How do we let love into the system? Rosie Moore shares her thoughts and urges us to start talking about what ‘loving practice’ really looks like.
Love. We all deserve it, we all need it, we all want it. Yet as professionals we tend to peek at it from around a corner, unsure whether to take the plunge and come out and embrace it. Why?
Of course, there are boundaries when it comes to the idea of ‘professional love’, but where did these boundaries come from? I guess that depends on who you ask. Some are uneasy about where boundaries lie, some are concerned about becoming overly attached, some feel unable to love due to ridiculous case loads or vague policies and protocols. But if we look closely at these reasons, they are not barriers caused by us as professionals, as caring human beings, but by a ‘system’ we can all sometimes find difficult to manoeuvre. None of us come in to the field of justice, or care, without first being a caring individual, someone who cares about improving the experiences and lives of others. And nobody wakes up one morning and decides they want to enter the systemic cycle of the care or justice system. What we all need, is a way to show each other care, compassion and love, and for us to be able to receive it.
There is a growing movement of both professionals and young people, highlighting the need for there to be love in the system. Some of us are dubious, unsure of what we mean by love and how we can safely separate the notion of loving practice and unsafe or romantic love. No one is arguing that our young people don’t deserve to be loved, simply that we need to be careful with our definition and expectations of ‘loving practice’.
I wholeheartedly agree. No one can provide a universal definition of love, one that everyone agrees with. Giving and receiving love is something that is unique to us all and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But let us start talking about it without fear. Let us reflect on the things that we as professionals and the system do, that both allow love to flourish and enables our system to be one which allows young people to feel held, supported and loved.
There has been a fantastic shift from asking young people ‘What did you do?’ to ‘What happened to you?’, giving hope that we are moving in the right direction. Looking beyond a young person’s behaviour or seemingly angry or ‘bad’ attitude can really help us to connect with them on a level where genuine change and help is possible. Allowing a young person the space to merely talk in a safe environment can significantly help their trust and relationship with you. There are so many pockets of good practice across the nation that are struggling to be heard over our tendency to focus on fixing the practice which needs improving. Let us adopt an appreciative enquiry approach, highlighting what we are doing well, and getting right for our young people. Let us talk more with Police Scotland as fellow corporate parents, to learn where we can build on our skills and services with young people at the heart. Let us highlight the participation opportunities our justice colleagues are promoting. We should be showcasing the wonderful work that is going on around us, just beneath the surface. We do not grow and improve by criticising each other or pointing out each other’s faults. We grow and improve by learning from and teaching each other, with the goal that the flawed parts of practice simply become minimal and are replaced with loving, compassionate care.
Let us keep that momentum going. Let us keep being curious. Let us keep asking young people what works. Let us keep learning, evolving and adapting. Let us allow love to become second nature within a system that holds some of the young people who need it the most.
About our blogger
Rosie Moore is a social work student at the University of Strathclyde. She has previously blogged about her lived experience of the care and justice systems for CYCJ – and recently got engaged!
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