Mark A. Krueger
The following tenets and corresponding actions are important in child care organizations. This list is not all-inclusive, but represents the principles and behaviors that members of these organizations seem to strive to articulate and institute on a daily basis.
Interconnected human systems
Child and youth care organizations are human systems whose success depends upon the ability of the people in all the systems connected with the agency “familial, community, cultural, and governmental systems “to participate in solving problems and in pursuing a set of common goals. In other words, the effectiveness of the organization is interconnected with the actions of all its members, clients, and constituents. In contemporary agencies, it is not unusual to find board members, administrators, social workers, teachers, child care workers, family members, children, and public agency social service workers all sitting down together to discuss, and work together on, solving a problem or designing a new approach to treatment. They realize that goals can be reached much more successfully through participation, compromise, and cooperation.
Caring relationships “relationships that include empathy, trust, security, compassion, and sympathy “are the foundation which treatment is built. Managers and supervisors begin the process when they hire people who have the appropriate attributes and skills [Krueger 1986]. Then supervisors model caring interactions as they supervise and train their workers, recognizing that care for the caregivers is also a vital part of the organizational ecology [Maier 1987]. Workers, in turn, work at being caring. They are sensitive to the importance of what Maier  describes as the ingredients in the core of care, the “bodily comfort, differentiations, rhythmic interactions, predictability, dependability, and personalized behavior training" that are the foundation of meaningful relationships. They also recognize that this is a highly demanding and technical task that requires self-awareness, the capacity to give and receive support from their colleagues, and the ability to communicate, model, and provide positive reinforcement [Trieschman et al. 1969].
Caring relationships, which take time to develop and master, are nurtured by individual and organizational commitments. Perhaps the greatest hallmark of a successful program is the strength of the commitment of the workers to the organization (commitment here meaning a willingness to stay, invest energy, and grow) [Porter et al. 1974]. These commitments begin with workers” personal investments, which take into consideration that many troubled and handicapped children in placement had been psychologically and physically abandoned. Their commitments are in turn supported by organizational practices such as weekly supervision [Fleisher 1985], adequate salaries and benefits, step or promotional systems [Krueger 1986], continued education, career counseling [Fleisher 1985], and training. It is not unusual today to find some workers staying and growing for five to ten years in organizations where they receive professional and personal support.
Individual treatment plans are used to guide the development of caring relationships and the selection of intervention techniques and strategies. These plans reflect the belief that “each child or youth is viewed as a unique individual with dignity and potential who requires nurturing and encouragement" [see preface]. The child's strengths, weaknesses, and culture [Weaver, this volume], are always considered before choosing an approach. Across-the-board remedies are avoided and group treatment programs such as level systems, behavioral programs, and peer counseling are instituted only when it is clear that each individual who participates can benefit from involvement.
Wholeness, wellness, developmental dynamics,
Troubled and handicapped children are seen as whole individuals with many strengths on which to build. The worker’s task is to prevent, teach, support, and correct with strategies that are appropriate for the current levels of emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development at which a child is functioning. Reeducation, developmental, sociological, psychodynamic, psychoeducational, social learning, and ecological approaches that focus on the learning and growing that take place in daily relationships are used extensively [Brendtro and Ness 1983; Bronfenbrenner 1979; Fox, this volume; Mayer 1959; Powell, this volume; RedI and Wineman 1952].
Family and community involvement
Every effort is made not to treat children in isolation from their families arid communities. Whether they are treated at or away from home, their families and members of their community are involved in as many facets of the treatment process as possible [Whittaker 1982; Garfat, this volume]. Workers reach out to families and try to encourage them to participate. Family members are taught parenting and social skills, counseled, and encouraged to help one another; they may also participate on treatment teams where they take part in solving problems and planning activities with staff members.
Community involvement also receives attention from the moment treatment begins until it ends. The child is encouraged and given the opportunity to spend as much time as possible with community peers and joining in activities in school, community clubs and organizations, neighborhood recreation centers, churches, and so on. Support services such as vocational training centers and youth counseling centers are also used whenever they are available and appropriate.
Daily activities are planned in advance and evaluated afterward. Each activity, whether it is a group counseling session, dinner, bedtime, showers, a group discussion, clothes shopping, job training, money management, monopoly, or a game of kickball, is seen as having a vital role in the treatment of children and their families. In other words, activities are selected with care and insight, and planned and evaluated in relation to goals and objectives in treatment plans.
Treatment teams are the major mode of delivering services. Whenever possible, treatment decisions are made by consensus among team members and then carried out and evaluated together. Team members are also involved in decisions related to the administration and financing of programs, because all organizational decisions influence treatment and are enhanced by employee participation. (See below.)
Child and youth care workers, social workers, teachers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, are all seen as having essential roles in treatment. Further, since child and youth care workers have traditionally had less status, administrators do everything possible to provide the resources and support that will reflect their commitment to creating an environment in which child and youth care workers feel equally respected and valued [VanderVen 1979]. For example, in some organizations child care workers receive the same compensation and benefits and are given equal opportunities to advance as members of other disciplines with similar levels of education and experience [Krueger 1986].
Training and supervision
Training and supervision are as much a part of the normal routine as other major procedures within the organization. Supervisors meet regularly with workers, using the time to teach, support, and career-counsel. Introductory and continuing inservice training, covering topics such as teamwork and communication, behavior management, daily routines, human sexuality, chemical and alcohol abuse, recreation, arts and crafts, and self-awareness, is built into everyone’s working schedule. Child and youth care work is recognized as being “high tech," and like other sophisticated disciplines it requires constant review and upgrading of individual skills. One simply can’t get by on experience or outdated methods of treatment.
The preceding section has offered a general description of tenets and actions that guide child-caring interactions. There are certainly others, but these are the ones that appear to be most prominent today. Its purpose has been to outline the goals that many child care organizations are striving to attain. The next step is to see how these principles and behaviors can be systematically incorporated into the organizational environment.
Brendtro, L., and Ness, A. 1983. Reeducating troubled youth: Environments for teaching and treatment. New York: Aldine Publishing Company.
Bronfenbrenner, U. 1979. The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.
Fleischer, B. 1985. Identification of strategies to reduce turnover among child care workers. Child Care Quarterly 14(2): 130–139.
Krueger, M. 1986. Job satisfaction for child and youth care workers. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.
Maier, H. 1979. The core of care: Essential ingredients for children away from home. Child Care Quarterly 8 (3): 161–1 73.
Maier, H.1987. Developmental group care. New York: Hayworth Press.
Mayer, F. 1959. A guide for child care workers. New York: Child Welfare League of America.
Porter, L.; Steers, R.; Mawday, R.; and Boulion, P. 1974. Organizational commitment, job satisfaction and turnover among psychiatric technicians. Journal of Applied Psychology 59:151–176.
RedI, F., and Wineman, D. 1952. Controls from within. New York: Free Press.
Trieschman, A.: Brendtro, K.: and Whittaker, J. 1969. The other twenty-three hours. New York: Aldine Publishing Company.
VanderVen, K. 1979. “Towards maximum effectiveness of a
unit team approach: An agenda for team development.” Residential and
community child care administration 1 (3): 287-297
This feature: Mark A. Krueger (1990) Child and Youth Care Organizations. In Krueger, M. and Powell, N. (Eds.) Choices in caring. Washington DC: Child Welfare Leaugue of America, pp.5-9