We know that in adults, if you go to Polmont Prison and you speak to young offenders there who are violent young men, they don’t know any better; they were brought up in a war zone so they are warriors, that is what they do, that’s how they understand life.
– John Carnochan –
I have just started to pursue my Masters qualification and have began my inital study for my Postgraduate Certificate in Early Years. Those of you who know me or who have read my blog for any amount of time over the past four years will know that I am passionate about the Early Years movement and I am excited to be living in Scotland in a time where our government have pledged millions of pounds of funding into Early Years – true recognition of the significance of this time in a child’s life.
One of the first activities that I have undertaken in my studies involved watching this video. John Carnochan is a fantastic speaker and is a strong voice for Early Years not only in Scotland, but in the world. I had the privilege of hearing this man speak at an event earlier this year, and his passion and belief in the subject is inspiring!
Within the video he refers to David’s Story. This real-life case study is well-known amongst Early Years workers in Scotland as it forms the basis of the Early Years Framework and, in some ways, has been the catalyst for change and investment in our children and in early intervention.
David was born in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland to a mother who used drugs, drank and smoked throughout the pregnancy. He was brought up in an extended family none of whom have ever worked; 3 “uncles” have convictions for serious violence. Before he was 9 David moved or was rehoused 8 times, 4 times due to domestic abuse. David is one of the smallest boys in his year when he starts high school, in an area with high crime levels. He is soon truanting, involved in gang activity and identified as “outwith parental control”; he is known to various agencies including the police and social work. At 14, after a series of exclusions, he has left mainstream education. He drinks, takes drugs and abuses solvents. His family resist offers of help. At 15 he commits 3 assaults, theft, breach of the peace, robbery, steals 2 cars, commits various road traffic offences and is charged with attempted murder. While awaiting action to be taken for these offences, David visits the nearby city centre. David has been drinking and is carrying a knife. David bumps into complete stranger John and stabs him once in the upper torso. John dies 15 minutes later. David is sentenced to 7 years for culpable homicide. – Excerpt from The Early Years Framework
The fact that David’s story is a true story may not come as a surprise to many people. He is someone that you would recognise within a community. It’s, sadly, a story that is not uncommon.
David’s story highlights a downward spiral from poor parenting and family environment into disengagement, youth crime, substance abuse and eventually murder. Yet, was his fate inevitable?
We know that children live what they learn. David had grown up surrounded by violence, instability, abusive relationships and negative relationships. He was one of the children who only knew darkness and who was a fighter – because he had to be in order to survive. The various influences in David’s upbringing had already caused damage before he had even hit the age of going to school. Yet, David’s story did not need to end the way it did.
When you read David’s story, there were multiple occasions when people could have stepped in to offer support to both his mother and David himself. When David was born, what help could have been offered to his mum, who would clearly have been vulnerable having smoked, drank and taken drugs throughout the pregnancy? What alerts were there for the child who was living in an extended family where there were Schedule 1 offenders? What communication was there between the schools that David attended through all his moves? Before David even got as far as high school, there were opportunities for the professionals connected with David to step in and help.
And that is where early intervention is key.
I refuse to believe that the circumstances a child is born into equal the end result and worth of that child. Children are beautiful blank slates when they are born. They have the potential to be anything – but they can’t do it alone. The Early Years Framework states: “It is clear that no one programme of work or action will be successful in turning around lives affected by complex and ingrained social problems. It will take a concerted and long-term effort across a range of policies and services to deliver the transformational change in early years…”
To read more about Scotland’s approach to Early Years you can read The Early Years Framework here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/257007/0076309.pdf
Scotland’s Multi-Agency Early Intervention approaches and procedures can be seen here: www.scotland.gov.uk/gettingitright