Life–space supervision is supervision which takes place in the working-space of the worker, which is the life-space of the children. It is a process in which the supervisor is present in the worker’s life-space as a support and coach observing, modelling, teaching, and intervening as necessary. Thus, just as the effective child and youth care worker is present in the living space of the child, so the effective supervisor is present in the working space of the child and youth care worker. Life-space supervision may include the following types of actions:
  • Preparation and observation: The supervisor assists the worker before an intervention. For example, a worker would be coached on what to look out for, how to think through the child’s behaviour and her own response to this behaviour.
  • Modelling: The supervisor may act as a direct role model. For example, the supervisor may intervene with the child and the supervisee will observe what the supervisor does so that it can be discussed later.
  • Working alongside: The supervisor may work ‘along side’ the worker. For example, the worker and supervisor agree that they will intervene with the child jointly and each play a specific role which has been predetermined,
  • Coaching: The supervisor may function as a coach. For example the supervisor could intervene with a worker, as she is intervening, to offer ideas, suggestions and alternatives, or even just to stimulate reflection or observation. In this case, the supervisor is using the daily life events of the worker just as the worker might use them with a young person.

Parallels between supervisor and worker roles
In order for supervision to be effective, the worker and the supervisor must be clear about their expectations of each other. The worker must have a clearly defined role indicating what is expected of her and the role of the supervisor must be discussed. While there are many definitions of the role of supervisor and the role of the child and youth care worker, I will identify only a few of them here in order to demonstrate how the characteristics of the child and youth care worker’s role can be used also to identify the expectations of a supervisor in a ‘life space supervision’ model. I will begin with the most general of statements about the role of the child and youth care worker, and in the next section, will look more specifically at characteristics. In an article on CYC-ONLINE (March 2001) written by the Pietermaritzburg Children’s Home, three main tasks of a child and youth care worker were identified:

  • Being a significant caring adult – this includes tasks such as providing a suitable adult role model,
  • having an intense concern for the well-being of all the children, and
  • having a dedicated involvement in the total life of each child in your care.

We can parallel this to what the supervisor should be to the worker. The supervisor must be a role model of how the worker should be and act. Role modelling may not always be a conscious process, but workers will observe the way we deal with situations, our attitudes to people, and our approach to the profession and our task. As supervisors we should be clear about our style, what beliefs we have about people and their development, and our values and attitudes to people in general and child and youth care specifically. For these will show up in our work with staff, just as those of the staff will show up in their work with the children.


Michael, J. (2005) Life-space supervision in child and youth care practice. In Garfat, T. and Gannon, B. (eds.) Aspects of child and youth care practice in the South African context. Cape Town: Pretext (CD version) pp.49-50









Pietermaritzburg Children's Home (2001) Building job descriptions for child care workers, In: CYC-ONLINE March 2001: