There are some parts of the Bible which are well known to people, regardless of their faith, perhaps because they are often quoted at funerals or weddings. Among these, one of the best known is St Paul’s description of faith, hope and love as the three great qualities needed by humankind, the greatest being love. This is usually quoted as an introduction to an emphasis on the importance of love, and faith and hope are often skipped over.Certainly we have been through an era when it would have been considered unprofessional to talk of any of them, and child care has been the poorer for that. Now, people are beginning to acknowledge the importance of love for children again, as evidenced in Keith White’s book, The Growth of Love. But there is much less talk of hope or faith.
At last year’s NCERCC conference there was talk of hope. Barack Obama had just been elected President of the USA, and (as we reported at the time) most unusually for a British professional child care conference, one speaker after another spoke of their delight at the outcome. It was like a new dawn, with the promise of a fresh day. In chairing the afternoon session, Ian Milligan spoke about the importance of hope for children in care – that there could be something better for those who have had miserable childhoods, suffering abuse and neglect. Whatever the past, hope is a real gift: we can survive our past and present misfortunes because we envisage that things may get better, and that it is worth investing in the future.
When we lose hope, things can look bleak. The danger then is that we sink into despair. But that is where faith comes in. At this year’s NCERCC conference, one of the speakers emphasised the need to have faith in children and to inspire faith in them, that they can achieve despite their past experiences, and that they can develop an understanding of their experiences which can bring them through into happier, more fulfilling times as adults.
This may be hoping against the odds, and against the indicators. The signs may all point to further failure and unhappiness. Indeed, hope may be replaced by despair. Faith at this point is vital, to help people persevere and win through. For this, children need someone who has got through to them and won their trust, and who then sticks with them and displays faith themselves that the children can succeed. In the same way that children need to be loved before they can love others, they need someone to have faith in them, whom they can trust and who can offer them a rock on which they can build their own self-confidence.
Children need to experience not only love and hope but also faith, and this is more important than any of the measurable inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes which are gathered in the statistics.