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in Foster Care for 19 Days

In this film, as in JANE, we see a very young child gradually accept a substitute mother because she cannot maintain for long a clear image of the absent mother.  In LUCY, the substitute relationship is deepened by the greater length of the separation.  Mother and foster mother co-operate in helping Lucy gradually to let go of the foster mother in order to prevent her experiencing the sudden loss of a second loved person.


At 21 months, Lucy was sturdy and agile, and she played intelligently and constructively.  But she tended to withdraw when frustrated.  In the pre-separation sequences, she has a sombre expression, possibly related to the mother's anxiety during the latter stages of the pregnancy.

After a few visits to familiarise her with the Robertson family, Lucy is collected from home and leaves her parents without protest.  At first, she interacts quietly with all the foster family, singling out the foster mother as the most familiar.  During the first few days she is increasingly active, and the glumness gives way to a lively range of feelings - petulance, gaiety and affection.  By the 5th day Lucy looks bright and cheerful and is only occasionally withdrawn.  Interaction has taken the place of solitary play.  She appears to be in a better state than immediately before the separation.

But in the second week the tension caused by the absence of her mother breaks through.  She is cross and negativistic, refusing food and throwing everything away from her, including her favourite toys.  Then, after a few more days she becomes relaxed, turns affectionately to the foster mother, plays constructively, and is tender towards her favourite cuddly toys.  But she is increasingly distant towards her visiting father; her immature relationships cannot hold firm over this length of separation.

On the 19th day the mother comes to collect Lucy, who after a few moments hesitation goes gladly to her.  But by this time there is also a strong bond of affection to the foster mother, and the conflict in Lucy is painful to see.  When the foster mother visits 3 days after reunion, Lucy oscillates between affection and apprehension, smiling and frowning, clinging to her mother, yet crying when the foster mother leaves.

During the next few weeks mother and foster mother co-operate to help Lucy wean herself gradually from the foster mother. In the final sequences, Lucy initiates a game in which she plays out separation and reunion, and shows that although she retains affection for the foster mother she is fully her mother's child again.