I am particularly impressed by the phrase “caring use of daily events”, as this conveys a sensitive, humanistic focus, i.e., not just a view of the child as an entity within the system but also on the child care professional’s opportunity to exhibit his own sensitivity, warmth, empathy and genuineness.
Maier (1987) ponders on the issue of caring which he views as a very personal experience for both the child care practitioner and the child. He cites the example of a child care worker who, through her caring manner of intervention, assisted a child to overcome his enuresis, a condition which is sometimes viewed as an ordinary daily occurrence amongst children in residential group life (Maier, 1987 p.41).
Shaw (2003) states that in her ability to demonstrate care, the Child and Youth Care worker must focus on the behavior, that is, on the troublesome behavior but not on the child as being labeled as troublesome. Shaw makes reference to Garfat (1998) who suggested that if the worker chooses to believe that every behavior has a purpose, then this must be understood and interpreted accordingly.
Redl (1996) explores different patterns of behavior in what he calls “anti-social” youth. Children who present with defiant behavior, he says, seem to invoke ‘the worst in adults, provoking them to react with their own feelings rather than with deliberate thoughts’. He recommends that as child and youth practitioners, we first must explore the meaning behind the behavior before allowing ourselves to become irritated. In an interesting reading by VanderVen (2002) entitled ‘All he wants...’ she explores the issue of attention-needing behavior, and she decisively recommends that the child must be given that attention he so craves.
Garfat (1998) explores the issue of actively attending to making meaning when using daily events in Child and Youth Care. He makes reference to Durrant (1993) amongst other researchers in his search for answers on meaning-making and explains that the manner in which workers understand their experiences with children, youth and families is an essential factor in determining how they think about and act with them. This also rings true, he says, for the meaning found by the children, young people and families. Hence meaning-making may permeate all aspects of the caring relationship (Garfat, 1998: Chapter 2).
In an engaging and comprehensive article, Garfat states that effective noticing entails the ability of the worker to separate the event from the situation itself, without losing sight of elements outside of the context of the act. The challenge for the worker lies in the ability to effectively notice all that is happening concurrently. (Garfat, 2003) According to this writer, in order to take advantage of the interventive moment, the child care worker must be able to ponder on the existence of that moment, by connecting the events with specific other occurrences. The worker must understand each moment or opportunity in relation to the context and the environment, as well as to its relevance to what Guttmann called ‘the multiple stream of immediacies that constitute the current context’. This ensures that the worker makes an effective and informed decision as to her intervention strategy.
Garfat (2003) further distinguishes between two types of connectedness, namely the ‘situational interconnectedness’ (e.g., how the individual behaviors within a sequence are connected to each other) and its global connectedness (e.g., how a particular event is connected to the activities occurring in another part of the program).
Maier (cited in Garfat, 2002) encourages child and youth practitioners to be sensitive to those situations that may even seem inconsequential, the small, seemingly unimportant events, e.g., waiting for mealtimes, the bath routine, etc. Garfat (2002) also cites Guttman (1991) who suggests that the practitioner must enter into the flow of experiencing a situation as it is happening, thereby creating a situation of joint experiencing between the worker and the child. This, according to Garfat (2002) is the ‘major difference between our work and other intervention efforts that rely on interpretative insight, alteration of value orientation, behavior modification and education’. However, Garfat (2003) later states that the Child and Youth Care worker must not allow preconceived notions of what is and is not present in the moment to influence her thoughts and interpretations of the event.
After all of the above (noticing and making connections) the worker must give meaning to the experience, and here she cannot avoid the influence of her personal thoughts, beliefs and knowledge, used either consciously or unknowingly. Notwithstanding all of this, in giving meaning to the situation, the worker must create an understanding that is consistent with the child’s experience, always being aware of how her understanding, interpretation and experience of the situation will impact on those actively within the situation itself. (Garfat, 2003; Maier, 1987).
Garfat, T. (1998). The Effective Child and Youth Care Intervention: A Phenomenological Inquiry. In Journal of Child and Youth Care, 12, 1-2.
Garfat, T. (2002). The Use of Everyday Events in Child and Youth Care Work. In Journal of Child and Youth Care, 10, 2.
Garfat, T. (2003). Four Parts Magic: The Anatomy of a Child and Youth Care Intervention. In CYC-Online, 50, March 2003.
Maier, W.M. 1987. Developmental Group Care of Children and Youth. New York. The Haworth Press.
Redl, F. (1996). Reports on Inter-Ministerial Committee on Young People at Risk.
Shaw, K.(2003). A Youth care Approach to Working with Youngsters who Self-Injure. In Relational Child and Youth Care practice, 16, 2. pp 9-13
VanderVen, K. (2002). “All He Wants” In CYC-Online, 37, February 2002.
Nadesan, V. (2005) Daily events as a focus of intervention with children and youth, in Garfat, T. and Gannon, B. (Eds.) Aspects of Child and Youth Care Practice in the South African Context. Cape Town. Pretext.