units benefit from much more horizontal decision-making (Woodward, 1980) and the involvement of the head of the unit in direct interactions with the residents which become a model for how other staff should interact with the residents (King et al., 1971). It is worth noting that several books written in the first half of the twentieth century advocating a particular therapeutic approach (Bazeley, 1928; Neill, 1937; Wills, 1945) described heads who were involved in a high degree of interaction with the residents. Other accounts of apparently successful child care (Makarenko, 1936; Lennhoff, 1960; Bettelheim, 1974; O’Neill, 1981) also share this feature.

Conversely, the worse practice (Levy and Kahan, 1991; Kirkwood, 1993) was associated with managers setting bad examples of practice which their staff sometimes exaggerated in their own work. As both the managers in the last examples were qualified social workers, we can be sure that social work training does not insulate people from bad practice.

This all suggests that a key source of good practice is a good model and therefore that perhaps the route to improving the quality of care is not more training but the identification, as in a number of artistic professions, of those who are masters or mistresses of their art and the creation of opportunities for those who also wish to become top practitioners to work alongside them.

Parental involvement

The evidence for the significance of parental involvement (Home Office, 1923, 1938; Taylor and Alpert, 1973; Fanshel and Shinn, 1978; Wiener and Wiener, 1990) which appears overwhelming in two of these studies has to be set against the evidence that alternative care can also be successful without parental involvement (Wolins, 1969; Millham et al., 1975). The answer may lie in another finding which crops up twice nearly half a century apart – that children benefit from having access to a constant adult whom they trust (Brosse, 1950; Triseliotis et al., 1995).

For most children that adult will be a parent and another adult, whether a foster carer (Berridge, 1985) or a residential worker (Kirkwood, 1993), who seeks to intrude on that relationship will be rejected by the child. On the other hand, when that relationship is not available, an adoptive or foster carer who is prepared to offer the individual relationship a child wants will be welcomed by the child (Tizard, 1977). Nor will children necessarily see that relationship as a permanent alternative to a relationship with their parents; most of the children whom the Juliens cared for during the Second World War went back to their parents after the war (Shaw, 2008) and Lucy, who had blossomed while she was fostered by the Robertsons, was very happy to go back to her mother, a fact which greatly encouraged her mother who had been depressed before the separation (Robertson and Robertson, 1971).

It is therefore very unfortunate that social workers in the 1970s so vigorously opposed the introduction of visitors for children in care who had no contact with their parents because they saw them as rivals for the children’s affections and threats to their control of children’s lives. As Triseliotis et al. (1995) point out, a social worker can become the constant adult in whom the child comes to trust but that is not a relationship which can be forced on the child; it has to be chosen by the child just as it has to be chosen by the child if the adult is a residential worker or a foster carer.


Apart from Konopka (1966), gender is a side issue in most texts and yet there are enough clues in the texts as a whole that we need to recognise both the different contributions and the different needs of girls. For example, Bazeley (1928) identifies the different strengths of girls in a community while Makarenko (1936) does not hesitate to identify the potential for stigmatising girls in a mixed sex community. Hoghughi (1978) is particularly helpful for identifying how much girls in trouble differ from boys in trouble both in their presenting behaviour and in the ways in which they handle themselves.

But each of these examples can be viewed as unrepresentative of residential care as a whole and policy is largely driven by boys’ rather than by girls’ needs; so the girls’ approved schools which continued to have a very high success rate (Richardson, 1969) were abandoned because of the declining success rate of boys’ approved schools. Unfortunately, texts like Nicholson (1968) and Critchley and Fann (1971a,b), even though they are about young women, tend to identify the gender issues tangentially or by implication.

There is certainly a gap in the literature for a comprehensive account of girls’ needs and experiences of care.

The care system

Cawson and Martell (1979) and Blumenthal (1985) tackle the consequences of the failure of the wider care system most trenchantly but it is also a theme in Hoghughi (1978) in relation to secure provision, Reinach and Roberts (1979) in relation to assessment, in Cliffe and Berridge (1992) in relation to closing residential homes and in several of the abuse reports in which a blind eye appears to be turned to evidence of abuse or abusive interactions. One problem, which Triseliotis et al. (1995) seek to address, is that most research, and most reports, are only concerned with an aspect of the care system rather than with the wider care system. So, for example, comparisons of foster and residential care such as Trotzkey (1930) or Wiener and Wiener (1990) which give us a broad brush view of their strengths and weaknesses need to be complemented by more detailed studies such as King et al. (1971), Millham et al. (1975) and Berridge and Cleaver (1987) which delve more deeply into the potential contributions of different interventions to the care system and how we can address the adverse outcomes for children described by Cawson and Martell (1979).

In retrospect, that could be one of the most important justifications for having brought together this diverse collection of texts under the general heading of ‘Key Texts.’ The hope must be that those reading them will be inspired to recognise the need for individual interventions that meet children’s different needs and the need for a wider child care system that is sensitive to those needs.


Bazeley, E T (1928) Home Lane and the Little Commonwealth London: Allen & Unwin See also Children Webmag February 2009.

Berridge, D (1985) Children’s homes Oxford: Blackwell

Berridge, D and Cleaver, H (1987) Foster home breakdown The practice of social work 16 Oxford: Blackwell See also Children Webmag April 2010.

Bettelheim, B (1974) A home for the heart London: Thames & Hudson See also Children Webmag August 2010.

Blumenthal, G J (1985) The development of secure units in child care Aldershot: Gower See also Children Webmag December 2009.

Brosse, T (1950) War-handicapped children: report on the European situation Publication No 439 Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Carpenter, M (1853) Juvenile delinquents, their condition and treatment London: W & F G Cash See also Children Webmag November 2008.

Cawson, P and Martell, M (1979) Children referred to closed units DHSS Research Report No 5 London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office See also Children Webmag December 2009.

Children and Young Persons Review Group [Northern Ireland] (1979) Legislation and services for children and young people in Northern Ireland: Report of the Children and Young Persons Review Group (Chair: Sir Harold Black) Belfast: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Clarke, A M and Clarke, A D B (Eds) (1976) Early experience: myth and evidence London: Open Books See also Children Webmag May 2010.

Cliffe, D and Berridge, D (1992) Closing children’s homes: an end to residential childcare? London: National Children’s Bureau See also Children Webmag September 2011.

Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels (1986) Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels (Chairman: His Honour Judge William H Hughes) Belfast: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office See also Children Webmag June 2011.

Committee on Children and Young Persons (1964) Children and young persons, Scotland: report by the committee appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, etc. [Chairman: Lord Kilbrandon]. Cmnd 2306 Edinburgh: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office See also Children Webmag April 2011.

Critchley, A and Fann, B (1971a, May) Group work with adolescent girls Child in Care 11(5), 17–23 See also Children Webmag October 2010.

Critchley, A and Fann, B (1971b, June) Group work with adolescent girls Child in Care 11(6), 11–14 See also Children Webmag October 2010.

Crowther, M A (1981) The workhouse system 1834–1929: the history of an English social institution London: Batsford

Drucker, P F (1955) The practice of management London: Heinemann

Fanshel, D and Shinn, E B (1978) Children in foster care: a longitudinal investigation Guildford: Columbia University Press See also Children Webmag March 2009.

Hoghughi, M S (1978) Troubled and troublesome: coping with severely disordered children London: Burnett/Deutsch See also Children Webmag October 2010.

Home Office (1923) Report on the work of the Children’s Branch London: Home Office

Home Office (1938) Fifth Report of the Children’s Branch London: Home Office

Home Office (1945) Report by Sir William Monckton KCMG KCVO MC KC on the circumstances which led to the boarding out of Dennis and Terence O’Neill at Bank Farm, Minsterly and the steps taken to supervise their welfare, etc Cmd 6636 London: Home Office See also Children Webmag February 2011.

King, R D, Raynes, N V and Tizard, J (1971) Patterns of residential care: sociological studies in institutions for handicapped children London: Routledge & Kegan Paul See also Children Webmag April 2009.

Kirkwood, A (1993) The Leicestershire Inquiry 1992: the report of an inquiry into aspects of the management of children’s homes in Leicestershire between 1973 and 1986 Leicester: Leicestershire County Council

Konopka, G (1966) The adolescent girl in conflict Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall See also Children Webmag September 2010.

Labour Party Study Group (1964) Crime — a challenge to us all: report of the Labour Party Study Group (Chairman: Lord Longford) London: Labour Party See also Children Webmag May 2011.

Lennhoff, F G (1960) Exceptional children: residential treatment of emotionally disturbed boys at Shotton Hall London: George Allen & Unwin See also Children Webmag August 2010.

Levy, A and Kahan, B J (1991) The Pindown experience and the protection of children Stafford: Staffordshire County Council The Report of the Staffordshire Child Care Inquiry 1990 See also Children Webmag September 2011.

Makarenko, A (1936) Road to life: translated by Stephen Garry London: Stanley Nott Originally published as Pedagogicheskaia poèma See also Children Webmag February 2009.

Millham, S, Bullock, R and Cherrett, P (1975) After grace, teeth: a comparative study of residential experience of boys in approved schools London: Human Context See also Children Webmag March 2010.

Neill, A S (1937) That dreadful school London: Herbert Jenkins

Nicholson, J (1968) Mother and baby homes: a survey of homes for unmarried mothers National Institute for Social Work Training Series 13 London: Allen & Unwin

O’Neill, T (1981) A place called Hope: caring for children in distress Oxford: Blackwell See also Children Webmag May 2009.

Reid, W J and Epstein, L (1972) Task-centered casework London: Columbia University Press

Reid, W J and Shyne, A W (1969) Brief and extended casework London: Columbia University Press

Reinach, E and Roberts, G (1979) “Consequences”: the progress of sixty-five children after a period of residential observation and assessment Portsmouth: Social Services Research and Information Unit See also Children Webmag July 2010.

Richardson, H (1969) Adolescent girls in approved schools London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

Robertson, J and Robertson, J (1971) Young children in brief separation: a fresh look Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 26, 264–315 See also Children Webmag October 2009.

Rowe, J, Hundleby, M and Garnett, L (1989) Child care now: a survey of placement patterns Research Series 6 London: BAAF Publications See also Children Webmag April 2010.

Shaw, R (2008) Children, families and care: reflections on the first sixty years of FICE Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books

Social Work Services Inspectorate for Scotland (1992) Another kind of home: a review of residential child care Edinburgh: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office The Skinner Report

Taylor, D and Alpert, S W (1973) Continuity and support: following residential treatment New York: Child Welfare League of America See also Children Webmag March 2009.

Tizard, B (1977) Adoption: a second chance London: Open Books See also Children Webmag January 2010.

Triseliotis, J, Borland, M, Hill, M and Lambert, L (1995) Teenagers and the social work services London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Trotzkey, E L (1930) Institutional care and placing-out: the place of each in the care of dependent children Chicago: The Marks Nathan Jewish Orphan Home See also Children Webmag November 2008.

Wiener, A and Wiener, E (1990) Expanding the options in child placement Lanham MD: University Press of America See also Children Webmag January 2010.

Wills, W D (1945) The Barns experiment: an account of the organization of a hostel for boys in Peebleshire London: Allen & Unwin

Wolins, M (1969, January) Group care: friend or foe? Social work 14(1), 35–53 Reprinted in M Wolins (Ed.) (1974) Successful group care Chicago: Aldine

Woodward, J (1980) Industrial organization: theory and practice (Second ed.) London: Oxford University Press

Appendix : Key Child Care Texts: Chronological List

Mary Carpenter (November 2008)

Elias Trotzkey (November 2008)

Raissa Page and George Clark (December 2008)

Advisory Council (December 2008)

Barbara Kahan and Geoff Banner (January 2009)

Karen Vander Ven (January 2009)

Homer Lane (February 2009)

Anton Makarenko (February 2009)

David Fanshel and Eugene Shinn (March 2009)

Delores Taylor and Stuart Alpert (March 2009)

Bengt Nirje (April 2009)

King, Raynes and Tizard (April 2009)

Mr Lyward (May 2009)

Tom O’Neill (May 2009)

Harold Skeels (June 2009)

Martin Wolins (June 2009)

A S Neill (July 2009)

David Wills (July 2009)

August Aichhorn (August 2009)

Bruno Bettelheim Love is not enough (August 2009)

Alec Clegg and Barbara Megson (September 2009)

Jane Rowe and Lydia Lambert (September 2009)

James and Joyce Robertson (October 2009)

Donald Winnicott and Clare Britton (October 2009)

Fritz Redl and David Wineman (November 2009)

Trieschman, Whittaker and Brendtro (November 2009)

Pat Cawson and Mary Martell (December 2009)

Geoffrey Blumenthal (December 2009)

Barbara Tizard (January 2010)

Anita and Eugene Wiener (January 2010)

Howard Polsky (March 2010)

Millham et al. (March 2010)

Berridge & Cleaver (April 2010)

Rowe, Hundleby and Garnett (April 2010)

John Bowlby (May 2010)

Clarke and Clarke (May 2010)

Freud and Dann (June 2010)

Virginia Axline (June 2010)

Reinach and Roberts (July 2010)

Stein and Carey (July 2010)

Lennhoff (August_2010)

Bruno Bettelheim (A home for the heart) (August_2010)

Jill Nicholson (September 2010)

Gisela Konopka (September 2010)

Critchley and Fann (October 2010)

Masud Hoghughi (October 2010)

Butler: (Perinatal mortality) (November 2010)

Davie: (Birth to seven) (November 2010)

Curtis training (December 2010)

Clare Winnicott ( December 2010)

Fogelman: (Britain’s sixteen-year-olds) (January 2011)

Fogelman: (Growing up in Britain) (January 2011)

Monkton (February 2011)

Curtis (February 2011)

Underwood (March 2011)

Ingleby (March 2011)

James Latham Clyde (1946) (April 2011)

Kilbrandon (April 2011)

Crime – Challenge to us all (May 2011)

The Child, the Family and the Young Offender (May 2011)

Children in Trouble (May 2011)

Maria Colwell (June 2011)

Hughes (June 2011)

Black Report (1979) (July 2011)

Skinner (1992) (July 2011)

Butler-Sloss (Cleveland) (1988) (August 2011)

James John Clyde (Orkney) (1992) (August 2011)

Levy Kahan (1991) (September 2011)

Cliffe and Berridge (1992) (September 2011)

Thérèse Brosse (October 2011)

Fletcher-Campbell (1997) (October 2011)

La Fontaine (1991) Bullying (November 2011)

La Fontaine (1998) Speak of the devil (November 2011)

Kirkwood (1993) (December 2011)

Triseliotis (1995) (December 2011)

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