Proposal for the Establishment of a Child Care History Network

One of the characteristics of a grounded profession is its interest in the origins of the profession, how it has grown, the problems it has addressed, the mistakes it has made, and the solutions it has found. An awareness and understanding of its past lays the foundation for continuing development and growth, and helps it to avoid the repetition of earlier mistakes.Despite being a major profession, child care appears to lack a focused venue or network for exploring and examining its history. There is a Social Work History Network set up in 2000; there is CHARM – the CHarity Archivists and Records Managers Group – some of whose members look after archives related to child care; and a new Institute for the History and Work of Therapeutic Environments which broadly includes child care within its remit. But even establishments with a specific concern for child care such as the Institute for Child Care Research in Belfast, the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care in Glasgow (SIRCC), and the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care in London (NCERCC) lack a specific remit for the field’s history. Not surprisingly, perhaps, publishers have stated that there is no market for books about the history of child care.

Furthermore, the materials for that history are scattered. The Wellcome Library and some universities cover the field as part of their wider archival collecting policies; national and local government archives will hold material as a matter of course; and the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre specialises in residential therapeutic work with adults as well as children. Some of the larger child care agencies have both archives and archivists, and their records may be used for research, publication, or the preparation of teaching materials. But we have been unable to find a unified list or guide to child care archives, and there is no national centre specialising in child care archives as such.

Many smaller child care agencies or facilities do not have archivists in any event, and there must be a concern that many of the personal and institutional records of past work have already been lost or destroyed. The overall outcome in our opinion is that the history of child care is not only undervalued – which reflects on the nature of the profession and its status, as well as affecting it – but is at risk. What society doesn’t value is quickly forgotten and lost.

It is therefore proposed that a network is set up, run at first by email, to help to gather together people interested in the subject – archivists, historians, practitioners, and others – and to identify their concerns.

We would then hope to hold a meeting some time during 2008. It would be presumptuous to suggest what will happen thereafter, but if there is sufficient interest, a formal network or organisation could be set up with a view to a more systematic approach to the subject. (For the purposes of this note, we have referred to “child care”, but we include services for young people in that term. It would be for the group to determine the boundaries of its terms of reference.)

If you are interested in joining such a network, could you please:

(a) email [email protected] to express your interest and mention the direction you are coming from and any points of particular concern to you,

(b) forward this email to anyone else who you think might be interested, and

(c) give your agreement (or otherwise!) for your email address to be made known to other people who have expressed an interest?

We shall circulate a further email on 7 December to let those who have responded know about the response we have received and what we suggest as the next step.

Dr Craig Fees

Hon. Director, Institute for the History and Work of Therapeutic Environments

Archivist, Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre

[email protected]

01242 620125

David C. Lane

01924 251160

[email protected]

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