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CYC-Net
CYC-Online Issue 100 MAY 2007 / BACK
Listen to this

back to basics

Child and youth care in other places

Not many child and youth care workers are lucky enough to work with small groups in well-staffed and well-equipped centres. Around the developing world (and in many instances in the developed world) people must work with children and youth in large, impersonal groups – for example, in places of detention, in youth prisons, in industrial schools and other residential schools – or even in under-funded and under-staffed group homes and other institutions.

Wherever you work in the field of child and youth care, if you come into touch with troubled or troubling children, you have let yourself in for a difficult job, and one which imposes on you certain obligations and requirements. No matter if your employers might not recognise this, or whether your superiors care how you do your work with kids. You, personally, have come into this work, and the world expects of you certain standards “at the level of the United Nations, at the level of the profession you have now entered, and at the level of common decency in your daily interactions with children and young people.

You know this, for you see in their eyes and in their behaviour the hopes they have for their lives – and so often also the disappointments and hurts they have suffered. Some kids have arrived in your program through no fault of their own; others are there because they have done something wrong. (But remember that even the difficult kids may have been sent to your place as a punishment, but never for punishment.) From this point onwards, the needs of all youngsters are exactly the same: they need our company, our attention, our teaching and our help to grow from today to the tomorrow they yearn for.

The place we all start is by showing them that there are adults who are interested in them and who can be trusted. How can we be of any use to young people if we do not spend real, personal time with them, talk with them and listen to them? And how can we do these things if we don’t show them that they are worthwhile, that they are individuals who are interesting, that they have some qualities that can be built on, and that they are likeable?

You may work in a program where you are told that all you have to do is watch them, keep them in order, see that they do what is expected of them (eating, cleaning themselves, sleeping) and that they don’t run away! That is not enough. That is not enough for a member of the child and youth care profession. Nobody really lives and grows when brought up like a battery chicken – and we certainly owe young people more than that! Your colleagues expect more of you than that.

Every young person has a name, use it. Everyone has a story, be prepared to listen to it (when they want to tell it).

Everyone has hopes, encourage them. Everybody has views and feelings, share them.

Nicholas Hobbs, a colleague of yours who lived from 1915 to 1983 and who also worked with troubled kids like yours, said that we should see to it that every young person experiences every day “some joy” - and also that he or she can look forward to some joy tomorrow. This is a good test for all of us at the end of a shift. Of course, Hobbs was not talking about things like sweets and sodas! He was talking of experiences that made kids feel that they were OK, that they were making some progress, that they were of some value and of some importance to someone else.

When you are going off duty at the end of a day or at the end of a shift, think of this question. Have I (and/or my colleagues) done something to give this child (and every child I work with) some joy? Have I given some recognition, some encouragement, some experience of success, some sign of affection or interest?

Author H. Jackson Brown Jr said: “Always kiss your children goodnight, even if they’re already asleep.” If you are not consciously leaving your children and/or youth today with “some joy”, why not begin today by at least going around and saying goodbye or goodnight – using their names.

THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net)

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