Making History

It is dangerous to ignore history. It is from our mistakes and our successes that we learn. This applies to toddlers when they trip and stagger as they learn to walk, to teenagers testing out their parents as they decide what sort of adults they want to be, to individual professionals who learn from the experience of others through training, and to whole professions as they develop and share their expertise.

Indeed, it is one of the marks of a profession that it values and understands its history. We stand on the shoulders of those who went before us, and if we appreciate the problems they faced and the solutions they found, we can more readily understand the current situation and avoid some of the elephant traps which lie on the path ahead.

Because we are dealing with human development and behaviour in working with children and young people, the issues which faced Jonas Hanway, Homer Lane or David Wills are very similar to the issues faced in children’s homes, youth clubs, secure units, private homes and playgroups today. Of course they didn’t have mobile phones, texting, computers and the internet twenty years or a hundred years ago, but it mattered just as much to teenagers then as it does today to have friends, not to be rejected, to fit with the fashion of the day or to avoid being bullied.

The child care profession has not paid much attention to its history. There have been historians who have written about it, and there are archivists who look after the records of the biggest charities and local authorities. But there has never been an institute or organisation bringing interested professionals together, and encouraging the profession to pay attention to its past, to value the work of the pioneers, to see what pitfalls we need to avoid and to throw light on the best way ahead.

Up to now. Last week the Child Care History Network was founded. About forty people came together at a conference at the PETT base in Gloucestershire, and agreed to set up CCHN (pronounced see-chin).

2008 is an auspicious year for such a foundation – a century after the Children’s Charter was passed in 1908 and sixty years after the Children Act 1948.

Why not make history and join? Send us an email if you want more details.

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