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74 MARCH 2005
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Old books, new ideas

I was looking for a reference the other day – not really because I wanted to be academic but rather because I wanted to confirm that the definition I was using, for something I was writing about, was accurate.

Well, it turned out I was wrong. I do hate that! My definition and the definition in the book were different. Yet I remembered the book, the place in the book where the definition was hiding, and even the context of the definition. I also remembered the last time I had used the definition from the book, although it was some years ago now.

So, why were my definition and the one in the book different? What had changed?

I read through other parts of the book, expecting to find the definition I had in my head. As a matter of fact I re-read most of the book because once into it, I found it just as fascinating as I had back when I had originally read it. Maybe even better.

The truth is, it was like reading a new book, or at least a different one. There seemed to be more in the book which “spoke to me"; the material was more relevant, more current, deeper, than I had remembered it. But no matter how much I read, the definition still didn’t change to match the one in my head.

In the end, I tried all kinds of rationalisations as to how this confusion in definitions was about the book. There weren’t conflicting definitions in the book; it was consistent throughout. And I couldn’t see any sign that someone had cut out the old pages and replaced them with new ones. And it wasn’t a “new and revised” edition because my markings (yes, I tend to do that) are still there, just like I remembered. If the author had revised her thinking since my first reading, those revisions had not made it to my copy.

So in the end I succumbed to the inevitable conclusion that somehow the confusion was about me. That I had changed and because of that my interpretation, the meaning I was taking from the author’s writing, had changed as well. I was different and therefore the material was different.

Everything does seem to lead back to self it seems.

I guess on some level this is an appeal to save those old Child and Youth Care books and go re-visit them sometimes. You'll be surprised how “the material has changed”, “become different” as it sat there on your shelf.

But here’s my real wondering ... and it is about work, of course ... if I changed, would the young people or families I work with also “change”? Would the staff? Would the organisation?

I think so.

We can only experience others through our perceptual frame of the moment, and as it changes, so does what we see. Anger becomes pain; arguments become voice; hopelessness becomes opportunity.

What you get is what you see.

Rosemere, February, 2005


Child and Youth Care Workers' Day
It's probably true. The Mayor and other folks down at City Hall are not going to invite us to tea. The state department of children, youth and families is not going to send up a citation to say thanks. There will be no rash of press and TV advertising as with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day suggesting special gifts and restaurant bookings to celebrate the occasion. In fact we are generally quite modest about being thanked for what we do – and our work is in any case a rather private and confidential affair and not usually sung from the rooftops.

But when we have worked with children and families over long periods and through what Eva Burmeister called the “tough times and tender moments,” and have noticed them coming more often out into the sunshine, feeling better about themselves and coping better, we child and youth workers do catch each others' eyes with a nod of acknowledgement, and in such collegial recognition we often find our best reward.

In two month's time, during the first week in May to be exact, we will observe International Child and Youth Care Workers' Day. Because our timetables are demanding, each team, faculty, program, college, however we child care people are grouped, picks its own date and time when we can celebrate our membership of an extraordinary world-wide profession. Some make it the occasion for a three-day learning event; others just get to order in a bag of cookies at tea time on Tuesday afternoon.

Whichever way we can do it, there is a sense of belonging to be shared knowing that at some time during that week our colleagues around the world are setting apart a time to affirm and appreciate their colleagues – and that includes you.

Two things ...

1. To add to our field's history, feel free to share with the rest of us your particular story about this event – what you plan or how you celebrated. We’d all love to hear. Send to us here
2. If you happen to know in your area some isolated Child and Youth Care people – maybe folks working in a small group home or in a tiny department in a large school or hospital, or maybe as “detached” or “outreach” youth workers who often find themselves relatively alone and unsupported – invite them to join you.

Brian and Thom

The International Child and Youth Care Network

Registered Public Benefit Organisation in the Republic of South Africa (PBO 930015296)
Incorporated as a Not-for-Profit in Canada: Corporation Number 1284643-8

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