Hackney Child.Hope Daniels and Morag LivingstoneIt’s difficult to know where to start with this powerful book. Unlikemany readers who have reviewed it so positively on Amazon, I didn’tread it quickly. It’s a deeply painful read, even though, ultimately it’sabout immense personal triumph. Hope, the author and narrator,anddespite all her suffering, becomes a good and successful mother andhas the dignity to reflect with so little bitterness on her own abjectlypoor parenting.Some of the quotes, particularly from her early life, will stay with mefor some time:This from a seven year old:I have to wait until Mum and dad are near the till distracting the manbehind the counter… She calls him a bloody Paki…Mum and Dad are almost at the counter and I hear them making aracket. That is the sign I am waiting for. Quick as a flash, I open thedoor, grab the burgers and shove the packet up my jumper… I’ve gotthem. Hurrah, Burgers for tea...Or this:It’s the school holidays so we don’t eat every day, cos the schoolnormally feeds us…Our tummies hurt and I don’t know when we’regoing to eat againOr this:When the social worker, the “old cunt” as my mother often calls hercame round earlier today she didn’t even knock on the door. She justshoved the child benefit through [the letterbox] with a handwrittennote. I can read now so I open the note: “Mrs Daniels has gone to prisonfor soliciting… Come into the office if you need help with the children.”It was at about this time when Hope took her five and seven year oldbrothers into Stoke Newington Police station and demanded that thethree of them should be taken into care.
She was nine years old.The book is hugely relevant right now to the debate about care forchildren and anxiety in some quarters at the recent increase in careapplications. I welcome that increase. I have argued for sometimethatwe witness neglect for too long before we take children away fromhomes which so damage them.Very frequently we fail to intervene because of an optimism foundedon the fact that, despite the suffering of the children, they love theirparents and their parents love them. But, as is so often the case, andas Hope demonstrates here, particularly with her Dad, love is notenough. Love from parents is not enough, particularly when it’s notas strong as a love of drink or drugs.Hope captures that movingly at the end of her story when she writes,as a 36 year old to her Dad, now recovered:Dear Daddy,Now that you have successfully found recovery, I wonder often, why youcouldn’t do that for us…This is a book which offers a vivid reminder about the damage whichneglect brings to children. Sadly there are more Hopes out there rightnow. But, unfortunately for them, they are unlikely to have theresilience of Hope Daniels or her remarkable capacity to overcomeadversity. Neglect will blight their lives and in turn their ownchildren’s lives.For all those who believe we intervene too often in family life; thatparents always know best; that removing a child from his or herparents is an abuse of human rights; this book is essential reading.Martin NareyJune 2012