NUMBER 887 • 13 JANUARY • Supervision wish list

     As we developed the workshop we decided that we wanted to a create a forum for child and youth care workers to better understand the complex and difficult nature of supervision in residential settings for children, to better understand and empathize with the issues their supervisor was facing, and to develop strategies to better “own their own supervision.” We were very clear that if child and youth care workers simply wait for “good supervision” to come to them, the many factors working against this happening in most agencies would likely lead them to much frustration – and for many of the more talented and knowledge-thirsty ones, on a road out of the field of child and youth care. We wanted to provide a model for child and youth care workers to pro-actively take responsibility for their part of the crucial supervisory relationship, and to feel comfortably empowered in doing so.

However, in order to enact that process we felt it important to let some of the feelings drain. So we began the workshop with the provocative thought referred to above. Participants were asked to write down their responses, which were then read out loud (as anonymously as possible) as a way to begin the workshop. Some of the common themes and more poignant replies to If I Could Supervise My Supervisor I Would...

  • Tell them not to take out their frustrations on me
  • Start supervision on time and have no interruptions
  • Help them learn to be more empathic
  • Ask them to learn the difference between supervision and therapy
  • Tell them to do more direct supervision of me and less of their opinions about other workers
  • Ask them to realize a mistake is just a mistake and not personal
  • Empower my supervisor to attend several supervision trainings to better supervise me
  • Teach them better time management techniques – they are always late for our session
  • Demand they prepare for supervision
  • Ask them not to take phone calls during supervision
  • Limit discussion of “bread and butter” administrative stuff – do it through memos or team meetings
  • Insist they give their supervisees a list of their duties so they know what is expected of them
  • Always say something positive before something negative
  • Actually have supervision – what is it?
  • Ask them to allow me to vent after a crisis
  • Ask them to be more caring and less confrontational
  • Provide more feedback-positive and negative
  • Try very hard to keep their personal beliefs to themselves
  • Point out how a negative attitude is contagious
  • Ask her to trust me more
  • Ask why he says yes to everything I ask
  • Suggest the relationship be more professional than being a “buddy”
  • Have them explain exactly what this agency is supposed to be doing with kids – if they know
  • Tell her to guide, not judge
  • Give them a big raise – for putting up with me
  • Give more informal perks for jobs well done
  • Tell them I don’t always need an answer – sometimes I just need an ear
  • Tell them to do a better job of getting what we need from top administration and the system
  • Talk more about my feelings about my work
  • Tell them to listen attentively and with empathy
  • Work part of the holidays with me – I need support – it is hard to be away from my family
  • Just be respectfully honest with me

What begins to emerge from these types of answers is just what a large volume and complicated set of expectations are placed on supervisors in the child and youth care field. More importantly the concept of supervision as a ’relationship” between two people and not just a part of an organizational, hierarchical structure begins to be seen rather clearly.



Delano, F. (2002) “If I could supervise my supervisor ...” – A model for child and youth care workers to “own their own supervision”. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 15(2), pp.51-64