The Birmingham Society for The Care of Invalid and Nervous Children
1st April 1948 to 31st March 1949 (pages 4-5)
To illustrate the actual work of boarding out we should like to quote from a letter from Miss Clare Britton who is training Boarding Out Officers in London. After visiting some of our farms she wrote (in May 1948) to Mr Matthews:
….I tried to understand the important things about what I saw and heard, and it seems to me that of the first importance is the fact that you have never allowed yourself to deal with numbers; but have kept the work within your own compass, and therefore preserved its intimate and personal nature. I do see that this is fundamental to good Foster Home placement, for needs are essentially personal, and must be felt as such if real help is to be given. Then following on from that I felt that the care and trouble you have taken to establish and preserve your relationships is a very important part of the work, for it must give a sense of continuity and stability to foster parents and children alike. The way in which you look after the foster mothers as well as the children impressed me, and the contact which is maintained through children impressed me, and the contact which is maintained throughout with the children's home seems a very necessary part of the work – but I have never heard of it being done by anyone else.
….I myself have always tried to establish contact with a child's home – but have not had the regular contact which you advocate. But I am quite sure it is right. It stands to reason that we cannot move children and cut off their roots and expect them to grow satisfactorily!
….The whole experience reinforced what I already felt – that we must fight hard to keep the work small, within the compass of the individual worker – for only then can the necessary personal care and thought be put into it – and without this no very fundamental change can be brought about in the lives of the children. For if nobody is deeply concerned and taking a lot of trouble over details – then nothing happens!...
The above was typed for us by PETT Chair Rosemary Lilley on a recent visit: Volunteers are wonderful! We came across it in responding to a telephone query from a lady who was taken into a children's home called Swanscoe House near Macclesfield in 1947, when she was three. The home, for about ten children, was run by Mrs. Violet Straddling, and among the few documents the lady had was one suggesting that the Birmingham Society for the Care of Invalid and Nervous Children was involved in her placement - that Mrs. Straddling received children from the Society. Clare Britton - the immensely influential pioneering social work practitioner and teacher, who later married psychiatrist Donald Winnicott and became Clare Winnicott - leapt from the page as we searched the Annual Reports.
That Annual Report concludes with a paper by Dr. Charles Burns entitled "Problem Children on Farms" which analyses the outcomes of the pioneering work of Frank Mathews and the Birmingham Society over ten years. This is an early statistical study which deserves to be in the public domain, and we would be very grateful for any volunteer who could spend the time typing it up for the website.
We, and the lady who raised the query, would also be very grateful for any more information anyone may have - about Swanscoe House, about Mrs. Straddling, about the other children who were there -- about anything that might help to fill in gaps, and background!
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