CYC-Online 67 AUGUST 2004
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Focus on strengths

Jack Phelan

We often look for ways to create a focus on strengths, rather than problems. This incident was discussed in a recent meeting at a group home in Edmonton, where the Child and Youth Care staff have worked very hard to change the approach towards youth to support developmental growth.

The difference can look small, but it is very important.

This is from a recent discussion with a Child and Youth Care team about a 17-year-old male who is developmentally stuck in autonomy and displays quite immature behavior .

The youth is the oldest and longest standing member of the group home, but is very childish and is often a scapegoat. He has joined a Tae-Kwon-Do club to help him develop a sense of personal strength as well as connect him to other community youth. He comes to breakfast one school morning wearing his Tae-Kwon-Do outfit, and the Child and Youth Care practitioner is concerned that this is inappropriate to wear to the local high school and will probably result in him getting laughed at and possibly bullied by other youth. Developmentally, this youth needs to feel strong and capable, but his wearing these clothes will probably create the opposite result. The Child and Youth Care worker described how prior to developing his own developmental approach, he would have refused to let the youth wear this outfit, and would have indicated to the youth that his behaviour was childish. Instead, he admired the youth’s choice of clothes, but then commented that he was concerned that some other teens at school might laugh at his outfit and create the possibility of a fight erupting, in which this youth would most certainly have to hurt someone. The youth was advised that because he was so powerful in martial arts, it probably wasn’t a good idea to create unsafe conditions for other students. The youth decided to change his clothes based on being strong, not being immature.

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