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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Taking a communal approach to care?

What do you think about taking a communal approach to care?

In my eyes, the world has become very individualistic. In a way this has certain benefits, because people are driven to compete and rise to the top, but in fields such as ours this can be very problematic. In the group homes, I do not see a community of people with a common goal, but a bunch of individuals stressed out and trying to keep their heads above water. There must be a better way for people to work together and combine their ideas and strengths.

One of the roadblocks to this approach is hierarchy. Those workers with the least status are very rarely allowed to share ideas and have very little freedom of speech. I do not think the answer is to destroy the hierarchy but instead give a voice to all employees and have regular discussions about how to make the group home better. Everyone has a different perspective and I am sure by sharing ideas people can find a way to work together in a harmonious way.

Energy is an important part of the workplace, often neglected by a materialistic society. In modern society we tend to focus on the physical, but there is also the deeper levels of reality such as emotions and/or energy. For example, in a workplace where employees get along and there is a lot of collaboration, the energy will likewise be very positive and healthy. However, in a rigid atmosphere of individuals trying to work in a hierarchy, the energy will also be very rigid and there will not be a lot of healthy energy in the workplace. Particularly in our field where children and youth are vulnerable and emotional, energy is hugely important to their success. Positive energy will awaken the spirits of these lost souls, while negative energy will have the reverse effect.

It is very easy in the field to forget about the deeper emotional lives of ourselves and the young people we help, because we are so busy with mundane tasks. My suggestion is do not forget about the power of emotion and the power of collaboration. We need to work smarter, not harder. A communal approach will get rid of all the ego games that prevent this field from being really great and therapeutic.

Braden Freeman

Thank you Braden.

Yes this is so true. Positive energy and a communal, community centred, family and child centred approach goes a long way towards meeting the needs of each child and family, within the group care setting. It is also been our/my experience that effective and good teamwork is an essential part of good Child and Youth Care practice.
Enthusiasm (to be filled with spirit) is such a powerful quality in our work. And this energy needs to be supported and understood as a creative force which builds, connects, inspires, develops, and moves us closer/ alongside the youth in our care. In BEING WITH .. The youth and WITH families and WITH each other as colleagues and partners in the field.

Recently I had contact with someone from our group home. Now nearly 30 yrs old, this young woman thanked us as she realised that we were about her age(now) when we cared for teenagers. And she recalled the positive energy amidst the emotional struggles. 'It takes a village to raise a child'.

I always remember Brian Gannon's teaching: ' what am I going to do today? What is it good for? And, how do I know?'

To consider, what brings JOY..
May our life's work be blessed

Ruth Bruintjies
Cape Town SA

I couldn't agree more that we need a communal approach to care. It will surprise no one that I take a slightly more radical position in that I think hierarchies need to be utterly abandoned and that the individualistic approach is actually extremely dangerous with no redeeming qualities. I would propose that young people and adults working together need to seek out common issues, concerns and political agendas. They need to negotiate how they might collaborate on joint projects that address these common concerns in practical and political ways. I would suggest that we need to move away from any focus on individual psychopathology and/or archeology and move towards an investigation of what each of us brings idiosyncratically to our common goals and purposes. To do this takes the notion of relationships within our work quite seriously. Of course a central element in building any set of relationships is the role of emotions and affects. I have proposed in my writing that we need to become sensitive to the emotional temperature of the milieu that constitutes our work together. This means moving away from centering emotions within the individual and towards understanding how we produce affects communally. Kathleen Skott-Myhre and I have tried to explicate the role of what we have called revolutionary love in this way. We have suggested that we need to see emotions and social relations as a kind of ecology that needs to be cared for and that has suffered enormous damage under the existing system of global capitalism. We have suggested that if we work in common, we must be attentive to how desire functions in our work. Not the empty desire of acquisitiveness premised in a sense of lack, but affirmative desire as the capacity to act and create. Desire as capacity is related to positive effects such as joy, while desire as lack is related to the sad passions. We would argue that work in common is most successful as an investigation into how we might amplify our unique and idiosyncratic capacities for action and creativity. Such capacities flourish under conditions where our work together is responsive to our actual material needs and desires. They suffer under conditions where abstract hierarchies are built on the needs of corporations, stock markets, bureaucrats, governments agencies, or money per se. However such love is neither passive nor spontaneous. It is not bounded by the binary world of the couple, the stifling confines of the family or the paranoid configurations of the nation, the people or the community. Indeed, Hardt and Negri propose that we seek to love those most alien to us first, in order to expand the field of love as far as we can. This is love of the crowd as those closest and those furthest away. Implied here, is the idea that love does not simply happen to us, as if it were an event that mystically arrives from elsewhere. We must actively love in the same way we actively create our lives and our selves together from all the elements available. This are some of the elements for me in what it means to work in a communal approach to care.

Hans Skott-Myhre

I cannot tell whether you don’t get along with your boss or your co-workers are telling you not to bother.
Where I work hierarchy is what keeps us together. We have the veteran staff (not always the boss) help and support the rookies. Give them advice and work through ideas. Also we (I’m 23 years in job) teach not only the residents under our care, but also the new staff. We also use some of the ideas and discard others (because it didn’t work before).

Seems you need a conversation with your boss not us.

Donna Wilson

Hi Braden

The principles you describe are exactly the principles on which the free training programs at are based: improving cooperation between leaders and staffs through dialogue based development of care.

Just click Europe at the site, pick the English version, choose Institutions and click Scorecard – opens as a PDF. The training sessions are at the same place.

If you are interested in intervention and education in care systems in low income countries, I just co-edited this special issue of Journal of Infant Mental Health: , where the editorial outlines the general principles of successful development, based on the practical experiences of all the authors.

Med venlig hilsen/ yours sincerely

Niels Peter Rygaard

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