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52 MAY 2003
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On being prepared

Today I am in the northern Cree village of Chisasibi on the edge of James Bay. Yesterday I was at home in the village of Rosemere, just north of Montreal. Yesterday it was warm and the wind blew gently. Today, the wind is freezing – yesterday’s rippling pools of melted snow became, overnight, this morning’s little frozen lakes. The wind blows from the same direction, but the impact, the characteristics and the experience are different. As I look out the window, it appears the same – but when I step out the door it is different indeed.

And so it is in Child and Youth Care – moving between contexts – one moment the environment is warm and friendly; the next a chill runs deep. One moment the flow of friendly, caring interactions. The next moment, something else.

This is one of the hardest parts of Child and Youth Care practice: the way things change so quickly. The way the worker has to adapt, sometimes instantly, between moments of warmth and moments of cold. The worker needs a fluid self, a fluid style; one which can adapt to the changing conditions, because, like the weather, we cannot always change the context into which we wander when we work with young people and families. It is we who need to adjust. We who need to make ourselves comfortable in the environment in which we find ourselves.

Shifting between experiences. Maintaining self and direction when the winds blow warm or cool. Moving between intimacy and distance with the same person. Wondering today what happened to the person we thought we were with yesterday. Struggling to remain focused when yesterday’s caring interactions become today’s rage or depression. Slipping between joy and anger, laughter and tears, acceptance and rejection – wandering the territory called Child and Youth Care practice.

When we move between one physical climate and another we prepare ourselves by packing layers of clothing that let us choose what we need depending on the temperature. But what can the Child and Youth Care worker do to prepare for the changes in environment that we encounter in practice?

Here are a few things that might help:


The International Child and Youth Care Network

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