A paper given at the NACCW Biennial Conference, Johannesburg, 1987
I love to read and I love to learn. When we agreed that I would talk about the writings of some of the “patriarchs and heroes” in our field, I saw it as an opportunity to sit down and review some of the writings which have influenced the development of the field of child and youth care. As I read the literature searching for what I wanted to abstract from the multitude of writers in this field, the task became both too complicated and at the same time too simple. We have too many patriarchs and heroes to parade them all in front of you. We can only afford brief glimpses of their shadows as they walk by the caverns of our ignorance.
How does one compress, for example, Bruno Bettelheim’s work on fantasy and enchantment into but a few words? How can we summarise his understanding of the human condition and of people who are disadvantaged? Perhaps, one could only summarise it by saying that only through an understanding of others, can we find solutions to the problems of our lives and our worlds.
How could you summarise the works of Leon Fulcher and Frank Ainsworth into a few well-chosen lines, when they themselves seek out our colleagues all over the world to bring us knowledge and understanding about the universal issues, approaches and solutions in our field? Perhaps one can only notice that they model the idea that the solution to our problems can only be found in relationships of learning which extend beyond our normal boundaries.
What does one say, in parading the shadow of the late Albert Trieshman, about what he taught us of the value of looking at how we wake children up, put them to bed or understand their temper and anger? How does one summarise in a few words his thinking about the need to remember that we are there for the children not for ourselves? What can one say about Harry Vorath pleading with us to find new ways to support children to help other children; or of the work of Jean Vanier as he influenced us to look upon disadvantaged persons with eyes of compassion, caring and love?
There are so many others who have spoken to us through their writings, their words and their work. Rather than parade briefly the works of many people, I have chosen to reflect upon the two who are the most important to me. Then, in closing, I will identify something very important which we find in the writings of our contemporaries “the child care people who have begun to write more intensely from within the field. Accordingly I have retitled my talk: “Henry, Fritz and Friends”.
I have learned from many persons in the fifteen years that I have been a child and youth care professional.
I have learned from the children who have shared with me their happiness and their joys; their frustrations and their fears; their moments of sadness and their moments of incredible hate. I have learned from my colleagues who have stood patiently beside me while I struggled on my way through to understanding, in the midst of confusion. I have learned from my teachers, my trainers, and all those who have sought to educate me in the forum of interactional learning. I have learned, also, from those who have taught me through their written words. Some of those have stimulated me, as they have you, into greater understanding of the how, the why, and the experience, of the care and the treatment of troubled children.
First, Henry Maier. Like many great writers, Henry has been writing for more years than many of us have lived. His writings reflect not only where we have come from, but also where we have arrived. In 1963, for example, he talked about “Child Care as a Method of Social Work” and now he talks about “The Continued Building of the Professional Discipline of Child and Youth Care” (1981). For the purpose of my talk, however, I have chosen to focus upon what he has said about the value of group living; the components of quality care; the complexity of child care work; the value of child care workers; and about ourselves.
Values of group living
Sometimes, when we see how troubled children must live together in groups, we are led to question the value of this experience. For some, it is a false and artificial living situation and for others, like Henry Maier, it is a laboratory for life’s learning. As he wrote in his 1975 article “Learning to Learn and Living to Live in Residential Treatment":
“The group-living situation serves as the arena of life. It is the arena for meeting and separating, for eating, for making decisions, dealing with social requirements and so on. It is the arena where children and caring adults discover each other’s ways of giving and taking. These joint experiences constitute the essence of development and of treatment.”
In looking at group care, he reminds us that “residential treatment implies a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week proposition, covering all phases of a child's daily life” (1957). In this context of the residential group-living environment he reminds us that “even the simple routines of awakening, dressing or waiting cannot be considered as inconsequential” (1957).
Components of quality care
In this living laboratory of learning, Dr Maier reminds us that our purpose is to care. To help us stay focused on our purpose he published an article in which he identified the seven components of quality care for children. In his own words, “each component is based upon a compilation of long-established child care wisdom” (1979).
Bodily comfort: “One might say, as a child's bodily comforts are met, so does he or she feel actually treated with care. ... With a sense of physical well-being a person becomes more receptive and is, in fact, eager for experiences beyond the immediate bodily demands” (1979). In discussing bodily comfort he insists that children need a private space which is theirs regardless of whether or not their behaviour has been acceptable. “Youngsters need to find this evidence of the right to exist in difficult as well as in good moments” (1979). They need a place whether it be a room, a cupboard, a drawer, or a cupboard box to call their own.
Differentiations: “Children must not all be treated as if they were all the same. It is essential for caring persons to differentiate in the way they respond to various children, even those with similar behaviours. To be “consistent” is not necessarily a virtuous position” (1979).
Rhythmic interactions: Dr Maier talks frequently about how human beings can live and experience each other in rhythmic interaction, and says that “when adults, while caring for children, can become part of the joint rhythm, they have the possibility of finding themselves 'in tune” with the children. Children and adults share moments of moving ahead together” (1979).
The element of predictability: He says that “to know which things will happen in the immediate future lends a sense of order and power. It becomes a major breakthrough for a youngster to discover that she or he can predict the outcome of her or his action”. This suggests that predictability is not only useful for the staff, it is good for the children as well.
Dependability: Sometimes we find ourselves wondering if the children in our care are becoming too dependent upon us, and we move to create distance and greater autonomy Perhaps before we move too quickly, we should remember these words: “Dependency is natural and desirable – and basic to child care When persons experience secure dependence upon one another, they can in fact function more independently as they feel assured of mutual attachment.” Sometimes distance can only be attained through intimacy.
Personalised behavioural training: Dr Maier also reminds us that as we develop our technology we must maintain our sense of caring. Training must not only be personalised in the sense of individualisation for each child, but must also come from a personal relationship with a caring adult. “The most potent behavioural training goes hand in hand with a sense of reciprocal closeness and attachment. Effective acquisition of behavioural standards is a consequence of dependency.”
Care for the caregivers: Finally, if we are truly concerned about quality care, then “the caretakers must be nurtured themselves and experience sustained caring support in order to transmit this quality of care to others. Caregivers are enriched or limited as agents of care according to the care they receive” (1979).
Complexity of child care work
To us, and to others who may not appreciate what it is that child care workers do on a daily basis, Henry Maier has taken great care to highlight the complexity of what a child care worker does. He also addressed himself articulately to the necessary complexity of the relationship between child care worker and child. Listen to these words from his 1958 article “The Meaning of Repeated Adult Requests”:
"Like the carpenter, the child-caring person has a whole chest of 'tools” at his disposal. He can influence behaviour with facial expressions, gestures, spontaneous laughter, or a well-timed cough. On other occasions he might choose appropriately between direct active interference; purposely not seeing; knowingly seeing and purposely not commenting; commenting later when the heat is off; changing or dropping the subject; performing the requested action in place of the child or along with the child. Child care work is an extremely complex work."
The value of Child Care Workers
This succinct example reflects the complexity of your daily work with children. In recognising this complexity, Dr Maier is also explicit in his appreciation of the value of child care workers. Surely this complex and sensitive work with children would not be complete without an acknowledgement of the value of the professionals involved. He reminds us that “child care workers ... are both the children's link with the tasks before them and the world around them, and society’s guardians of the quality and direction of care afforded to the children.”
In the same article entitled, “The Child Care Worker”, written in 1977, he emphasised that “... through the regular exercise of their caring functions and the control of resources available to the children, child care workers are the most powerful agents in the children's lives” and that it “is the child caring person's continuous interaction with the child that counts” (1977).
Finally, like all good writers in the field of child care, Henry occasionally turns his mind and his pen to the subject of ourselves. In a moment when you find yourself as a child care worker comparing yourself to persons from other professions which we usually think of as clinical, perhaps you would be well served to remember these words from Henry’s 1987 article, “A Developmental Perspective for Child and Youth Care Work”: “Let us be aware that clinical thinking has nothing to do per se with a white coat, medical model or use of any one brand of psychological or psychiatric nomenclature. Instead, clinical thinking pertains to a judgement made on the basis of actual observation and painstaking study of the particular circumstances in order to obtain for each case a distinct assessment (diagnosis) of the case-specific conditions.”
Finally, he reminds us that in our interactions with children, we must be sensitive to the complications of our own history and how that history sometimes influences our work with children. As he says, “Whether adults want it or not, generally we have our own past history looking right over our shoulders: “What would my 'old man” have said about it?" We need to guard against too much involvement with our own history instead of the child's immediate situation. For example, insistence on cleaning one’s plate may easily represent a vestige of one’s own training rather than an important factor for the child in a children's institution.” In this way he reminds us that we must strive constantly to be aware of ourselves and the reasons for what we are doing when we interact with the children in our care.
So much, then for the brief parade of the writings of Henry Maier. I would like to turn now to the words and works of Fritz Redl.
In his writings, which have spanned some fifty years, Dr Redl like Henry Maier, has addressed concerns which were then, and are still today, in the very forefront of our professional consciousness. He addresses issues which are at the centre of the care and treatment of troubled youth, and because of this, even his early works are of great value to us today.
Like all good teachers, Dr Redl teaches from his self and his personal experience. In sharing with us the experiences that led him to his understanding of the care and treatment of troubled children, he is a model for the child and youth care worker. He is serious and analytical, he is understanding and compassionate, he is a researcher into human experience: in his writings we find him teaching with intelligence, wit, and delightful humour.
Listen to what he had to say, for example, about our knowledge and understanding of how to work with troubled children:
” ... all questions pertaining to techniques like punishment and rewards, praise or criticism, permission or verbot, indulgence or authority, encouragement or scolding, and the whole gamut of problems around the setting of limits, and what to do if they are trespassed, are still a no-man's land in which everybody can believe what he wants to, quite similar to the state of affairs in which our concept of body health, eating habits, etc. were about 100 years ago” (1951).
Those words were written in his book Children Who Hate, which was first published in 1951. They could easily have been written yesterday They probably could be written tomorrow.
In his own delightfully humorous way, Dr Redl supports us in our desire to learn, and encourages us to pursue greater understanding and knowledge in our work: “It doesn’t do to continue in our ignorance much longer, for, in the long run, collective ignorance never pays” (1952).
In his expansive and broad-ranging writings, Dr Redl teaches us, among other things: about love and affection in the treatment process; about the environment within which treatment occurs; about friendships with influence; about what is therapeutic; and with caring, he teaches us about ourselves.
About love and affection
Anyone who knows the works of Fritz Redl, immediately comes to know him as a man who believes very profoundly in the importance of love and affection in the treatment relationship. While in our daily work we often recognise this ourselves, we are sometimes caught in the conflict which arises when the children misbehave. Too frequently, in our human fashion, we reach out to punish the children, through the withdrawal of that love and affection. Or we wonder whether or not we should withdraw our caring feelings from those children who misbehave. Here is a quote from Dr Redl on this subject:
“The children must get plenty of love and affection whether they deserve it or not: they must be assured of the basic quota of happy, recreational experiences whether they seem to have it coming or not. In short, love and affection, as well as the granting of gratifying life situations, cannot be made the bargaining tools of educational or even therapeutic motivation, but must be kept tax-free as minimal parts of the youngsters' diet, irrespective of the problems of deservedness” (1952).
About the environment
Dr Redl is best known for his writings in residential treatment. His words on the psychological environment which forms the context for the therapeutic interaction, are applicable regardless of the environment in which the interaction occurs. Whether you live with children, work with them daily, see them in their educational environment, or spend an hour a week with them, Dr Redl’s words have equal value. On caring environments:
“We must be as careful with respect to our psychological 'atmosphere' as medical science has learned to be with the biotic atmosphere in which certain of its operations are to be carried out ... No attempts at influencing behaviour pathology can be successful if, at the same time, every part of the environment is not kept scrupulously 'clean' from the point of view of psychological hygiene” (1951).
Friendship with influence
In the context of a psychologically clean environment within which there is sufficient love and affection, Dr Redl recognises that the relationships between the educateur and the troubled child have a special 'quality'. In this relationship, he asks us to remember our purpose. Listen, again, to a quote from Children Who Hate:
"From a human value angle, there is something nearly romantic to some of those 'friendships' which otherwise hateful youngsters occasionally offer to adults who are decent and fair to them. For the person who is seriously engaged in an effort to rehabilitate and really alter the basic philosophy of a child engaged in a delinquent behaviour, it is important to remember that while we need their friendship, we want to be sure that we do not remain 'friends without influence.' “(1951).
What is therapeutic?
"In thinking about the treatment of troubled
children from this intensely interpersonal perspective, we must
eventually address ourselves directly to the question of what exactly is
'therapeutic'. What do we mean by this word, which we seem to use so
easily? Do we mean 'Therapeutic', meaning don’t put poison in their
soup? 'Therapeutic', meaning you still have to feed them? 'Therapeutic',
meaning developmental-phase appropriateness and cultural background
awareness? 'Therapeutic', meaning clinically elastic? 'Therapeutic',
meaning encompassing fringe-area treatment goals?
'Therapeutic', meaning the milieu and I? or 'Therapeutic', meaning in terms of re-education for life?” (1966).
Surely these are ideas which, while they may have been raised twenty years ago, address issues which concern us today and will continue to concern us in the future. Those quotes could have come from last month’s edition of the Journal of Child Care.
In his numerous writings over the years, Dr Redl has addressed the core issues which we encounter in child care. Time does not permit us to look at them all. However, as an illustration of the breadth of his writings, the following are offered:
"We want to know how people can survive with such children. By this we mean the question of just what needs to be done in order to tone down some of their surface behaviour at times, a task which becomes important even before more deep-seated therapy of their 'real problem' can be attempted." (1951).
“When confronted with a youngster about whom everybody is by now desperate, for many people and organisations already have tried their hand with no success, it is eagerly suggested that 'a psychiatrist should see the child”. It is quite flattering to psychiatry, by the way, that the educators themselves, and even lay people, have picked up the same chant. What started out like a propaganda slogan for a new scientific field has become an outcry for help by those in despair” (1951).
As professionals, we are horrified when we hear stories of the emotional, psychological, or physical abuse of children in the hands of those who claim to he our colleagues. As long ago as in 1951, Dr Redl clearly stated that “complete protection from traumatic handling by any personnel associated with the treatment home must be guaranteed”.
In one of those moments when the person stands clearly through the writing, Fritz Redl, in conjunction with his colleagues, states:
“We are against the application of physical punishment in any form whatsoever under any circumstances. Even for the normal child, we reject the idea that physical pain will 'teach” the youngster, that the entrance to the character of a child leads through the epidermis of the hind quarters, or that physical pain will solve things by giving the child the chance to pay for his sins and thus end his guilt feelings” (1952).
Finally, Dr Redl does not forget that in the end, the children leave us. They go on into their own future. And sometimes, after they have left, in the years to come, we hear that they have not succeeded or that they fall into greater difficulty. Too frequently in those situations we are likely to condemn ourselves for our 'failure”. Dr Redl suggests that sometimes we judge ourselves too quickly and too harshly. To our somewhat fragile self-esteem, he offers the following:
"If somebody fixes up a kid after a skiing accident and then somebody else comes and hits him with a sledge hammer, nobody insinuates that the previous doctor probably did a poor job... I find us constantly bothered out of our wits, and sometimes discouraged about our clinical 'know-how', if somebody reminds us that one of our patients or clients didn’t seem to hold up so well after several years had lapsed, without much concern about the question of just what really 'did it to begin with, what the situation was really like that renewed the trauma, or whether or not the problem did lie after all in complete recovery.” (1966).
It is typical of Dr Redl, that he recognises our human tendency to judge ourselves too quickly, and too harshly. It is also typical of him, that he cares enough about us, to ask us to be more cautious with ourselves.
Dr Fritz Redl is clearly a man whose words have had, and will continue to have, great influence upon the development of the field of child and youth care. Those which I have just quoted are but brief examples of what he has to say Like my previous words about the writings of Henry Maier, the quotes represent but a brief passage of his enormous shadow.
Having paused for some time upon the writings of Fritz Redl and Henry Maier, I want now to acknowledge a change which we are seeing in the literature of our present time. Like all persons, in the past I have learned from those who were formerly my teachers, and now I continue to learn from the thoughts, the works and the writings of our contemporary colleagues. When we peruse the contemporary literature closely, we find in it an element which did not appear in the writings of some of our earlier heroes and patriarchs.
Through the development of our field, we have come to be more sensitive to the “political” element of our profession. In contemporary writings, we find constant reminders that as child care professionals concerned about the quality of treatment provided to troubled children, we must address ourselves to this political component of our movement. For we must make no mistake, the development of the field of child and youth care represents a “movement”. In order for this movement to be successful, we ourselves must strive to he productive and successful. I offer you the reminder of Mark Krueger from his 1983 book Careless to Caring for Troubled Youth: “The foundation for any collective movement rests on the ability of the individual to make a commitment to personal growth and development. In order to be an active participant in the movement and to he able to make valuable contributions, caregivers must be constantly striving to be as productive and successful as possible.”
Concurrent with the awareness that the development of our field constitutes a movement, has come the heightened awareness that we must begin to think politically. As James Whittaker stated in his 1984 book Caring for Troubled Children, we need to he sensitive to the political power of the language which we use. He suggests, for example, that we move from patient to student, from cottage to dormitory, from discharge to graduation and from centre to school. He argues that such a change is partially political because education is more positively valued in our society than is “treatment”.
But it would seem that our contemporary colleagues are suggesting that it is not simply enough to think politically hut rather we must also act. I give you the following quote from Dr Penny Parry in her 1985 article, “Relationships: A Wide Angle Perspective”: “Acknowledgement of the relationship of child care with the political community is imminent. The 'opportunity” for action is at hand: changes in society’s social structure ... and values ... are affecting human service needs and government responses to these needs. Such wide scale changes necessarily become political in context. Therefore, entry into the political realm is required if impact is to he made.”
However, while our movement grows and we become more political in our intervention into how our societies deliver services to children, we must never lose sight of the fact that the very essence of our work is the relationships which we have with children. Sometimes it serves us well, to reach back to some of the patriarchs and heroes of our field, such as Fritz Redl or Henry Maier, for they remind us of our basic cause. They teach us things which help both ourselves and the children.
I once before had the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Dr Fritz Redl, and in doing so I chose to write a poem for him. On reflection, it seems to me that this poem could express not only my appreciation for the contribution of Dr Redl, but also for the contributions of all who have taught us through their work and their words “those who have helped us become what it is that we are today.
And so, in closing, I would like to offer this poem written for Dr Redl as an appreciation for all of those who have been our patriarchs and heroes.
Homage to Dr Fritz Redl
The children don’t know you anymore,
But in knowing me, and the others,
They know you.
Thank you, for the moments,
In the midst of confusion,
When you gave me clarity,
The children know, that it’s important, we are clear.
In knowing us, they know you.
In loving us, they love you, still.
Thank you, for the moments,
In the midst of confusion,
When you gave me clarity.
And the children thank you also.
Krueger, M. Careless to caring for troubled youths. Tall Publishing, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, 1983.
Maier, H.W Learning to learn and living to live in residential treatment. Child Welfare, 54(6), 1975, 406-420.
Maier, H.W A developmental perspective for child and youth care work. In J. Anglin, et al (eds.), Issues and Professional Child Care and Youth Care. UBC Press, 1987.
Maier, H.W Childhood psychosis. The American Journal of Ortho-Psychiaty, 27(4), 1957, 701-709.
Maier, H W The meaning of repeated adult requests. Child Welfare, Dec. 1958.
Mater, H W Child care as a method of social work. Training for child care staff CWLA, New York, 1963, 62-81.
Maier, H.W The child care worker. In John Turner (ed.) Encyclopedia of Social Work, 1957, 130-134.
Maier, H.W The core of care. Child Care Quarterly 8(3), FaIl, 1979.
Parry, P Relationships: A wide angle perspective. Journal of Child Care (2) 4,1985, 1-10.
Redl, F. and Wineman, D. Children who hate. The Free Press, 1951.
Redl, F and Wineman, D. Controls from within: Techniques for the treatment of the aggressive child. The Free Press, New York, 1952.
Redl, F When we deal with children: selected writings. The Free Press, New York, 1966.
Whittaker, J. Caring for troubled children. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1984.