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41 JUNE 2002
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in a nutshell

A concern in regard to executives, program supervisors and others in charge of the service

Henry Maier

In the past my column essentially addressed issues basically related to online care workers. This time I'd like to share some observations about the current level of operation of those in charge of residential or group care services.

For some time I have noticed that administrators of the services which are carried out by the line staff seem to be far removed from the youngsters and families of those in care. Unfortunately many administrators have limited direct contact with residents and care staff and hardly a clear perspective of the quality and range of services provided.

Let us be mindful that former leading professionals, among many in the field, had full knowledge about the care and treatment situation of the residents in their programs. They frequently visited with them, joined their tables at meal times. They and the residents were fully aware of each other and had many vital moments of togetherness. I'm thinking of Eva Burmeister (Milwaukee Children's Center), Morris Mayer (Bellefaire, Cleveland), Elizabeth Bannister (Seattle), Larry Branswell (formerly at Cottage Five, Calgary), Sister Mary Charles (Chicago), and Earl Loomis (once upon a time at WPI, Pittsburgh). These eminent leaders, we might say, not only knew their customers but they and their staffs were fully in the know about what the objectives, care, and treatment services and processes were to be.

One further splendid example ought to be cited: Jon Parsons (The Children's Home, Tampa). He has in his office a large glass bowl filled with candy and other goodies (most likely leftovers from the flood of sweets donated at Christmas and Easter). This bowl is there for all who come into his office, residents and staff alike, to reach into and get a sweet snack. This usually is accompanied by friendly nods to each other as he inquires, “How is the day for you?". Please note that he does not use his gifts to extort promises of good intentions and behavior, but as occasions for informative interactions.

It should be mentioned that his office door is always open unless he is in conference or on the telephone. His open door speaks loudly of his wish to be as close as possible to everyone within his program. His glass bowl has become a powerful vehicle for bringing himself intimately in touch with those around him. This director, Jon Parsons, periodically visits the different cottages and joins units at mealtime. Most important, he is very clear in conveying to the residents, their caregivers, and all of the staff the kind of program he envisions.

I don't think we need glass bowls of goodies in the office of the person in charge, but I wonder what a general policy of open doors could accomplish.

Let me close with a line from, “The Music Man", “You've gotta know the territory!" I want to add for the persons in charge, “How well do you really know your customers?"

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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