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Child care workers: Catalysts for a future world

Thom Garfat

The child care workers orientation towards change, for the children and youth whom they serve, is also part of what makes child care a special profession.

Child care workers do not focus simply on pathology. Their focus is much more developmental and their orientation towards change is based on the normative development of children and youth. They are more focused on the strengths of the individual, as a basis for growth, than are many other professions. They seek not only to eliminate or change maladaptive behavior, but also to use an individuals strengths to help overcome areas of difficulty. They are just as committed to the development of strengths as they are to the resolution of weaknesses.

It goes without saying that child care is child-focused. However, more important than being just child-focused, the child care orientation towards change is focused on both the child and on the child's participation in the world in which he lives. Child care workers focus not only on who a child is, but how a child is, in the world around him. For that reason, we find child care workers frequently working in areas of daily living in the arena of normative life events rather than just being focused on the individual therapeutic interaction with the child in the context of an hour a week. Child care workers are not only aware of a child's daily life experience, but they use that daily experience as a vehicle for change.

Child care workers also tend to be systemic in their orientation towards change. Because of that we see child care workers involved not only in the child's daily life in the unit, but also in the child's life in school, in the community, in relationships with peers, or in the family. Child care recognizes that the child is at the center of a number of complex systems which interact with each other and within which the child must be able to survive and function. The profession recognizes not only that the child may need to change, but also that frequently the need is for a system to change to accommodate to the child, rather than for the child to change to accommodate to the system. This leads child care workers to be advocates for social change as well.

Finally, and perhaps this is the most important point, the focus of the child care orientation towards change is a "total life focus" and is not a focus limited solely to the child or to a particular aspect of the child's life. All arenas of the child's life are potential arenas for intervention. No area is insignificant.

Garfat, T. (1988) Child care workers: Catalysts for a future world. In Gannon, B. (Ed.) Today's Child Tomorrow's Adult. Cape Town: NACCW

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