27 MARCH 2000


My Confusion, My Reality

A newcomer to child and youth care, Mark Gamble reflects on “the story so far”.

Five months in the field, I stand in a maze of confusion. Thrown on the walls of this maze are a variety of images, pictures of experience, created through my work. Images good and bad ...

Through these images, the questions are formed:

The fishpond
The analogy has come to my mind, this last week, of a fishpond. The kids that we work with are taken out of their own environments and thrown into our fishpond which is thought to be better for them. Then, in its own wisdom, our welfare system throws together in our pond all sorts and different types of fish/kids.

The “better and safer environment” of the fishpond is not always so. Each youngster is exposed to the behaviour of others, which can jeopardise his own coping and development, can heighten his confusion and wreck his self-esteem. As for the fishpond itself, it has many cracks, the water may be stale and short of nutrients and oxygen, harmful fungi might thrive there. All this threatens the lives and health of the “fish” — as well as those of the gardeners who look after the pond, those who were trained to care for the “fish” but without enough preparation for all of the realities of the pond.

A better way
Does this sound all negative? Many are the nights when I go to bed feeling aggravated and frustrated with my work. The thought that ricochets around in my mind is that “there must be a better damn way to do what we are supposed to be doing.”

But there has been some learning so far.  In the five months spent in my maze, with its images, frustrations and questions, I have come to know a few things about child and youth care work:

I also know that in these five months in residential child and youth care, I have been engaged in a most real time of my life — and I am wonder-filled by the experience.

Readings in Child and Youth Care for South African Students, No.2  National Association of Child Care Workers, Cape Town.