Monday, 10 December 2018


The theme for this week's blog arose from a query on Social Media calling for names suitable to use when referring to children involved in sexual "abuse , child on child. Names that are not labeling, stigmatising or harmful. This is not an attempt to answer that question. It is to talk child on child sexual activity from a child and youth care perspective.

The website blog called "Defending Innocence" quotes statistics from "Darkness into Light", Finkelfor, Stallok, Broman, Fields et al. They say more than half (55%) of 501 adults interviewed said that they had sexual experiences before the age of 15 years. One third of all penetrative sexual incidents in the USA are between children under the age of 18 with a peak at ages 12-14. They do admit to a orange light . They say that "hysterical warnings"by parents, caregivers,teachers and guardians against "no go" experiences can lead some children to misinterpreting "hands off", "no sexual objective in mind" experiences as intentional violation and so .....allegations. 

Only yesterday UNICEF put out on Facebook that over 50% of all reported cases of sexual abuse in South Africa involve children. The statistics for child on child incidents was not given.

Other sources confirm what I think child and youth care workers know. Over 50% of so called "offenders" have themselves been sexually violated. There is a very high incidence of "victims"becoming "offenders". The more vulnerable children being the intellectually challenged, those with low self esteem, the disconnected, the previously hurt and those willing to please.

Many messages for child and youth care workers in all of this..... The very nature of many children in our residential facilities fit the profile of both the vulnerable child and the initiator. There were certainly some children in the group residential care facilities I directed who exuded a kind of victim attraction. I called it "the perpetual victim syndrome"  It's like  "once a victim always a victim". The "cruisers", always on the lookout, are very quick to pick up the signals.

Then we have, as child and youth care workers, to to differentiate between normal sexual play and experimentation verses intentional violation....we called it "sexual hurt"

Our South African Criminal Law ( Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment ct. Amendment Act No.5 of 2015 sets out important distinctions..its intentions are, and I quote:

"So as to ensure that children of certain ages are not held criminally liable for engaging in consensual sexual acts with each other

to give presiding officers a discretion in order to decide in individual cases, whether the particulars of children should be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders or not. ( my italics).

no criminalisation of consensual sex between adolescents". 

What it does, bottom line, is to remove the possibility of Statutory Rape charges against children for consensual penetrative sex, if the age of the child is 12 or above providing that the age difference between one and the other is no more than two years.

KEY WORDS; penetration, criminalisation, consensual, age difference.

As child and youth care workers, what do we encounter apart from normal sex play experimentation and adolescent dating? I must say that it is tempting to describe actual, individual incidents, but that is ethically problematic in a blog. So, in general terms:
Sexual Games: There was a story on Facebook recently of a gang related game in which older children would play a game called "treintjie" (little train) Anal penetration of young boys was part of the game after watching porn.. (or not watching porn). This game is neither new, nor is it only related to Cape Flats gangs. I encountered this one when giving consultancy a few years back in a residential facility. It was even then called "treintjie".
Initiation: all manner of sexually unacceptable and inappropriate activity can occur as a compulsory . "We all went through this. It was done to me. Now its my turn". Especially young new admissions. Anything from beer bottles pushed into the anus to genitalia being fondled and aroused with a feather duster.
Mutual Masturbation: This one was a shock for me when I learnt that the boys had a sexual activity they called "circle jerks". They would sit or stand in a circle, cross arms and masturbate each other until ejaculation. In one form or another mutual masturbation happens between boys and girls. Girls also experiment with grinding.
Transactional sex: consensual, but with a possible tacit or open agreement that there will be ongoing benefit to one of the parties. Can include the wives in gangs.
Now a list with no comment: Deliberate seduction, inappropriate exposure to sexual activity, voyeurism, exhibitionism, rape allegations following consensual sex, and then again, actual rape with or without force or violence. 

As child and youth care workers in group residential care settings it is a given that we WILL encounter it. There is probably nothing that compares with sexual incidents to trigger, shock, morally outrage, reaction and sometimes even child rejection and disgust in child and youth care workers. Thing is.... if we know that we will encounter it, that it WILL happen, then we can plan professional management responses for it. Interventive planning is done at three levels. The preventative level, the moment of crisis and the post incident level.  Planning is done at an organisationally as a full multi-disciplinary team.....  and this of course will always also involve the young people and the children. We all have to know what to do and what to expect. Some of the broad principle issues and then some of the specific issues warrant talk   

Consideration has to be given to the two PRIMARY underlying issues in sexual violatory activity......   POWER And SECRECY. What this , I think means, is that as professional child and youth care workers, and as organisations we have to guard against using anything in our response which validates,or replicates the the use of power and endorses silence.

Then we have to engage with the issues of....and this is again but a list: the use of technology like video, movement detectors, microphones to central security systems. (privacy versus safety), varying levels of supervision ( has staffing implications), Mixed sex cottages (can mean the separation of siblings), confidentiality versus secrecy, the involvement of parents, the role of the trusted person ( the person chosen by the child as the one to whom to break the silence).

If, as a child and youth care worker, you are the trusted person, or the primary worker, or one or the other is your focus child.....and I hope you are using the "focus child" approach, THEN you are a key professional in all of this. Of course there are other professionals involved in an integrated professional team approach, but these children are still in the life-space and at every level the child and youth care worker is a KEY, CORE role player. 

OH WOW!!! By the by... I favour "initiator"and "survivor" as a way of naming children in acts of violation. 


Sunday, 2 December 2018


This is a response to a question posed on Messenger this week. "Mr B, I know that you directed quite a number of Child and Youth Care Centres. I would like to find out from you....what are the main challenges that have caused a high staff turnover in your tenure and how did you you address those challenges with your staff?"

The first response to this is to say that staff turnover was different from one facility to the next and that the differences tell a story in themselves. 

In 1983 when I first directed a residential facility, the then National Director of the National Association of Child Care Workers             ( NAACCW) had researched the rate of staff turnover across South Africa. Brian Gannon's statistics put the AVERAGE stay of a child and youth care worker at two and a half years.The average stay of a Director was five years. For a child and youth care worker, this made a short stay about two weeks and a long stay about 5 years or longer. The story was always..If you can make the first three weeks you can make the first three months. If you can make the first three months, you can make three years. Those first three months were critical. Many left before.

I do not know of any current research. It would be very interesting to do this....especially in government residential facilities.

In those early dormitory styled facilities for boys and/or girls, staff turnover was much higher than in the cottage (village) styled settings. We all know. child and youth care workers were called "house mothers" and "house fathers". They lived in. It was a 24 hour day with meals from a central kitchen. They were given, perhaps, 2 days a week as "days off ". The living conditions, the setting and the hours with little cash emolument was, obviously, in itself, a formula for quick turnover. Those who stuck it out were those in need of the accommodation more than anything else.

Staff turnover, and so, staff retention was a major cause for concern for me as a Director. The issue was that the children and young persons experienced a stream of different faces. People with no training at all. Each new person went through, what I called, a "baptism of fire" ..serious testing times as the children and young persons sought to establish, "Will this one last?"  In fact the VERY FIRST question I faced on entry was. "OK, Mr Lodge, so you're here. When are you going to leave?"

The behaviour of the young persons was a shock to  starting out workers. Newcomers found out very rapidly that this is not what they thought it would be. One came in, put down her handbag on the girls floor (..handbag!...girl's floor!) to wake them up. Before the end of the day she picked up her handbag (luckily) and walked out. On passing my office..."It's a den of snakes up there!"  Period of stay....less than 24 hours.!!! In and out.

What am I saying? Expectations not met, motivation for entering child and youth care work not realised, lack of proper training, the extraordinary life style attached to the job, the troubling behaviour of children and young persons with troubles and trauma, the small monetary compensation. These were the challenges and causes of rapid staff turnover, I wonder if these may inherently still somehow be lingering in our systems.

Live out staff on predicable shifts, at that stage.. in-house training, meal allowances for use outside of routine meals with the children, lots of opportunities to talk, share, plan and contribute to policy....All this was needed to slow down the exodus.

Then came a new curved ball. It was when we started our first child and young person's forum. Once they learnt that it was safe to talk out about the treatment they experienced, the otherwise secreted punishments and rule of fear surfaced. Some clearly abusive. Staff  ( without being named by the children) recognising themselves exposed and confronted in the descriptive grievances, left fairly rapidly.They just walked out of the door never to come back. Nothing developmental in that. Problem was, they had to be replaced. Frequently leaving a vacancy for far too long.

Sometimes there were fairly young graduates with psychology or education majors who applied to work in the facility. They wanted to have the experience between their first degree and going on to Honours. They always however put out the message that they wanted to make child and youth care a career. But what they really wanted was to chalk up practical experience on their CV's to gain easier access into the advanced degree. They hardly ever stayed long. They saw themselves as having knowledge which elevated their status. This was no doubt true, but the longer serving, hard core, child and youth care workers without any training, persistently quoted their experience as the key to better practice. They quite frankly, frequently, undevelopmentally, made the working life of these "young upstarts"quite untenable. Teamwork broke down. Not able to "get on"with other members of the team was reason to quit.

Then came the introduction of daily logs, compulsory training, reports, incident reports and assessment checklists. All of this was regarded as "Not what I was employed for". ... and the young graduates were further distanced as they were comfortable with all the writing.  Attempts to sabotage innovation largely failed as child and youth care practice grew in professionality and slowly there was an exodus of the "old guard"....often to the dismay of the children and young persons. 

There were times when, obviously I was compelled to terminate employment. Not a frequent occurrence, eg Drunk on duty, bringing marijuana into the facility, stealing from donations.

In my second appointment many of the same challenges were there. but there were some very different elements at work. Different dynamics altogether. Staff were established, It was a male dominated environment, as if women should or could not work effectively with boys.  This was the 10 year or longer end of the statistical turnover range. And this brought about its own set of challenges....As a start, a much bigger resistance to change. Now, as the new boy on the block, I frequently became the reason to leave. It was a top-down army styled hierarchical system. It HAD to change.

The approach here was to shift the power from the top down system into a system that was as democratic as possible. EVERYTHING was discussed. Weekly staff meetings, committees for everything, forums for everyone, Also weekly staff training, weekly interpersonal supervision. It was an attempt to get "buy in", to own and to understand the need for change. Some left. Again more especially when the young persons were given the same SOCIAL RIGHTS as the staff, (The right to be heard and the right to make choices... among others) and again when they became part of the democratic process. All this coincided with the legal abolition of corporal punishment. Too much change !!!!

Staff left because of not fitting with the dynamics of the system, the philosophy and approach of child and youth care as against being a 'House Master" as in a boarding school. Also lack of career pathways. There was this thing... "Once a child and youth care worker, always a child and youth care worker." To mitigate some of this, a system of levels and grades tied to scopes of practice  was introduced with raised key performance areas on a scale of  competencies from 1 to 4 with salary increments ( even if small ) to go with them. It worked to slow down the tempo of staff turnover up to a point. The group who called me the "educated idiot" tended to move out.

I hired a younger group and I hired for intelligence. I needed people on the staff that had a greater capacity than I. The idea was that I could do my job....and that was to manage and to direct. The democratic approach sat more easily with these incumbents.

My last management function was a period of one year in a semi-rural village community-based model of care . The Isibindi Model. Back to hiring off the streets . This time with a contract to be learners in a training programme from the get go. Reasons for leaving this setting were....Not able to meet time frames for the "giving up". Support groups for assessments helped. I had left before the State took over the programme, but from what I was told the turnover accelerated. Issues arose, I was told, in the shift from a democratic approach to a top-down approach and apparent negative attitudes toward child and youth care workers as being lesser social practitioners than others. It was explained to me as a shift to power based management styles.

Taking an overview now. It seems that management styles, approach, over-riding philosophies and organisational dynamics and staff dynamics play a a seminal role in the challenge of staff turnover. As child  and youth care workers, we have a particular way of doing things. "Nothing for ANYONE without them," "Nothing for us without us". Child and youth care workers have a deeply built in belief that as employees we should be managed in the same developmental democratic way we practice.

I hope this helps.

Sunday, 25 November 2018


This is not a"What to do" blog. It is a "What we encounter" blog.

It's still with last week's question......should girls, (young persons) in a Place of Safety be allowed to  'mix' with young persons in another "unit"? Short answer last week was "Yes". Not only is freedom of association a human right... and young persons are human.....Right?  But in child and youth care, trial and error learning is developmental learning.

If I ranked developmental need areas of the young persons within the facilities I directed, then relationships and relationship styles far! In no matter which of the residential configurations ( village, cottage, dormitory, "unit's") child and youth care practice has much to do with furthering developmental social relationship styles. It's not whether social connection styles are right or wrong, but whether they are "clever"or "not that clever"...does this help or harm you?

It became quite useful to have some "handles" to assist in the observation and identification of friendship styles and so in interventive practice It's quite OK to have in-house jargon for various behaviours provided all in the facility know what they describe and use them. They are frequently more descriptive and avoid long technical psychological diagnostic labels. This may sound like trivialsation but we all know in child and youth care that it's earnestly serious stuff  this.

So here goes....these were some of the descriptive handles we used in the facility... This is something of what, as child and youth care workers, we encounter and is part of our developmental practice.

Sticky toffee paper syndrome. I saw this mainly with girls in both their peer and adult relationships. I guess it is commonly known as "clinging" unravels oneself from the left side cling, only to be clung on the right side... physically much too inappropriately, touchingly close. OK in very little children, but when this continues into the teens, it is obviously a developmental area with underlying relationship issues.

The Main Manna. We sometimes would refer to this social grouping jokingly as The Mafia. This group connected socially to share power and control. Also to protect each other and to get what they wanted through physical threat throughout the whole facility. This social style demanded and used the next social grouping style, that of the Skivvy.

Skivvies. In this social relationship style, servitude is regarded as the  key  social acceptance. As a "gofer".....if I fetch and carry,  I can maintain a so called friendship with others, and a relationship with adults. I must say that I saw this approach to social connection frequently among abused children. "What must I do next to please you?"

Gangs.  This is the one probably most feared in facilities. Apart from pre-adolescent single sex groupings.....normal...if we combine the Mafia with the skivvy many social social relationship needs are met. 

See-level pelmets.  This is the "We must be noticed... no matter what in order to be connected and socially accepted social style group. If we are noticed... we belong".....usually negative behaviours attract notice to this group. I had the black nail polish, black lipstick very short skirt, clip-clop shoes, jangly earing, the see my bum short skirt brigade.

Now for some others where description isn't needed.

Relationship reluctant, (shut off), Isolates, Do, Dare or Forfeit. In-group, Rivalous grouping, Familial..........and more...

 It seems that connections and styles of connections, socially.....friendship groupings, can be somewhat predictable in our settings. and this is where group residential work becomes an opportunity for child and youth care practice. It sometimes takes a while for starting out child and youth care workers to celebrate  what I used to call "the colours of the rainbow"...If you are allowed to see the relationship colours,.... then you know what needs to be done. We can explore more helpful relationship style alternatives.

There are any number of instructional "programmes"designed for presentation to young persons .... "Finding friends and keeping them", "Building and maintaining positive peer and adult reationships, "Becoming parentable". At one time I think I had 22 such programmes on the shelf. 

HOWEVER, when involved in Quality Assurance of diversion programmes for young persons in conflict with the law and placed by the courts in residential or non-residential facilities, we always sat and talked with the young persons to get their opinions and experience of such programmes.
Tom Garfat, in his  doctoral thesis kicks off with the statement that an intervention is only as effective as it is EXPERIENCED as effective. Well that was indeed confirmed by the young persons in such "sit down and go through sessions of pre-prepared material" programmes. They said  they always wrote in their evaluations that it was helpful only to satisfy the requirements of their sentence.

It gets, I think to this... Tell me ...I'll forget  . Show me ...I may remember.   Let me do...I'll learn forever.

Schooling is for passing. Experience is for learning. Child and youth care workers expose young people without fear to the university of life. Want a PhD? (Peoples Handling Degree), .....then MINGLE.

For child and youth care workers, the "what we do?' can become problematic. especially for setting out child and youth care workers and ....let us say managers with no background in the field. Our training and education does not always bridge the gap between theory and practice. It doesn't always provide the missing link. There is a principle in South Africa that is quite useful , I think. It is called "what works" It is probably the way to go. Usually it comes as a result of child and youth care workers sharing experiences. "For me this worked" "For me, this didn't work". Learning circles.

The thing is that for us and  young persons in care, socialisation is a given for learning and change. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


There was a time when it was trendy to call what child and youth care workers do, "group residential treatment". Then the word "treatment" fell out of favour as it was said to be associated with medicine, psychology and psychiatry. Then we got "group residential care". Now we talk of "development" but the group residential tag has faded. So , logically I suppose what we do in facilities is "group residential development".... and a group residential setting becomes something of a community. I have always said that this community , or group living arrangement, creates opportunity for us to design a microcosm environment that is not only healing ( therapeutic) but also reflects the world beyond its walls that we would want it to be, whilst at the same time prepares young people and children for the realities of the world that is.

No matter in which of the group living settings we work, as child and youth care workers we are developing better, more appropriate coping skills whilst creating a view of living harmoniously and helpfully together. We are agents of social change. 

It is within this context...(.is it a theoretical or a reality model?)....the building of appropriate, positive peer and adult relationships happens. The group, the setting, and the community becomes the stage, the platform, upon which developmental, (therapeutic) learning unfolds. Rather like a directed drama, with scenes, acts,and players. Child and youth care workers orchestrate the plot, as well as they can. The players are a very diverse group. Sometimes in single sexed settings, sometimes mixed sex, mixed ages, mixed backgrounds, mixed histories and experiences, mixed ways of solving problems, mixed relationship styles. It's  a complex cast to direct. From the relationship needy to the relationship destructive and everything in between. That's what we work with....we are child and youth care workers.

The social media post that sparked this week's blog asked the question.....and this is not a direct quote......Should we allow institutionalised girls in a place of safety in one unit to mix with girls in another unit.?? .

One of my very first articles published, was called "Letter to a kid" It wasn't actually primarily addressed to children. It was penned for the facility's Board of Management. They didn't get the child and youth care realities of work and concept. They wanted the children's home to be an "angel factory". It never got to them that children and young persons have a right to make choices, and in making choices to make mistakes, to be different, to choose their friends. In making choices they have a right to be experienced as  a-social, to connect, to belong, to being, and dare I say it.....they can choose to be anti-social. As child and youth care workers, what we do with children and young persons, is to explore together before, hang -in together during, otherwise empathise, partner together after.... then explore together again. They will experience the university of the world, the natural or logical consequence s of their choices. It can be, and usually is, somewhat messy. And the child and youth care group living facility is a safe place in which to do this. Child and youth care workers are the support they need to move from Act 1, Scene 1  to Act 2, Scene 2 with as little hurt as possible and with help not to repeat the same Act and Scene all over again... to help in the ever unravelling story until they can internalise the plot of "what ifs" by testing alternatives.
 Institutionalised locking away of choices, locks up learning. If this sounds like radical child and youth care, then I guess it is radical child and youth care.

The different styles of "not that helpful" relationships is for another blog some other week. What is perhaps worth exploring in this blog are the underlying thoughts of risk attached to actively disallowing, and actively allowing the mixing of young persons from different place of safety "units"..

When formal. assumed or personal policies are to disallow mixing, I have experienced child and youth care workers who talk of "MY CHILDREN". ...  The relationship between cottages/houses can be  something like that of a bad divorce.. "You don't go there, you don't talk to those girls. They are all foul mouthed bitches and BAD NEWS. Don't let me catch you with that lot" The inter house rivalry caused heightened, intense inter-house rivalry, to a point of extremely insulting name calling both of individuals and of the  house.."Whore House !". There were false allegations. Even physical property damage and violence... At the bottom of all this lies policy and perhaps the child and youth care worker, on the one hand trying to protect the young persons in the house and on the other, using an approach that is relationship destructive......what happened to the world as we would like it to be. ...and the world view of these young persons?
This was so obviously damaging , but at another level, the child care workers themselves experienced a breakdown in teamwork and staff relationships. When it may be necessary to reshuffle the groupings and shift houses... damage control becomes huge. 

There are risks that occupy the thinking of child care workers in between house mixing. Peer pressure is an obvious. What if there is a predominant placement of first time offenders or substance abusers in that house?  To what extent, they ask, will all the hard work and the IDP be eroded by peer pressure? Then there are practical issues, like dating and sexual experimentation, the borrowing of clothing and possessions between houses, Visiting, to gain advantage screen time when it is "screens off" in one house but not in another,  having made a good connection with the other house child and youth care worker.

Should children in a facility be allowed to mix between houses? My short answer is "Yes". I think that the effects of allowing children to make choices in peer relationships, in the safety of a child care setting, the opportunities for developmental learning and the  input from life space child and youth care professionals out way the so called risks. In any case if we know what the risks are, we as group residential workers can plan for them and use them to the developmental advantage of the young persons in our care.


Monday, 12 November 2018


Weekly, this blog invariably refers to child and youth care worker's posts and comments in social media. It's one of our ways of keeping an ear to the ground as it were. What I miss are posts and comments from children and young persons in the system. Strange.....cellphones, tablets, i-phones, and even laptops are all part of everyday communication, expressions of opinion and knowledge acquisition. Am I thinking way out of the box to contemplate young persons being part of our facebook or twitter friends and commenting with us on issues that affect not only us, but have an impact on the social services they receive? Someone said that young persons are just not in the same whatsapp groups as child and youth care workers ...(and me !!) I wonder why?

Anyway, group and friendship chats apart, it got me thinking about young persons in our systems and their access to digital communication.

In the 1995 Cabinet Enquiry into the status of Places of Safety,and what were then called Places of Detention, one of the queries of the facility was whether young people had access to newspapers, receive and send uncensored letters, radio and TV..especially international and local news  The non-availability to communication, of any sort, was regarded as a violation of a RIGHT. The world has turned a few revolutions since then. Now, communication and recreation,.is digital. We have been through the 3rd Industrial Revolution, ....We are already well into the 4th Industrial Revolution. I heard only two days ago about an Artificial Intelligence (AI) dating app available on mobile phones, tablets and laptops!! And it's voice activated to boot.!!! The question of young person's rights comes up again....this time in a completely different ballpark. This is the kernel of what I have dubbed a digital dilemma

What do the.Rules and Conventions say? 

Let's start with The Rights and Rules of Juveniles in Detention UN Annexure 45 of December. A(45/49) 1990. The Beijing Rules.  See,.the title is outdated, as is the century, We have to translate  contextually to capture the implications for us, young persons and the upholding of rights today.
Rule J59 is probably the most significant, 
But Ill start with: Rule 18(c) Juveniles should receive and retain materials for their leisure,and recreation as are acceptable with the interests of the administration of justice. ( My bold).
The question is; does this then mean, mobile digital games, music, and video?
Rule J moves on...Contacts with the wider community...J59 and 61 deal with the right to communicate in writing or telephone with family, friends, and other persons and representatives of reputable organisations ........
 The question then is,  does this now mean the right to e-mail, google , websites, facebook, twitter, whatsapp and the like?

Key words in all the documents including the 2009 UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (See.Section 104 (d) stress: retain, communicate, access, link.....
What links? how? when? using what means of communication? To whom? under what supervision, levels of privacy and access to information? Does the Right to Access to Information apply to young persons and children and those in facilities?

I did a round of telephone calls to people I knew in different settings in the field of child and youth care. It will be a lengthy blog if each of the different policies and practices were to be fully articulated here. I'm going to try a type of summary:

No facility I contacted allow the children to retain their mobile digital devices on admission. In the more restrictive environments, especially those young people in conflict with the law and sentenced or awaiting trial, this could mean the return of the device on disengagement.
However, policies around access and useage appeared then later, in some instances to be discretionary. So I got different practices around control. These ranged from a Children's Home setting where the child and youth care worker held the devices and allowed use in supervised limited screen times . The criteria for access to devices changes from facility to facility ranging from,,,,only senior grade, responsible, serious learners, to young persons in diversion programmes getting some easier access. The least restrictive most empowering controls spoke of the young persons allowed access  to google, be part of whatsapp study groups and friendship groups.

HOWEVER... without exception there was considerable emphasis on what was called "THE RISKS".

So let's go there.   And herein lies the debate, the tension and the digital dilemma..... Policies of access and usage were diverse but there was total agreement on the risks ... firstly to the facility itself. Theft......theft of digital devices raises issues of responsibility. apart from the behaviour management that theft causes...can for example, the state be held somehow accountable or responsible if digital devises are stolen. Can a facility be accused of negligence or inadequate control of property or supervision? 
Then comes cost. Who pays? Data and airtime costs are high and how is that controlled and provided for?

Then came a single word "Sites" No real need for further explanation...

Then a number of other risk words, nude pics (swapping), blessers, sugar daddies and stalkers....all of which in- house, increases the risks they said, of sexual acting out. "Heightened hormones" one said.

The telephone conversations highlighted, acknowledged and debated the tension between today's digital world, the cyber space realities, the rules and conventions that determine child rights and the child and youth care realities of practice in residential facilities.  

I'm left with more questions than solutions. What is out of line, the rules, our practice or our policies?

There is no doubt ..... the digital dilemma debate continues.

Sunday, 4 November 2018


It had to happen. The signs were always there - one sign after another, each escalating in intensity. Apparently not read, not seen, not recognised. Not responded to. These child and youth care issues just don't want to go away and they cant be wished away. Not even by the biggest employer of child and youth care workers in the country.... the State.  Surely this cant be deliberate delay!!??

A post on social media announced a planned march on the 7th November in the Limpopo Province. It is a protest against unfair treatment and lack of recognition as professionals. On the 12th November it would appear from the post, a second protest march will happen in that province joined by other Social Service Professionals, namely workers. The same post called on child and youth care workers, to unite; for other provinces to mobilise nationally.

The primary issues as expressed in the post obviously include the issue of stipends and salaries....delayed, inadequate or not forthcoming. It's a message of  "You say we are important but not showing it". Professional recognition is a DOING WORD. If there is political will then it must be experienced as implementation and delivery.

Underneath the issues there appears a sense of bureaucratic power, territorial jealousies, lack of understanding or an unwillingness to understand the professional nature of child and youth care work. In the main, employers come in for this kind of criticism. Contradictory messages child and youth care workers are getting are experienced as "twisting and turning"...Your ON....your OFF " We had this before statutory professionalisation. It was always believed that the implementation of the South African Social Professions Act of 1978 ( amended) in 2013, had put an end to status contradictions in the National Social Service mindset. Bottom line is that the SACSSP Act is law. It is obligatory to implement it. It has always been the State's policy that there be equal pay, equal status and equal recognition for equal qualifications and equal work Now policy and the law are congruent one with the other and we should be seeing implementation

It's not just in  money and status that child and youth care workers are experiencing what is interpreted as obstructive bureaucratic power. The SACSSP Act aside, there appears to be, in some provinces, an antipathy toward child and youth care worker's support or involvement in activities of their professional association.

I can say this from personal experience. At the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) ,Western Cape mini Conference early October in Cape Town, Dr Shernaaz Carelse in her address, made the remark.  She was disappointed that there was no Departmental representation. It was asif she had important things to say about child and youth care work, not then to be heard by the principal employer and policy maker.

I have also had that experience. I have experienced bureaucracy being an obstacle in the way of child and youth care workers  attending professional association meetings, forums, Child Rights marches, public awareness functions. The protocol was that anything other than daily log in, log out and M&E, had to have Divisional Office approval. To attend a professional association gathering, leave would have to be approved. COME ON...the children are at school at those times and a skeleton staff can handle emergencies.!!  Involvement of a professional with their professional association is a professional given. Partnerships with employer has always been the professional associations policy.

In some instances, when the facility had a mini bus of its own, child and youth care workers would  use public transport, sometimes over long distances  to attend professional association. "No budget allocation for this".

The way things are said and sometimes a tone can imply a language of power as a way of demeaning the status of the child and youth care worker. They complain of this.

I have heard child and youth care workers say that it's is related to the now unarguable reality of  professionalisation which was for so long delayed.

At a Board meeting in the facility I managed in the 1960's I said that we were working on the professionalisation of child and youth care workers. A Board member said...and I quote, "We don't need professionals. We only need people who love the children - professionals only want money like soccer players"

Surely in 2018 we know that "Love is not enough" 

Surely we know enough of individual and group behavior to recognise the progressive escalating signs of looming crises. ... and then to respond before it gets out of hand. The prolonged 6 week strike last year of Social Service Professionals dubbed "the public service strike", did have incidents of lockouts, some property damage , some intimidation. This was an obvious signal ........nothing....and that was a year ago. Now risk signals abound again. The proposed Limpopo marches are again sending out a signal.  This time , not trade union orchestrated. This time, from within the very guts of the Social Service Professionals, I hear child and youth care workers... If we are to believe social media comment,.....its escalating .

TAKE NOTE POLICY MAKERS AND ADMINISTRATORS . We have been through the huffing and puffing stage, the scuffing and pacing, the kicking and complaining, the swearing and yelling, Now, again, its at the threatening and demanding stage......not much left until crisis.... danger.  Read the signs.

This is really not the way way child and youth care workers are trained and educated to do things... it's out of character, and this in itself is a powerful message. After all "Mane lava mane" "one hand washes the other". .Employers need child and youth care workers. Child and youth care workers need employers. PLEASE read the signs and respond.
Please. ......there is no other time but now . please respond to the signals. For now is a critical time.  

Sunday, 28 October 2018


Some Facebook friends are sharp at spotting advertised vacancies for child and youth care workers in South Africa. The employment advertisements illustrate tellingly the status employers attach to child and youth care workers. Needless to say the advertisements raise indignant comment.

A recent advertisement sought a Youth Development Manager but stipulated a requirement of a degree and registration in Social work. It raised classic comment.  Outrage tinged with humour. "Do we exist?" "There ARE degrees in Child and Youth Development!".  There are degrees in Youth Development"!! Point is, the advertisement could at very least have advertised for a qualified, registered social services professional. Better still a  child and youth care worker with a degree in youth development.

"Do we exist?' .....good question....come the more senior posts, do we exist as child and youth care professionals?  OR.. In the minds of employers are we just bum wipers and underpants counters. Are they simply ignorant of what as professionals we are qualified and registered to do??....yes,... in knowledge, skill, AND MANAGEMENT!!
In my professional and personal capacity, I have had occasion to visit Governmental organisations, offices, agencies, regions and provinces In some, there are no child and youth care workers employed and in almost all, no child and youth care workers in senior management positions. I think that in the funding of posts     ( the post funding model), it is either believed that in management positions, child and youth care worker posts do not get government funding. Or again, there is employer or funding ignorance about what child and youth care workers are qualified to contribute. 

I heard an official say, "Social workers do "generic child care and child protection work".  What is generic child care?  I have learnt by hearing the nature of the cases in these districts and regions that there is unarguable evidence for the need of child and youth care workers as part of the social service practice. Surely there can't be territorial issues among social service professionals when nationally we are advocating for integrated case management and the best interests of the child.

Another feature in the advertisements for child and youth care workers is the requirement for a non graduate qualification, especially a diploma, at auxiliary level, when the key performance areas lean towards those of the professional. There is evidence of professional level child and youth care workers being supervised by auxiliary level workers and bottom heavy staffing structures, You don't have to be a brain surgeon to get that it's cheaper! No wonder social media spawns comment, "I'm a graduate and I'm unemployed".

We even see advertisements where no qualification requirement is stipulated. 

Now for a big one. Advertisements have been copied and posted on social media where no salary or salary range is advertised. Social media comment, "What's the salary?" Phone calls and Whatsapp queries, "Do you know what salary range they offer?" Rightly or wrongly, the suspicions among child and youth care workers are always that the employer does not want, or is too embarrassed to publically commit to salary.

Then we see employers advertisements which do not stipulate the requirement that the child and youth care worker be registered as such with the South African Council for Social Service Professions. (SACSSP). The law has required that a child and youth care worker be registered since 2013. This makes it an offence for an employer to employ an unregistered child and youth care worker....and an offence for a person to be employed as a child and youth care worker without registration What does this omission in the advertisements for employment say about the mindset of the employer around the recognition and status of the profession?  There is a call to take legal action against such employment practice

Recruitment procedures give the advertisement a place in hiring and contracting a new employee. It can't be taken lightly by employers, The advertisement is a point of referral for the letter of employment . It can be used s evidence if there is some kind of dispute.  Again, the advertisement for the employment of a child and youth care professional has to be given the consideration and the respect that is deserved by any social service professional.. By any professional for that matter.

Of course we exist. The issue is,  employers have set out, advertisements reproduced in the social media,that can and have, left child and youth care workers with the impression that they can be exploited. Some say blatantly, "We are exploited"

Of course we exist.... we exist as professional social service professional. We exist with qualifications, registration and an invaluable practice to reclaim the lives of children and young people. We exist to nation build......and it all starts at the very beginning.

CAVEAT to employers.... The employment advertisement is the beginning. ..... you are the beginning.