Shattered Lives: Children Who Live with Courage and Dignity
Camila Batmanghelidjh, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
STAR RATING: 5/5
Consisting of personal letters written to some of the most severely abused children with whom she has worked, interspersed with theory and practical suggestions for working practice, Camila Batmanghelidjh’s book makes painful reading, writes Ellen Rabinowicz.
The letters tell the deeply disturbing stories of children who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused. And, importantly, they offer an apology to these damaged children for the failings of our society and its inadequate system of protection.
The children’s experiences at the hands of “carers” who abused and neglected instead of protecting cannot leave any reader untouched. It is then even more distressing for the reader to confront the descriptions of the further lack of support offered to these children by a social care system seemingly more concerned with gatekeeping and service thresholds than with helping.
Social workers, especially those working with children and families, may find this book difficult for other reasons. The author describes situations in which, with rare exceptions, professionals seem to do little to better the lives of these damaged children. Workers often appear to be either uncaring or incompetent and those readers who, in their own practice, have battled against systems, advocated on behalf of the most vulnerable, and helped young people to succeed, may struggle to recognise themselves in the picture Batmanghelidjh paints.
However, this is an important book that should be read by those working in social care as well as the general public.
At a time when our society often appears to demonise our most marginalised children, Batmanghelidjh offers an understanding of their behaviour, recognition of their special strengths and talents, and, her frustration with the system notwithstanding, a belief that change is possible.
Ellen Rabinowicz is a lecturer in social work at the University of East London