It seems unclear when exactly the expression “the use of everyday life events" first entered the child and youth care literature. Probably, like many things in child and youth care, it snuck in through the back door (the same one the kids tend to sneak out of) when nobody was paying close attention. What is important, however, is that the expression has succeeded in capturing the heart of child and youth care, for it speaks to the essence of this field.
Similar expressions have appeared from time to time, as various authors have tried to express the idea that child and youth care involves, as Fritz Redl (1959) said, “exploiting" the events that occur during the daily life of a child in care, for the benefit of that child (Fox, 1995). Redl’s expression has not readily been incorporated into the field, probably because of the political associations attached to the word “exploiting." Redl, of course, was talking about taking advantage of (another politically sensitive expression) events, as they occur in the life space of the child. While the words may not have caught on, the intention certainly did.
The little things
Maier (1987), for example, encourages us to attend to and use “the minutiae of everyday life,” the little things, the small, seemingly unimportant events, out of which the days of our lives are constructed: things like waiting for meal-times, occasions of leave-taking, or just coming into contact with one another. Followers of Redl suggest the use of life space interviews in which the child and youth care worker takes advantage of an event (such as an argument between two youth) immediately after it occurs, specifically entering into the immediate life of the child. Peterson (1988) suggests watching for “naturally occurring therapeutic opportunities" that present themselves in the course of daily living: reflective states when a young person has “gone inside" and is “accessing other than conscious and present situation experiences" (p. 22). More recently, Guttmann (1991) has suggested that child and youth care workers must enter into the flow of immediacies of the child's experiencing. In this way they can use interventions which are congruent with the flow of that experiencing (Fulcher, 1991). Entering into this flow of experiencing as it is occurring, and helping the child to live differently in the context within which the child and worker find themselves (Fewster, 1990), is central to impactful child and youth care practice. This joint experiencing between child and worker, and the facilitation of the opportunity for change within this joint experiencing, is the major difference between our work and other intervention efforts that rely upon interpretative insight, alteration of value orientation, behaviour modification, education, and so on.
In impactful child and youth care practice, the worker becomes, with the child, the co-creator of a contextual therapeutic environment (Durrant, 1993; Maier, 1994; Peterson, 1988) within which the child might experience the opportunity for change. The emphasis on impactful joint experience is the essence of contemporary care work.
Child and youth care practice has evolved over time, and the expression “the use of daily life events" might be rephrased as “the entering into, and caring use of, daily life events, as they are occurring, for the therapeutic benefit of the child, youth or family." Such practice involves numerous skills, knowledge and ability on the part of child and youth care workers. They must, for example, have knowledge of child development (Maier, 1987), understand how to access and use that knowledge (Eisikovits, Beker, &Guttmann, 1991), know about the process of change, possess an active self-awareness (Ricks, 1989), which allows the worker to distinguish self from other (Garfat, 1994), be able to enter into an intimate caring relationship (Austin & Halpin, 1987, 1989) that involves attachment (Maier, 1993), understand the process of meaning-making (Bruner, 1990; Garfat, 1995; Krueger, 1994; VanderVen, 1992) and have a framework for organizing their interventive actions (Eisikovits, Beker, & Guttmann, 1991; Garfat & Newcomen, 1992).
All of this is necessary for recognising and using those opportunities that occur as the events of a child's, youth’s or family’s life unfold through daily living. This use of daily life events as they are occurring is one of the characteristics that distinguishes child and youth care practice from other forms of helping – which may also use daily life events, but at a distance removed from the immediacy of the experience itself.
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