The Jupiter-Pluto ConjunctionJune 1, 2020
Between a Sock and a Hard Place: Astrological DreamworkJune 7, 2020
This article was originally published in the Organization for Professional Astrology magazine, The Career Astrologer in March 2020. It is the first part of a four part series. Safeguarding and Child Protection guidelines are pretty much universal in agreement. These guidelines aim to do exactly as they say. Adults who work directly with children receive special training that enables them to protect the children in their care. The training also protects the adult from unwittingly putting themselves in compromised positions. In schools, this training is regarded to be so important that it is updated at the start of every term. Astrologers who do consultations with unsupervised children are breaching safeguarding and child protection guidelines and are putting themselves at risk. This article was written both as a point of information and as warning.
But there are ways to stay within these guidelines .
A quick commercial break
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I work extensively with parents and adolescents (as well as younger children). As a professional teacher, I have full police clearance and ample experience in safeguarding and child protection training. Please note, as I point out in the article, I do not consult with unsupervised under-18s on any platform.
If you would like to know more about this topic, I recently gave a master class for the Mercury Internet School of Astrology (online Centre for Psychological Astrology). I am also giving a class for Kepler College and also teaching a full course on working with the charts of adolescents starting in September.
Now back to the article. . .
Keeping Your Astrological Practice Safe
As astrology becomes more and more popular thanks to our millennial friends, it is very much worth our while to consider not only what astrology can and cannot do but what it should and should not do. One contentious area in astrology is whether or not we should do consultations with children.
For a very long time, I thought that interfering with a child’s destiny left an indelible mark on my own karma. Who was I to interfere?
However, as I became more experienced as a teacher and an astrologer, I started to see the potential astrology had to help parents and teachers and I changed my mind. But I had very strict parameters in my approach to children’s charts which I will present in future sections of this column. This approach is reasonably safe for astrologers, is based on statistical research and evidence on behaviour and does not involve face-to-face consultations with unsupervised children.
When I first starting researching and writing about how astrology can change the way we educate our children, I wanted to be very careful not to encourage astrologers to treat the charts of children the same way we would treat the charts of adults. But over time, I became so comfortable with the way I worked that I had lost touch with how different it is to how other astrologers work. It took an extensive email exchange with Maurice before I saw the expectations on both sides were very different. So I’m very grateful to Maurice for both this opportunity to write this column and for his input. This column would be have been very different without it.
In this column
There are vastly different skills sets involved with working with children and if you intend on working with the charts of people under the age of 18, there are some extremely important legal guidelines you should bear in mind. After considering them, you may even decide that working with the charts of children is far too risky.
In this introductory column, I feel the need to be very clear on the problems of working with children as well as the opportunities to help parents and teachers create better relationships with the children in their care which I will write about in future columns.
Let me give you the difficult news first.
It may sound obvious but a person is not a legal adult until they are 18 years of age. You can’t round up 17 to make it 18, you can’t consider that a “mature” 16-year-old is really 18. After doing a little research on what can happen if don’t make sure a person is 18 before you treat them like an adult, you may wish to make it clear in your advertising that your clients must be over the age of 18.
As I am a professional teacher (at one point working at management level), I am fully trained in child protection therefore I can—up to a point—engage with children astrologically. Even though I have extensive child protection training, I would never have an unsupervised child in my consultation office. I do work with families but there is no way I am going to consult with a child without a parent or legal guardian in the room. This also goes for Skype or Zoom consultations: a parent must be in the room or I’m removing myself from the situation.
So what does child protection training entail?
- Police Clearance
- Training on how to recognise neglect and abuse
- A clear understanding of what can and cannot be kept confidential
- Knowing when and how to refer a child’s case appropriately
- Predictions and assessment
In order to access training in child protection, you must be vetted every year to verify you do not have any criminal convictions. In the UK, this costs about £40 per year and if I don’t have an up to date certificate, I can’t teach. If I could get around this rule but get caught trying to teach without a certificate, I can permanently lose my teaching licence. If you wish to work with children at any level, I suggest you have police clearance.
Neglect and Abuse
It is true that adults can find themselves in abusive situations and you, as an astrologer, can refer them to an agency or get help for them yourself. Adults have had enough life experience that legally they can make an informed decision about how to handle adversity in their lives. Children are under the care of a responsible adult and that adult has to provide a living environment so that child can grow and prosper.
At home, their parents/guardians provide this care, at school it’s their teachers and sometimes a parent delegates their responsibility to another family member or a friend. Anyone responsible at any level for the well being of a child is morally obligated to report abuse to an appropriate authority. If you are going to work with children professionally, you have to be trained in how to spot signs of abuse or neglect and you must know who to report it to.
Children can and do disclose things to trusted adults. I’ve heard dreadful, heart-breaking stories, I’ve had to call the police on that nice family that everyone likes and generally my experience of working in child protection has taught me that there are monsters disguised as people everywhere.
But I cannot promise a child complete confidentiality.As an astrologer, you shouldn’t either. All it would take is that child to tell another adult that you are keeping secrets and you’ll have to explain yourself to someone who can charge you with reckless endangerment, neglect or something far more sinister.
This of course is completely different to what we promise our adult clients around confidentiality.
Let’s say you’ve decided that yes, Alex Trenoweth is the most paranoid person you’ve ever met and you’ve decided to completely ignore her advice and see children as clients.
Now you have a 14-year-old pregnant child who has just disclosed to you that the father of her baby is a family member. Do you know what to do?
You have a 17-year-old self harmer or a 15-year-old anorexic or a 16-year-old who has just confessed she’s in a “relationship” with a 22-year-old?
As you well know, no one comes to an astrologer for just a chat. They have a problem that needs to be sorted and they’ve placed these problems in your lap. If your client is a child, it really does become your responsibility to act. You have to know when, how and who to report issues such as these and many, many other variations. I could make a very long list!
To make matters really complicated, laws vary from state to state but it is your responsibility to know what they are. If the parent is in the room, it is their responsibility and you don’t have to worry about it. However, you still have to be able to judge whether that parent is acting with competence which is yet another reason you shouldn’t be working with children without the proper training and experience.
If you do think I’m being overly cautious or even paranoid, then you should read up on Andrew, the former senior member of the British Royal family who foolishly placed himself in a compromised situation with a person under the age of 18 and see what it costs to have an allegation made against you 20 years after the incident occurred. No one is messing around with child protection.
Predictions and Assessment
A skill in child protection is being able to see the future: where will this child be next year if they remain in their current position? The difference between astrologers and child protection agents is that in child protection if you make a prediction, you have to take responsibility for it. If you make a wild, unjustified prediction in child protection, you are accountable for it.
As a teacher, I make predictions for grades all the time. I was effectively banned–under threat of dismissal–from telling parents that I was an astrologer in case I made a prediction. I guess it was thought I was going to do all 480 astrology charts for my students for free. My very conservative guess at how many predictions I made per year as a teacher is about 3000. I know that on exam day, miracles and disasters can affect my predictions. But this is very different to predicting events in a child’s life using astrology.
Prediction in astrology is very nebulous. Astrologers can make a bad prediction and they can erase it. However, when you make a prediction for a child, you plant a seed that the child may nurture or refuse to develop. You’ve had an effect on their life. It’s more than a pep talk or a talk about consequences would have an effect. You know that astrology is a powerful tool and that is a huge responsibility. For me personally, this is a responsibility I choose not to take. When I’m working with families, I am very careful to explain what I can do, where I’m coming from and how I can help. And predicting the future of someone who is growing and developing at an exponential rate is something I don’t want to be in the way of.
I know at this point, I’ve probably made you think there is no way to use astrology to help children. But there is a way we can help children and keep ourselves safe at the same time. I do think it is extremely important that we engage with children—within very careful boundaries–and this next story is why.
I had known Stephen (not his real name) from his first day in secondary school. Even at the age of 11, everyone knew this child was going to get into serious trouble one day. We suspected he was involved with gangs. We suspected his parents had addiction issues, we predicted he would not do well on his exams. And every single one of us suspected there was nothing we could do about it.
“Stephen,” I’d say, looking into those big brown eyes welling up with tears, “Wouldn’t you have a better day if you didn’t have to come here and get a detention?”
“Yes Miss,” he’d say. Then I’d send him on his way to make amends for whatever havoc he wreaked and to apologise to those he had wronged.
Many times, I had his parents in my office advising them about my concerns for Stephen’s future. And every single time I knew my words were falling on ears that were not listening.
So inevitably, Stephen would find himself back in my office (which is fully covered by CCTV at all times).
And inevitably, Stephen came to the end of the line in my school and he was permanently excluded.
“You can’t win them all,” my colleagues soothed. “Sometimes, you just have to cut your losses and focus on the things you can change.” I looked at my huge pile of marking, my long to-do list and had no option but to agree.
One evening, as the weather was warming up, I was walking the 20-minute journey from school to home. As I reached an intersection, I noticed a large, very excited group of children wearing my school’s uniform. There were police cars and just as an ambulance pulled up, I saw a body that had been hastily covered with a sheet.
Oh my God, I thought, one of my children has been hit by a car. I ran up to a policeman and explained I was a teacher from a nearby school. Could that body be a child from my school? I was thinking I would know the parents and could help find them quickly. I was firmly told my assistance was not required and no further details could be provided.
So I did what every modern parent or teacher would do in such a situation. I went on social media. I quickly found out the body under that sheet wasn’t one of my students. The body under the sheet was the victim of one of my students. The child had been chased by a bully and had been run over by a bus and killed. Stephen was the bully.
The next day at school in staff briefing, the head teacher told us there had been an incident. We were not allowed to discuss it. If any of the children discussed it, they were to be sent to our one and only guidance counsellor. Well I looked down that long row of teachers to our one and only guidance counsellor. I knew we were not equipped to handle this situation.
In time, I was sent as the school’s designated outreach person to visit Stephen in prison where he was learning how to be a better criminal. I looked at those watery, big brown eyes—now behind bars—and knew I was looking at a ruined life.
In that instant, my question of asking who was I to interfere in the destiny of a child changed to who was I not to interfere in the destiny of a child.
How astrology can help
If astrology has meaning and value, then it should be to make the world a better place, to help parents develop the skills to lead fulfilling lives and to break the cycles of poor parenting by empowering children to understand their unique contributions in this sad, shitty world of screwed up people placed in shitty situations.
As astrologers, we have the ability to guide people to the Light. When it comes to working with children, we need to have special considerations in place to make it safe for all from a legal standpoint.
I’ve run out of space in this first column but I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. In the next few columns, I’ll be writing more specifically about how we can support our young people with astrology.
Take Home points
–You are fully qualified to have the opinion that astrology is an incredibly powerful tool that can change lives. However, there are quite serious parameters to consider when working with children.
–Professional astrological bodies need to consider the ethics of working with children because children, particularly adolescents, are at the most vulnerable stage of their lives
–With a bit of training and study, astrology can empower you to support the adults who care for children who will in turn better understand how they can develop skills to manage challenging situations
You can find out more information on how to keep your astrological practice safe in future sections of the column by joining OPA.