Rethinking care and violence. Dynamics in children’s homes in state socialist Hungary

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Jennifer Rasell


In this article I analyze the care dynamics in children’s homes as seen through the eyes of adult care-leavers who grew up in state care in Hungary in the 1970s and 1980s. What is striking in the interviews is the marked absence of any anecdotes about staff and indeed the children’s home itself. Most literature in this field focuses on the children’s home to the exclusion of the wider community in which children in care move. I cast our gaze to the school and contrast the easily-recounted slaps handed out by teachers to the narrative gap of the children’s home. I suggest that the “nothingness” of the children’s home in terms of depersonalized care is what fed into the feeling for many of the children’s home as a “panic room.”  Because they were not tied into strong relationships, abusive or otherwise, children felt vulnerable.

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