Bringing up children is a bit like gardening – encouraging small things to get bigger, nurturing them, making sure that they are fed properly and have the right conditions for growth, fending off the things that may threaten them, training them up and having the satisfaction of seeing things blossom and succeed.
There are those gardeners who want instant success – not only the experts who put together gardens for Chelsea Flower Show in a few days and make them look as if they’ve been there years. Sir William Beckford was a nineteenth century magnate who was into instant gardening. He walked round his grounds and told his head gardener what he wanted – a shrub or flower bed here or a tree or path there – and by the next morning he expected the job to be completed; his staff slaved through the night. In our view child care is not like that.
Capability Brown was the model gardener for child care workers. He envisaged the way that things might be after he had gone, when the trees had matured and formed avenues or decorative groupings round the lake. Child care workers are giving children opportunities to shape their lives and to carry on maturing after the child care workers have passed on.
We have quoted Robbie Kydd before in his opinion that residential child care is about creating futures for children. Of course the present is important. We have to deal with current problems. We want children to enjoy their childhood. But we need to see the present in terms of the past and the future. We have to understand and come to terms with the past, but the future is there to be moulded. We need to give children hopes and aspirations, and the means to achieve them. We need to ensure that what we are doing in the present is serving the long-term future for children.
Which is why aftercare is so important, as it leads children and young people on to the next stages of their “long journey”, to borrow Clair Davies’s title. Instant gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show make for good television, but it is Capability Brown’s landscapes that last.