Families need long-term support, says charity chief

By staff writers
February 4, 2009

You can buy the report A Good Childhood here

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the Children's Society, which has launched the results of a two-year inquiry into childhood, says that a long-term commitment to supporting families is needed.

But he notes that the variety of family life and structure has changed a good deal over the years, and says that "our organisation exists to support all children in need" across the board.

Over 30,000 people contributed to the inquiry and its publication has caused a great deal of debate in the media, with many welcoming it and others accusing it of "blaming parents". The authors say that it is about shared responsibility, not attributing blame.

Responding to some of the comments, Bob Reitemeier writes on the Children's Society's website: "One of the most discussed topics was family. The inquiry looks at the impact of family separation on children, which we all know can be devastating. But it also says that that where there are high levels of conflict amongst the adults, separation may be in the best interest of the child. The most important factor is how we manage family conflict.

"That is why the report recommends counselling and support to couples facing difficulties. One of the interesting findings quoted in the report is that 70% of teenagers agreed with the statement that “parents getting on well is one of the most important factors in raising happy children”. Only one third of parents agreed. Sometimes, as adults, we need to look at our relationships through the eye of our children and remind ourselves how important the way we conduct is to them."

The other much discussed topic, Reitemeier says, is around women working. He stresses that "[t]he Children’s Society believes that people should have greater choice about returning to work. This means two things. First, having sufficiently high quality child care and well qualified staff for those parents who choose to return to work. This doesn’t come cheap, but as the recent UNICEF report pointed out, we don’t spend us much as our European partners on pre-school child care. Second, we need to make the choice of staying at home a realistic option. This requires more flexibility in parternity and maternity leave as recommended in The Good Childhood report."

He continues: "One question that has been aired as a result of the report is whether women's financial independence has contributed to family breakdown. It's true that financial independence can make it easier to leave a relationship, but it would be a mistake to see it as a cause for a relationship breakdown.

The CEO says that the Society, which is independent, but has strong links with the Church of England, through which it was founded, points out that it works with children "in all types of family structure: children living with single parents, step parents, co-habitating parents and married parents."

He says: "We witness daily and are often humbled by the love, care and support that parents provide to their children, often despite experiencing significant economic and social disadvantages. But for those children and families where love is not at the centre of their relationships or where they require some support to navigate the difficult paths and choices that they have to make, we and other organisations like ours, need to be there for them. We make no judgements on family stucture; our organisation exists to support all children in need."

You can buy the report A Good Childhood here

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