Cape Town colleague Chris Smith started off his weekly staff meeting with the usual information of new kids being referred to their children's home.
"Tough one this week," he nodded, as he looked at the sheaf of papers in his hand. “Youngster due in next week, name Reggie, not sure which unit he will have to go into."
The team listened expectantly, though spirits fell a little as Chris read on:"Serious difficulties at home, few resources, family struggling to manage the boy's behaviour, running off overnight, involved in a gang, petty crime which seems to be escalating, a couple of brushes with the police recently ..."
You could see the doubt on the faces of the child care workers, the social workers, and all who would have to deal with this new challenge.
"Also spreading despondency amongst our brothers in the education business," went on Chris. “Has been asked to leave two schools, serious challenge to authority wherever he goes: aggressive with other students “and with teachers on more than one occasion “query drug involvement, won't participate in extra-murals and certainly not your grade A student in the classroom!"
The child care team shuffled their papers, looked at each other, wondering if this kid was right for their programme, maybe he should rather go off to ... what's-that-place ...?
Chris continues with the staff meeting as they review the progress of the boys in the different units. As usual, there are the ups and downs: some of the boys doing OK, some really well, but the majority, as can be expected, are still taxing the ingenuity and patience of the adults, day by day. Some unit leaders are upbeat; others haggard.
"How's your group, Mike?" asks Chris. “Well," says Mike, it's half-and-half right now. Three kids are really in a tough stage, and they use up about 90% of our time. In fact, if it wasn't for some of the older boys who are getting to the end of the programme, we would be in trouble. Danny, for example, is a star, and has been such a help with the rest of the group “just by being there. Steady, reliable, with his head together, he's almost like an extra staff member these days."
The other staff in Mike's unit nod their agreement. “We can do the tough stuff when there are some kids like Danny to balance the equation," they say.
"In fact," adds Mike. “We're sure as hell going to miss him when he leaves to go back to his family at the end of this school term. We're pleased for him, of course, he has done so well, but we'll miss him “especially since we'll probably get this Reggie kid to fill his vacancy!"
"I wouldn't be so negative," says Chris. “There is no Reggie just yet. I was kidding. The referral report I was reading is one year old! It is actually the report we received when Danny was referred here last year! Thanks for all you've done for him."