Stephen’s presentation talks about the disadvantages of a life in an orphanage and how he wants other children to avoid a similar life. In my view, the most telling point is the emphasis he places on the lack of emotional interaction he had with any carer. He talks about how he did not receive a loving, affectionate hug, how he could not cry, that he does not feel able to be a parent yet, and that he felt like he was in a zoo. Hardest of all was the statement that he did not know love. It is heart-breaking to hear that his first experience of love was the word ‘love’ being used in a Christmas present he received from a stranger in the UK.
This loss of any emotional connection in his life is described so powerfully by his assessment that
‘[t]he pain of losing a loving a parent is not as immense as the pain of never living with one.’
The pain of having spent the majority of his life where he did not feel special or feel like he belong to anyone was immense. He describes that he was just another child who had to be like every other child in the home. He, and all the other children received food and a place to live, but were not able to be an individual that was loved and cherished.
He summaries this eloquently ‘It is not the food, clothes or where I slept that defined me. It is the emotional pain…’
Stephen asked a question in his presentation that we often ask in our training, ‘Would you place your child in an institution?’ The response is universally no. So why do we do anything different?
Children need to feel loved and they need to feel cared for by someone special to them. A family is the best method we know in how to provide this. If it cannot be your own family, then can this safely be provided by another family? Most often it can.
This is why SFAC exists. To train organisations to provide safe, family based care and move away from an orphanage model of care that can bring so much pain and emotional loss for children.
– Dan Hope