Sunday, 17 March 2019


Masud Hughoghi always spoke of "social order". Then he would ask, what constituted a disruption of social order? It was when individual behaviour didn't allow society to preserve some  tolerable level of smooth functioning. The question in this context , is, what is tolerable and what is intolerable ?

A young person is sitting at a bus shelter. On the bench next to him is another person. They talk. The adult makes the comment "You're  a bastard"  The young person takes offence, shouts "and you're a shit." (moderately tolerable). He kicks the other person (not tolerable). He kicks the wall behind the bus shelter ( tolerable).He stands up and moves away from the bus shelter ( tolerable and COPING no disruption to the social order). 

I always remember Brian Gannon saying," We are not an angel factory"

It's our work as child and youth care workers to shoulder to shoulder young people as we use our professional knowledge and skills to help move such behaviour from intolerable...disruptive to the social at least some level of good-enough coping,...tolerability. Again, "We are not an angel factory and we dont work with angels. It's what we do.

I used to call the process of supporting young people toward alternative, more tolerable ways of dealing with stress moments; "Exploring alternatives and rehearsals" It's coupled with the "What if"? approach. Lets imagine, "What if he calls you a bastard?"....and then? "What can you do?" "How about?"......Role play. REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE.

So he calls you a "bastard, a fat bitch, an idiot" We really don't have an option!!  Modelling, we HAVE to walk away....Later when things are more settled we can come back to it."Let's talk".Go over the whole scenario again and maybe again. Consistency, in itself, is shown to be a therapeutic life-space tool, As professional agents of behavioural change, it's what we do. Not tolerable and moderately societally tolerable, a-social and even anti-social behaviour is what we EXPECT as child and youth care workers. We work with traumatised young people 

The question on social media was "Do we have rights as child and youth care workers? Then, "Management always supports the children and young people and we don't get support. But we get bullied Where do we stand,. Do we have rights?"

I guess it's an employment dilemma for all social service professionals. More so perhaps for child and youth care workers in the moment to moment life-space of young people with troubles.

I was encouraged by Brian Gannon to move from one residential facility in which the young people were initially "out of control" to trouble shoot another where the young people were perhaps more out of control. He wrote me a letter. I treasure it. He voiced his guilt at moving me from one now settled facility to trouble shoot yet another. His conclusion. "But you are an intelligent mature adult. You knew what you were doing when you made the choice".

It's true.

I knew. I made the choice. I am responsible as a mature educated intelligent adult for the choice I made to work with troubled young people. I knew what to expect.

Time to straight talk .Time to talk RIGHTS  Do we as child and youth care workers have rights? - - Here's the dilemma

As citizens of South Africa, we have rights. As humans we all have rights. Child and youth care workers most often quote their rights to property. "what's mine is mine" Others quoted are the right to be safe from injury and the right to take judicial action against an offender of my rights. In society, socially disruptive intolerable  behaviour takes the "remove/ punishment "response to restore social order.

Again the dilemma.

Children being vulnerable have more rights than adults. As we approach children we have as the supreme law, the South African Constitution. This requires any action with children  to be "in the best interests of the child" Then, children and young people in care or detention have additional rights. As do children and young people in "alternative care.". As child and youth care workers.we work within what we have come to call, a "child rights culture"
This pervades our philosophy,In practice we live this out as a reclaiming culture of development, discipline  and restoration  different from societies culture of removal, punishment and revenge. This leaves us as life-space professionals, ourselves to "be the world we want to see. 

I must however say that I have experienced some incidents when the "best interests"  learning tool was decided by the multi-disciplinary team's considered thinking, to be the formal judicial route.In some instances it was inevitable.

Firstly, a member of the public lays a charge. Best we could do was to approach the public prosecutor to somehow trust our facility and its child and youth care practice. Public prosecutors can think  in terms of suspended sentence, diversion, community service or delayed charges. A court appearance became a window of opportunity for some useful child and youth care work to be done. It's NOT IDEAL, but it does happen. It gave us a the primary support worker to say, "I don't approve or accept what you DID, but I will support YOU through the court proceedings every step of the way."

 I recall an incident. A boy climbed the drain pipe to the first floor apartment of the residential remedial teacher's flat. He stole a box of cash savings. She and her husband rightfully felt intruded and robbed. The husband decided to lay charges. He was not in our employ. Court proceedings followed. He was given a 6 month sentence suspended for 2 years.In-house procedures clicked in. A restorative conference. It involved all affected parties as well as the boy's father. The father was moved to express his feelings... how all this affected him. I'll never forget. He expressed shame and embarrassment. He said he felt the family name had been tarnished. Well, for the first time we saw genuine guilt, remorse  in that young person. Even tears.   The boy undertook to repair the paddock fencing with a wire-puller, L,Income from the labour repaid the lost cash. Goodenough in-house justice had been somehow restored. The staff member and her husband chose to continue in the facility. 

For a manager when it becomes an issue of losing a staff member or losing a child over an issue of rights, i becomes a huge dilemma. In many such cases the child or young person has really no where else to go. Restorative justice remain.

Young people will kick against the system. They WILL kick against US as they launch themselves like a backstroke swimmer into unknown and unfamiliar waters. It's very scary to change habitual behaviour acquired over years. As challenging as it may be. as child and youth care workers , we WILL feel that thrusting kick off against us. We provide the firm platform, the foundation.

We don't lose our rights. We will hold off as we co-regulate young people to self-regulation, more tolerable and better coping ways.

Having said all of this. Managers have to support us in the difficult work we do. It's not a matter of favouring the child over the professional. It's a matter of  partnership as  a fellow co-regulator and agent of change.

 It's the most difficult work in the world. It's our work. It's what we do.

Sunday, 10 March 2019


The question  on social media was, child and youth care work, do we have a need for external professionals or occupations to provide a service to children and young people..... professionals who are untainted, uncoloured by residential relationships with the children?

The question brought the whole 'Medical vs Developmental models to the front. Couple that with holistic care and integrated case management, and "Hello!", for talk!

 Over the long years I lived through various models, the shift in the South African experience has a long story to tell....especially maybe, the shift from the medical to the developmental model.

In 1983, there was little doubt. The children and young people in care were "sick". They needed to be "treated" to make them well. The facility I inherited was based on a hospital model which heavily underscored this thinking. I was the "Supervisor" as in Medical Supervisor. There was a Matron and the child and youth care workers were called "Sisters". (there were no males). The children and young people had complex daily and weekly schedules. The  children were transported to Sex Therapist/ Psychologist/ Psychiatrist/ Social Worker/ Occupational Therapist/ Remedial Teacher/ whatever. Scheduled medication was administered daily. And all this was called the "programme". Actually ALL professional intervention was provided by external professionals. The idea of child and youth care workers as professionals in the "other 23 hours" was reduced to routine care.

 By 1986 there was some shift to this medical/ treatment perspective. It came as a result of the National Association of Child Care Workers ( NACCW) offering training, done, then in "blocks". Couple this with in-house training and there was some move toward a more life-space therapeutic approach. Behaviour wasn't then, always ...."send the child to the social worker" at the slightest provocation. ( who may have, in any case, referred the child to a 3rd level professional practitioner as an external professional).

Nonetheless, the more affluent child and youth care centres employed their own battery of, so called, higher level residential professionals.....Psychiatric Social Workers, Art Therapists, Play Therapists, Psychologists. In the facility I directed there were 3 permanent Social Workers. Every young person in the facility was allocated into individual casework and a plethora of groupwork groups which justified such a team.

In this time, the "block" NACCW training was formalised into a    2 year Basic Qualification in Child and Youth Care Work. A move was made to have a child and youth care degree at the University of South Africa ( UNISA). UNISA is our premier distance learning University, which, not withstanding the apartheid sanctions, was an internationally  recognised University. As a first step toward this, a 2 year university certificate was instituted. (This finally became a three year university diploma and then a Bachelors degree........the sadly, abandoned by UNISA)....shoooo! Politics, politics, politics!

Anyway, couple all this with extensive in-house training, much of the need for child and youth care to ship children and young people off to the residential social worker at the slightest behavioural irregulity, or to external other professionals reduced to a point, where, over time, only one social worker was needed. Occasional external referrals were made.

What had happened?.... We had shifted from a Problem Profile Approach (PPA), to a strength based approach. Holistic developmental work with children and young people took hold in our practice  Individual Development Plans (IDP) started to look quite different. A "programme" was shaped more and more on the "who will do what, by when" design. Child and youth care workers, were competent to help children to move developmentally from where they may have "stuck", or did not have goodenough experiences, to become more coping and more age appropriate.

WE had not yet fully arrived, but the shift from the medical/treatment model transition was almost a natural shift.

EXAMPLE: The reason for referral is hardly ever the REAL REASON for coming into care. Quite spontaneously, one evening, the 12 young people in a group home, had an after dinner discussion. One might almost say, argument. The topic?..Is sexual abuse more painful for boys or for girls?  The silence was broken. It turns out that of the 12 young people in that group home, 8 had been sexually abused and the child and youth care worker was the trusted person . The discussions formed themselves into something of a group. Ooops!.. Change of programme!. I was providing the so called "supervision"of the child and youth care worker. I must say. She did VERY WELL! 

SEE. Groupwork with a level of risk can be done by child and youth care workers.

I have told this story before, but it's worth a repeat telling.

One night. a doctor in a large hospital went up onto the the roof of the hospital building to catch the night air and the view over the city. Sitting on the wall of the building, silent and still, looking out over the city lights, was a young medical intern.
"What are you doing here?"
"I've come here to reflect and to celebrate something of myself" said the intern. "Yesterday I was approached by a surgeon. He said, " I have a heart operation scheduled for tomorrow. There is a delicate procedure involved. I want you to perform this procedure. I'll be there., but I want you to do it"."I felt at the same time somehow trusted but anxious about the responsibility. I'm out here, because I'm celebrating something deep inside me. I needed to quietly reflect on what happened. ...I DID IT!... I performed that delicate risky procedure and the patient LIVED."

And that is what happened to us. Perhaps, over time, somewhat cautiously and with some personal lack of assurance, WE DID     IT!  We performed delicate professional procedures in our practice and the children and the young people in our care experienced therapeutic developmental help and support

What I think I have seen over the years is .....professional child and youth care workers move from practicing "no risk"interventions with children and young people to interventions with "some risk" and now, interventions "with risk" Don't please, let us sell ourselves short. Professional level child and youth care workers  can and do perform delicate third level therapeutic developmental procedures in our practice. (in the life-space and in the moment events of their lives). 

There is obviously a need for outside professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team, but not any where near as much as there  used to be.



Sunday, 3 March 2019


The bloodrush pulses even as this is written. Embarrassment, shame, outrage....... It all has to do with the forced removal of 196 babies, children and young persons from three Children's Homes in Ladysmith, and Newcastle in the middle of February this year. A few weeks ago. The biggest number from a Children's Home in Ladysmth 

I didn't witness this. I can only go on media reports. Capturing what was reported. Apparently, the State Provincial Department of Social Development (DSD), Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), received reports of racial discrimination and mistreatment of the children. I'm now extracting from news reports in Times, The Citizen, Ladysmith Gazette. This is what I understand. 

Without investigation of the complaints, "officials"of the Department of Social Development (KZN) arrived at the three Children's Homes and forcibly removed the 196 children. They were accompanied by armed police officers. As the three Children's Homes shared the same NPO registration number, all three were targeted. Babies, children and young people were removed by force. By force it was, as some children barricaded themselves in. They didn't want to go. Report has it the babies were moved without their medication. The removal included an autistic child, an epileptic child, a child with a skin disease, one with asthma, also children on ARV's .......all without medication. 

The places to which these forcibly removed children and young persons were placed, was reported to be "secret". The DSD said that the parents would be informed. The placements were "all around" KZN .

As was said, the children didn't want to go. Calls were received  from parents asking where their children were.

Some key words in the reports: "traumatic", "force" "outraged by manner in which it was done", "no investigation".

An urgent High Court application resulted in a court decision that the children be returned within three days and that a proper investigation be undertaken as to the validity of the complaint(s). It took longer for all the children to be returned and an order of contempt of court was issued. The children were returned.

My words...shocking, totally unacceptable, unethical practice. 

I once witnessed a forced removal. It was a single child forcibly removed from a Home I directed. This is NOT a case study. It is a description of an experienced incident.

A VERY severely physically abused girl child of about eight years. One mid-morning a professional "officer" from an agency with an order in her hand and an armed police officer (young) arrived on the topstep entrance door of the facility. "Where's XXXXX?" I denied her entry standing to block the doorway."At school." "Which school? WE have an order of the court to take her away away from this Children's Home. It has been said that she is mistreated here." 

( What trumped up nonsense. As a traumatised little girl, she cried easily and a lot, but NEVER was she mistreated.)

I thought it safe not to withhold the name of the school....Mistake. "Go get her and bring her here". 
ME "No!".  
"Then we will fetch her from there".

I phoned the Chairperson of the Management Board who phoned a lawyer. The car was followed to the school. The principal denied access, but they found her classroom. The police officer carried her screaming and kicking to their car while all the children in her class hung out of the classroom windows to witness this. 

"NEVER EVER AGAIN, Next time I go to jail". This I told the agency and the Department in an insisted attempted mediation 

Let me tell you. One child forcibly removed and the trauma is two-fold. Child trauma and child and youth care trauma.

UNFORGIVABLE.... this in the 80's, but now again, on a large scale, in 2019 !!

The "official" said that she was acting on instruction. There is no way. Force is a travesty of all that is professionally ethical and against all that is known about children, separation removal and placement.s

As social service  professionals we all, separately and corporately  have to accept responsibility for a  low point like this as social service professionals.

Any removal, separation and placement of children from what is known,..... the bonds, connections, trust, support and understanding,.... is experienced as LOSS.  I called it a "Little Death". Multiple apparent breakdowns and so, multiple placements are then a multiplicity of deaths. How many deaths can children survive?  The issue is, and we all know it, children and young people direct blame for all of these apparent rejections... INWARDS.... "I am to blame,"I did something, "I am worthless" ...."that's why they separated me."It's all because I am unlovable, bad. Then comes loss of trust. "When will they reject me again?"

Child and youth care workers are not exempt from going through much of this guilt and self blame thing. All round, forcible removals are traumatic, tragic and unprofessional.

So now. We cannot avoid engaging with the whole issue of professional ethical conduct. Remember.. "I was instructed," she said. "I was told to do it. I was given a court order to carry out".

In "those days" I was always told. If you are instructed to do something. Do it. Then afterwards, file a complaint. "Those days" are long gone. Then, I was just an employee working to an organisations code of conduct and sets of procedures. Now I am a professional. I'm registered with a professional Council for Social Service Professions. The code of ethics of my profession regulate me. Now I am obligated to a higher level and standard of what is  right or wrong in my professional social service practice. Being instructed to act unprofessionally is not good enough reason to traumatise children. It's an ethical violation. I believe we have an ethical obligation to refuse and to file a complaint against a superior issuing an unethical instruction.

As professional we regulate ourselves.This is the characteristic of a profession. We are self regulated. It has enormous implications. Let us insist that the complaint(s) of racial discrimination and mistreatment in the Children's Home will be extended to include a proper investigation also of the whole system that decides, permits and implements forced removals and multiple placements. 

It must never happen again.

Sunday, 24 February 2019


The head buzzes with incidents involving animals in the care facility.

There were rabbits, chickens, geese, and bantams. Hens... free range and a dog. I had my own cocker- spaniel.  

Sometimes, the children and young person's rage, anger, and revenge behaviours were posted to the wrong address. Misdirected hostility. The animals bore the brunt of these occasional outbursts.

At my first are some examples.

My cat was  pelted with stones to chase it away. - it would have stalked and killed the fowls. We interrupted a very young girl drowning hens in the toilet one by one. Same girl would lure the rabbits to the rabbit-run fence with a carrot, then, through the wires, kick them. Unliked, unwanted food from the table was secretly dropped for my dog. Spaniels being the dustbins they are, gained excessive weight. The young people had clean plates. If you couldn't kick me, you could kick my dog. She had a thickening growth on one side.

For some reason, the 8 geese didn't like me or my own two children. We were attacked as we walked through the grounds to the main building. One night they got mysteriously locked in the hall. Next morning it was, what I called a skating rink of slippery, shiny, slimy goose poop. The children had to clean it out.

Then came my first and most disconcerting incident. Bestiality with the facility's dog ...girl and dog!!. In residential facilities, I only ever experienced this twice....second time boy and dog. On both occasions it was  trigger for me but put into perspective by the psychiatrist whose first question was "How is the animal's behaviour since this happened?" 

ASIDE, ...The two incidents in 15 years of practice in residential work was preparation for the more frequent incidents when working in rural community- based settings. The need for the medical model, psychiatric/psychological intervention fell away. It there became another developmental child and youth care learning intervention in alternative more appropriate behaviours.

Then a resident staff member wrung the necks of all the bantams. They kept him awake, he said.  The children and young people were outraged......and rightly so. They demanded that he be fired - which eventually did happen.

Animal adventures. It all sounds quite negative. It's really not at all that negative. These occasional incidents over years have been condensed into four paragraphs. 

Now for the positives. Despite these  memories ..I can list a litany of positives.

When the animals were in any way victimised by whoever, there was a peer reaction which was used to positive effect. When the whole house tells you in no uncertain terms, as a young person, and in a language that you can understand, that THIS IS NOT OK, ....this is positive peer pressure. Most effective.

The animals were, essentially, can I say.....loved. ( and that includes my dog). The care of them was the children's responsibility. The animals had an overall positive therapeutic effect. Especially in my next appointment where there were stables and horses. For some reason I cannot explain, horses, horse care, and horse riding  have a remarkable therapeutic effect.
The question then is.....what makes for good policy and practice in a residential facility around animals and especially pets in care?

By pets is meant, personal pets belonging to the children and young people themselves.

The idea of transitional objects...(.something(s) to which the child or young person has attachment brought into the new environment when otherwise separated)  It can be soft toy, blanket, item of clothing, pics, posters, ....sometimes just a well loved cap. Question then is, what about a pet, and animal??

On one hand a pet is an ideal transitional object. On the other hand, Imagine, 12 children, 12 dogs 3 cats, and a rabbit!.....Can't cope!! I'm a child and youth care worker, not an animal carer.! The comes all those otherwise unbudgeted items....feeding, vet's fees, and so on and so on. Really, reality must prevail.

I think there is a positive middle path. It worked for me.

First the dog story. A facility house pet dog worked well. Like horses, there is convincing evidence of the therapeutic contribution  a dog can make in the life of a child. Chores around the house pet were allocated...and worked. Frequently, though one or two children just voluntarily took over the task of dog care from the others as they had developed an attachment. THEN, occasionally, a small manageable animal seemed useful if it came with the young person. In the silk worm season there was considerable interest in having a shoebox full., an occasional white mouse ( or two), hamsters,canary, and we did have a rabbit. This was not only manageable but served  useful child and youth care purpose.

How?  In child and youth care work we use the transfer of learning as a tool. Pet love and attachment has  parallels. "What exactly do you do to attach and relate to an animal,...Can you build on what you know about yourself in animal care and use it to help build and maintain other relationships... let's try.  We build on strengths.

It must now be obvious that  animals, pets when in care with children and young people have practical  ups and downs. In applying the child and youth care principle of "normality", it somehow does not seem normal to separate children from animal connections when in care. There is considerable room for talk....even debate on matters of policy. Children and animals when in care. Experience says, despite any downsides, children and animals somehow belong together, that there are immediate and life-long learning positives.

All beings have to learn to live in global harmony. 

Think globally. Act locally.



Sunday, 17 February 2019


There is always something to talk about in child and youth care. This week something in last weeks blog sparked another Brian  Gannon flash back. The memory was of him telling me, " I can tell a good child and youth care worker from the way they say "Hi" to a young person....within 5 minutes I've learnt a lot more." 

Got me thinking.

I used to say that within 10 minutes I could tell the quality of verbal interaction. I was only an initial impression needing to be substantiated. But first impressions go a long way. Children and young people have, seemingly, an unerring intuition on whether a person is, or can be trusted within those early verbal signals. It can colour relationship building, preparedness to connect and respond positively.

 Three was an interesting confirmation of the effect of words theory a  research report on what was called speech signalling.            (2017 Torres Green, Monica. 
A few quotes say it all:
"You can can be judged rapidly, frequently and accurately based on your words alone creating barriers for relationship foundation.........the first 7 words you say".

It is obvious to child and youth care workers that ours is, in its biggest part, a talking developmental therapy. Little surprise that in some countries, what we do is called "Applied Psychology".

Yes we need to model,we design therapeutic environments, provide good holistic developmental experiences. WE harness bits of the other therapies, Art, Music, especially Play, Sport, Relaxation, story telling. But in the everyday events and life-space, we largely, TALK.  WE largely, talk.... with individual children and young people, or with groups.

Can't help wondering what Brian Gannon heard in the first words and first five minutes which then gave him such a powerful impression.

There are 4 classic personal personal characteristics of the therapeutic personality: BEING warm, empathetic, genuine             (congruent) , and non-judgemental. I add another three.......BEING self aware, a good listener and goal orientated.

It's all of these, PLUS, I think, children and young people intuitively assess when we talk, our tone, body language, culture and our ability to read feelings.

The good news is that all these important child and youth care qualities can be learnt. It all has to do with practice, skill, knowledge and BEING. That's the HOW of what we say.

The when of what we say we say has to do do with timing. Is this a good and the best moment?

We as child and youth care workers have our own unique.....what must I say?......STYLE ?....A particular way. We have a communication style different from a psychologist, social worker, teacher, child minder, parent, pastor, manager. That's one reason I think, Brian Gannon was cued ( and me for that matter) to tell a good child and youth are worker from any other. There are any number of examples. Think about the way a doctor talks to a patient. Compare that to the way a nurse talks to the patient. Think about the way a teacher talks to a pupil. Compare that to the way we as child an youth care workers talk to children and young people. It has in a large part to do with our different training and education. A doctor has a bed-side manner. We have a developmental relationship based manner.

A caution. We must be wary of getting our roles mixed up. In our style of talk, suspicion appears to be raised when child and youth care workers use the reasoning that they must be "friends"with the children and young persons, or popular, or liked, even loved. I've seen instances when relationship confusion tempts child and youth care workers to use teen slang, township talk, the language of the streets. We may think that it builds connections but my experience has been that it may often come across as not genuine ( congruent) by young people. It's not our professional style.

We may have touched on something of the HOW of our talk . Now the WHAT? 
In our education and training we are usually given some very useful formulas/models as to what to say when. Models of what to say and what not to say in certain circumstances. These i found to be helpful. Typically in problem solving,life-space counselling , the escalation of behavior from calm to crisis both with individuals and with groups. There are many other such useful models.

Somehow they help us to find hooks on which to hang our talk as professionals in the more unpredictable, spontaneous moments of life-space work.

Reflection and proper supervision is essential and really very helpful in being able to talk developmentally and helpfully in practice. We have to ask ourselves "What happened? What did I say? What. The "What did I say? How did I say it? reflection", sharpens our talk as child and youth care professionals.

Lastly, reflectively, when we speak our response - LISTEN TO OURSELVES WITH THE EARS, HEART AND EYES OF THE OTHER.  

 what did I do?

Monday, 11 February 2019


The question was "Whats your definition of a better child and youth care field for everyone who works in it?"

The responses showed common threads. More knowledge,  to be known for the professionals we are, status, recognition, to practice our profession without instruction from other professionals. Then came the frequently expressed call for equal salaries with other social service professionals, a safe work place, improved working conditions, to work with non-judgemental colleagues.

These "definitions" are perfectly valid, practical and should be noticed by policy and decision makers.

There are other concerns, gaps, developmental areas needed in South Africa to better the child and youth care field.

These are some thoughts for talk.

RESEARCH.  The need for research in South African child and youth care is loaded with complications which are inter-related and which glare out at us. Right now, I know of only three doctorates in child and youth care work being undertaken, one masters, and some mini-dissertations at the Honours level. It means that we have a paucity of published  South African  research and this is painful. I remember Canadian Prof Jim Anglin tell me that he ensured a publisher before he did the research for his second doctorate.           ( Anglin. James P. 2002).
It is all coupled with two other concerns that must be addressed in the child and youth care field here......The availability, or perhaps I should say, non-availability of universities with child and youth care departments or divisions right now offering senior degrees.. Few. Durban University of Technology, Monash SA, possibly  Stellenbosch. A chapter on some aspect of child and youth care in a senior degree in Social Work, Theology or Education really doesn't count as child and youth care research.

It all means that lecturing staff are difficult to find. and universities  are compelled to use staff with other qualifications.

INDIGENOUS PRACTICE: Then we need research which can better our indigenous practice. The predominantly euro-centric knowledge base of our education and training has determined that our approach and practice is essentially euro-centric.

EASIER ACCESS TO UNIVERSITIES: What is being said here is that in South Africa we need more accessible universities offering strictly child and youth care degrees at the first degree level and then people who can supervise senior degrees in child and youth care work. 

If we can get this right,....and smartly,  a number of other betterment requirements could be get sorted.

What would make the child and youth care field better for everyone? 

INTEGRATED CASE MANAGEMENT. Some child and youth care workers responded to the question by saying they were not contributing into the compilation of Individual Development Plans (IDP) Family Development Plans (FDP), let alone working practically as part of a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) or being part of Developmental Assessment (DA), or Risk Assessment Analyses. Maybe this partly or wholly explains the absence of IDP, FDP, DAs and Risk Analyses in many of the facilities I have visited.

A MORE CLINICAL APPROACH: The late Brian Gannon, our South African pioneer, knowing my involvement, once asked me, "When you visit these places, what talk do you hear between child and youth care workers and children?"  I had to be honest. I experienced most life-space interaction and communication between child and youth care workers and young people to be what Brian Gannon then called "Routine, domestic and logistical."
"Where are your sneakers?"  "Did you collect your laundry?"  "Have you done your homework?"  "It's time for you to go shower." All of this was interpreted as caring. But we are in a developmental profession. Life-space situations provide us with the moments we have to move away from superficiality into something more problem solving, developmental, clinical, learning rich, self-determination styles of communication and practice. I have often wondered if this comes about as a result of a gap between theory and practice in our education and training or maybe a misunderstanding of our professional modus operandi by management.   

MORE CHILD AND YOUTH CARE WORKERS IN SENIOR POSITIONS:  Everything so far said about "better for the field of child and youth care" hinges on more child and youth care workers in senior positions, senior degrees and research based practice.

DIGITAL RECORD KEEPING: We are well into the 4th Industrial Revolution. It's time that our record keeping , young people's  and children's files, be digitalised. Manual record keeping (don't we all know it?) is time consuming, record retrieval, storage, and transfer certainly more effective and efficient. I know of only one organisation which has completely digitalised file content..... maybe there are more????  In our State president's State of the Nation Address (SONA), he said that every child will be given a tablet to access information. It should, then not be a big intellectual jump to realise that child and youth care workers should be issued with laptop computers and facilities fitted with central computer systems as standard equipment.

We have really come a very long way in the child and youth care field in South Africa since we became a truly democratic country in 1994 and the transformation of the child and youth care system which followed. It is good however that we have not become complacent and back slapping. Of course we can be better and will. We have a drive in our search for excellence here. We have the potential to continue to point direction to countries beyond our borders. 

Alute continuo.......

 Anglin. James P. 2002 Pain, Normality and the Struggle for Congruence. The  Hayworth Press. 

Sunday, 3 February 2019


Every Christmas the entry doors to the lounge were locked. No matter what time was waking up time......and Christmas was predictably an early morning. No access to the presents under the tree. Entry was denied until gran (Gogo) and grandpa (Pa) arrived. The lounge door opening was a ceremony of great show. We entered in order. Children first, then parents, then grandparents. The Christmas tree lights blinked away. For all the pent-up excitement, the garden bound wait, it was a life-time memory maker. Unforgotten.

One year, the National Association of Child and Youth Care workers (NACCW) dedicated a full year to the theme "making memories" in its Journal The Child and Youth Care Worker. Such is the importance of making meaningful moments in the practice of child and youth care.

I'm not sure if the Christmas locked door ceremony was a ritual which became a rite, or just an event. It was certainly more than just an activity. I believe it became a ritual.

We do, however distinguish among these in our child and youth care programmes. We plan. We design each. 

If it was a mandatory ceremony marking a passage from one life status to another, it would have been a rite. I remember well the various rites of passage we designed and instituted as a facility and as child and youth care workers.

Life passage moments deserve a rite. It is a memory making moment. It connects us to our culture and to one another. For us, as adults: baptism, becoming of age, marriage, graduation, various inaugurations, ordination and death. With the children and young people in care: admission (welcoming engagement), birthdays, entering manhood or womanhood , return from leave of absence or absconding, death of a child in care, passing matric, moving from  one unit to another, leaving the programme. Rites are not to be confused with organisational procedures such orientation, or education on rights. 

We have to design rites.

I have a leaning toward the use of candles ( perhaps because of my involvement in the church) and towards designing rites in which young people and children sit in a circle. A centrally placed set of symbolic objects speak of the occasion.  Most frequently we used candles and chocolates in a bowl . The outer circle of young people were given candles, cards, or a small nicely bound journal type booklet in which to write messages and to give as a memory box  keepsake.  (the child's memory box is designed as a place to collect and retain keepsakes of memorable moments) and a final gift. 

So, for example, if a child was leaving the programme or facility, (disengagement). A bowl of sweets and a lit candle in the centre of the circle of seated young people. An especially decorated chair for the leaving youngster who sits with a lit candle at the feet and his/her memory box on the lap. One after the other each young person lit their candle from the the leaver's candle. When doing this, they told the leaver what good they had learnt from having known and spent time with that young that young person's presence enriched their life. They took a sweet from the central bowl and told the leaver their wish for his/her future. The lit candle is a symbol of the good I received. The sweet  a symbol of the good I leave you with. Cards or the journal booklet or anything else as the young people have thought of  was put in the memory box. The leaver then went round the circle and did the same. Then the leaving gift was presented. The group now place their lit candles behind their backs and the child and youth care worker explained that although they will no longer see the leaver, his/her memory light would still shine for each of us. They eat the sweets to take the memories inside of themselves. They go for a candlelight meal together. After which the candles were extinguished.

The candle ritual became a rite of passage,  somewhat  euro centric.....but a rite. It fitted the children and young people in the facility at that time.

To design, create, rites of passage in South Africa, the Africaness of who we are has to be ritualised.

To start thinking traditionally, I got advice from the mother of a traditional healer and a university lecturer in community social work well versed in traditional rites. Here are some of the suggestions and some of the must does. The dress codes of African people involved in rites must be adhered to. Traditional dress is strongly recommended. Some of the more relevant indigenous objects used ceremonially are: pots, mahewu (traditional drink), snuff, mphephu (an African styled incense),  Although the use of candles was regarded as OK. Gifting was important. ..a blanket, a stick, beadwork. Then the meal. It has to be a traditional meal and according to tribal custom. There is however some tribal commonality in meal, ritual and rite. I think that the young people themselves will be helpful when creating them.

Somehow, it seems, rites of passage in child and youth care practice are good experiences for young people in care programmes. They appear to be useful developmentally. The evidence in practice is that young people gain an experience of being recognised, valued, connected, unforgotten, held in esteem. Rites stroke the young person's self value.They create good life-time memories.

They make meaningful moments.