Reflections on Day 3 of the 2018 International Childhood Trauma Conference

This blog article was written by Janise Mitchell,
Deputy CEO Australian Childhood Foundation.

What’s love got to do with it?

The theme of love rang strongly through the conference today. Starting with AP’s beautiful rendition of ‘Have I told you lately that I love you’ to Allan Schore’s powerful talk about the deepest expressions and experience of love and their influence on the developing brain. He merged the science of love with the experience of loving in a way that resonated with us all. From Winnicott’s  idea of ‘quiet love’ and ‘excited love’, Allan navigated through the myriad of ways that we have tried to understand the centrality of love and brain development.

Love took on a new light as Jennifer Freyd talked about the betrayal within relationships and betrayal within institutions.

Walking about the concurrent paper sessions the power of love and relationships echoed around us through your descriptions of your work and the important ways in which you nurture the development of love and relationships in the lives of the children, young people and adults with whom you work.

Over the last year the team at ACF has revisited our organisational narrative, or the stories we tell about who we are and what we do. For so long the idea of ‘love’ in child welfare was frowned upon. Carers of children in residential care and foster care were admonished if they became ‘too attached’ to the children for whom they provided care.

Something Jennifer Freyd said stayed with me… organisations don’t have feelings. It made me think… what does this mean for children when organisations are the providers of their care?

At ACF, as we thought about who we were and what was important, we could not but return to the concept of love as being central to all aspects of our work with children and young people. Our job is to build and nurture networks of relationships that provide love and care around children that were sustainable and that they carry with them over their lives. Our logo represents it, the stories we tell about our work privilege it. As we started telling this new organisational narrative we were surprised by the feedback we received. Our colleagues in other organisations congratulated us for ‘daring to talk about love’ others said we were brave for talking about love as part of our work.

As I sat through the sessions today it’s clear that we are all in the business of love in our work.

As Allan talked about that though our work we must give the children, young people and adults we work with ‘a replica of love that is their birthright’ and that our focus must be building and nurturing relationships within which ‘interactively regulated mutual quiet and excited love are the central vehicles of deep healing’.

In finishing I am left with the concept of organisational courage that Jennifer Freyd talked about. For organisations and systems of care working with vulnerable and traumatised children, young people and adults we have to find ways to bring love into our everyday but to ensure that love is underpinned by processes that enable safety. They need to allow supported connection but also make disclosure possible and positive for each and every individual who needs their courage reinforced and held.

What’s love got to do with it? EVERYTHING!