I had an unexpected addition to the household this week - the little boy I cared for most of last year came back to stay. It didn't work out with his Mum and so he's back in the system. Another disruption in an already unsettled little life.
So often I hear people say that all a child needs is a loving home. As long as they have a parent that loves them, then other problems can all be solved. The more time I spend moving in social care circles, the more I realise that this is an idealised view of life and nothing more than a fantasy. Love simply isn't enough.
A parent can love a child deeply and yet fail to provide stability and security. A parent can have a wonderful bond with their child and yet be unable to keep them safe from harm. The best intentions do not always lead to the best outcomes. Love, in itself, does not guarantee the sort of childhood that every child deserves.
As a society we, quite rightly, engage regularly in soul searching about what the modern family looks like. Is one parent enough, or does a child need two? Heterosexual or same sex couples? Extended families or isolated individual family units? Working families or stay-at-home Mums?
And in every debate, somebody at some point will make the claim that as long as a child has love then it doesn't really matter what kind of family they live in. It's a claim that is usually made in defence of a particular lifestyle, and I'd like to know where the evidence is to support it. How can we possibly know the life a child could have had in different circumstances? And without knowing that, how can we evaluate the effects of their particular circumstances?
Like everyone else, I have my own opinions about what kinds of family life are ideal for a child, but they are only opinions, subject to change. What I know for a fact is this: no matter how much a parent loves their child, no matter how much they want that child, sometimes love just isn't enough.