I have only been a Mother for 10 months now, but am discovering, sometimes daily, that at times it is a really hard job. My baby is utterly dependant on me to provide for all her basic needs. It was in this context that I was interested to watch BBC2′s ‘Protecting our Children’. The programme follows the day to day work of social workers working in Bristol, filmed over the course of a year. The very first episode in the series opened with the dramatic title, “Damned if they do, damned if they don’t”, highlighting the very difficult and challenging decisions that social workers have to make. However, the episode seemed to communicate well the process by which they work, rather than just the end result which is sometimes what is communicated in the media. It was very sad to watch but at the same time I felt it was important to make myself aware of the valuable work of social workers.
Just the day before I watched this episode I’d had one of my very first truly scary moments as a Mother when my little girl had a rising temperature of 39.2C. I watched her change in a matter of hours to being interested in what was around her, to being irritable and eventually dozy and sleepy as her body got hotter and hotter. I was shaking as I held her in my arms and spoke to the kind nurse from NHS Direct. My reaction really made me realise how in 10 months (a relatively short amount of time) my bond with my daughter has got to such an extent to which I was really scared for her health. And I’m sure that there will be many more times when I will be scared for her. I dread those times of letting her go out on her own when she gets to the more “rebellious” teenage years!
Unlike some of the families featured in BBC2′s programme, I am so very lucky to have such a secure, safe home environment. I have enough money to buy the things that my family and I need; rarely do I need to worry about how the bills will be paid. And I do recognise it may be so much easier for me when I have a loving husband, friends and family around to support me as I try to be a Mother. It is hard to know if I would have responded differently if I was instead caught up in worrying where the Father of my child was, or whether the rent could be paid or whether the bailiffs were going to come knocking at my door… How would the huge responsibility of bringing up a child feel when there were so many other pressures on me?
As I chatted with my friends and family they too said how important it was for all of us not to simply “sit on the sofa” about issues such as these; rather, by working together we should be able to help, even on just a local scale. Reflecting on the work of social workers, such as those featured in the BBC’s programme, made me wonder how welfare in this country is really providing for those families who are struggling to take care of their children. I am glad that the BBC have aired this programme partly in order to help the public see more clearly the work of social workers and their protection of children. Their daily work appears so hard and yet those featured in the programme seemed to handle the pressure calmly yet also firmly. It was also very clear how emotionally draining it is when dealing with sometimes volatile situations. One of the social workers describes to the cameras how much she cares for those she is helping and said that if she were ever to stop caring then it was time to stop being a social worker.
‘Protecting our Children’ was actually made on request by the BBC Commissioners following the case of Baby P. In this article by the producer, Sacha Mirzoeff explains about those who took part in the programme: “…People did have reasons for wanting to take part. Some people wanted to pass on advice to others in similar life situations. As Shaun, one of the fathers says in the finished programme “appreciate it, love your children best. Don’t go my way – I made the biggest mistake. I’ve lost my children and I try and fight for them – you know stay strong, don’t give up.” (see BBC website for more.)
In the past I have been guilty of being too quick to judge such cases like the case of Baby P; yet what would our society look like if we instead stopped judging and tried to do more to help – if there was a way in which we could assist the work of social workers for example. A local charity called ‘Baby Basics’, has been working for the past three years with asylum-seeking families; through contact with midwives they are able to provide a moses basket filled with the basic essentials for those first few weeks of a newborn’s life. Following this initial contact many women have found friendship and great support because of the work of this small charity. It is something I am hoping to get a bit more involved in as they seek to expand their work. In this short clip a family nurse explains how ‘Baby Basics’ works:
It is great to see that there are also support groups on many of the mums/babies websites, such as Baby Centre and Mumsnet. These online forums provide a space for anyone to seek advice, support and generally chat with others; it is a place I frequently go to in order to ask for help in looking after my own child. Opinions on these types of websites are obviously varied, but one mum said how appalled she was that the family featured in episode 1 had not been given support earlier on with their son. Sophie (not her real name) said, “Listening without judging is all you can do sometimes, and offer practical help if poss.” She helpfully pointed me in the direction of a charity called ‘Family Rights Group’ who “advises families whose children are involved with or need children’s services because of welfare needs or concerns” (www.frg.org.uk). It is reassuring to know that charities like this exist, and I’m sure there are many others who provide similar support. It is a further challenge to me to think about how I could volunteer my time to work for a charity such as this.
My unfinished thought at the moment has been sparked by this recent programme on the BBC regarding the protection of our children; it has got me thinking how we can do more to help families like those featured. And as I said earlier, it makes me so grateful for the way that I am able to provide for my family and the support I have around me. I am hoping that it provides a springboard from which I can look into getting more involved in helping those around me who are less fortunate.