home journals Relational Child & Youth Care Practice
VOLUME 21 NUMBER 4, WINTER 2008
Young carers in Canada: An invisible
A matter of worth
The spatial environments of street-involved youth:
Vintage baby boomer
Contemplations about the imagination and complacency
Two against one
What did I say?
Looking through the eyes of the child: The phenomenon
Averting relational death by monitoring
A parent's worst nightmare: Grief, families,
Child welfare work: A life choice, not a life sentence
When did you first know that you were a child
Book review: Foster carers
My role as a child and youth worker in child welfare
Five seconds to belonging
Reading (not this) may change your life
My friend Grant Charles helped me pull this issue together. He is joining us as a member of the editorial team of this journal and so I say, to myself, (but now he is going to know) that it is all a part of his �initiation into editorship with RCYCP.� But the truth is, it is not that at all. That�s just me talking to myself and trying not to feel too obligated.
I was having a tough time getting this issue together � nothing out of the ordinary � just busier with other things than I normally am. And Grant, friend that he is, stepped up and said �let me help you out.�
Now that, I think, is what friends do � help you out when you need a hand. Well, I know they do lots of other things like; maybe remember a special event in your life, or invite you for dinner, or offer you a listening ear when you need one. The point is, though, that friends are supposed to be nice people who care about you and show it through what they do.
Got me to thinking about kids of course. (What doesn�t?) And how many of them have �friends� who don�t help them out at all; don�t do these kinds of things I am talking about. Rather they have friends who �help themselves� using these kids for their own ends. Yet the kids still think they are their �friends.�
I know what that is like. I have done it myself, called someone �my friend� even though they were either a) using me or b) tolerating me or even c) totally ignoring me as I tagged around with them as invisibly as I could. We�ve probably all done it. Okay, I know, there are supposedly the members of the �super cool� group who never need a friend, who everyone wants to be friends with, but they were never in my world so I don�t count them. (How�s that for left over adolescent anger?)
Generally, though, all of us will have been through a period where we really wanted a particular person to be our friend when they didn�t even seem to know that we existed. It is simply a part of the developmental angst of growing up; wanting to be liked, wanting to belong, wanting to define our worth by association with those who, for whatever reason, we admired. Pretty normal.
But not when that�s all you�ve got � the desperate desire to be accepted.
Belonging and connected- ness are a hunger that exists in all of us. More than just a need, I think. A hunger; an emptiness which yearns to be filled. And until it is filled we wander around looking for any way we can to meet the need, including calling people �friends� who are really just using us.
Most of us find fairly average ways to fill this need. We have family which serves the purpose. We belong to clubs, churches or other groups. We identify with our school or work team. We have lovers, partners, best friends, or neighbours.
But other people are not so fortunate, like a lot of the kids we work with. Failing to find connectedness and belonging in these more average ways (or, once having experienced it, losing it) they do what they can to fill the need.
They take lovers who don�t love them. Hang out with gangs that misuse them. Join �families� which abuse them. They are used like �things,� okay for the immediate purpose and easily discarded in a disposable world. After a while, because that�s all they�ve got, they think that�s all they deserve. And so it becomes a self-perpetuating script. �When I am a �thing� people accept me, I feel like I belong. If I stop being a �thing� I will have no place to belong any more.�
But somewhere deep inside, I believe, none of us want to be a thing. We long to be just a person: simple, accepted, connected, belonging and loved. And so, when we engage in these abusive ways of being connected and belonging, we experience conflict. Between what we think we are and what we long to be. To appease the conflict, we turn to the bottle, the pipe, the abuse of others as we lash out in our misdirected rage.
So why am I writing about this in an editorial for RCYCP? Fair question. I guess it is because as I get older things blend together. I have an experience in life and it leads me to reflect on work. I have an experience in work and it leads me to reflect on life. I think of Child and Youth Care as a way of being in the world; not something we do and then go home to �be� different.
As I read the articles, columns and pieces in this issue of the journal I find myself, even though these are �about work,� reflecting on life. Why is it, for example, as Reggy Figer provokes in this issue, that adults abuse children? �Does the way I limit my imagination, limit my experience of my personal life?� I wonder as I read Kiaras Gharabaghi�s paper on imagination and complacency. Well, I could go through them all, of course, but the point is made. Life and work are, essentially, inseparable. You are who you are, no matter where you are, as the old saying goes. And I know I will never look at a kid on the street the same after reading Stephanie Griffen�s article on Streetscapes. Reading a work article has changed my personal life.
So, as you read your way through this issue, allow yourself to wonder, to imagine, and maybe even to change how you are in the world. And as you change in the world, wonder about how that will impact your work. For it will.
As always, I am grateful to the people who write for the journal. Grateful for not only how they help me be a better, more reflective practitioner but also grateful for how each off them, in their own small way, alters my life.
(altered by reading once again)