Sunday, 18 August 2019


A direct quote taken from social media last week. "If parents were allowed to smack their children 15 years ago, would we have stabbings by 15 year olds today?" It followed a number of posts blaming the removal of wooden spoon, slipper, ruler, cane, or strap from schools, criminal justice, child rearing and child and youth care practice. The posts all implied, or said outright that the removal of corporal punishment was responsible, the root cause of young people's misdemeanours today. Especially, they said, incidents of assaultive behaviours against each other and adult authority figures.

This could be one of those "connect the dots" blogs.

Way back and deep in the apartheid era, the secondary school I attended was called the "school for the son's of gentlemen". It was ruled by the cane. Boys caned boys. As did teachers, the deputy Headmaster and the Headmaster. Hat not parallel to the ground ...2 cuts. Hands in trouser pockets...2 cuts. Smoking... 6 cuts and expulsion.

Four years later I taught at that same school. Prefects were no longer allowed to cane boys. The Headmaster and the deputy had that right. Prefects and teachers had the right to "send"  boys to the Head with a note. The same rules applied. He was a very busy man. Staff meeting after staff meeting the headmaster complained that it was always the same boys whose names were recorded in the punishment book.. The boys kept their own records.They boastfully cut marks into their rulers to show the number of strokes they had had.

As a university student I had to find holiday employment to help fund my studies. For four years I managed to get employment at a book and stationery retail shop. The retailer had an arrangement with African township schools. Books and stationery were sold directly to the pupils from stockrooms at the schools. Year one. Teachers walked always around with cane in hand, frequently lashing out at pupils ( boys and girls) for whatever reason. Next year. Cane no longer allowed, the teachers all carried rulers. Following year. Rulers disallowed. Teachers carried pencil length sticks. .... a vestige, a bit remaining enough to be a symbol of authority, position and control. They held onto a little of what they and the young people knew. It was very clear that the teachers had no training in any other way to discipline young people. Scary.

In those same years, Brian Gannon was a child and youth care worker, then called "Junior Housemaster"  at the St Goodenough Home for Boys. There were 6 "Houses" His, - ironically called "Beaton"House. He was studying for a Master's degree in psychology. The apartheid, colonial culture of raising and control of boys was the applied practice. I called it "the whip and whistle" system. It followed the culture of the day. Apartheid was held in control by fear, especially fear of pain. This Home for boys held as good the  white middle class private school practice of military styled regimentation and extensive use of the cane. Boys would bite the edges of their blankets to "√≠ron" their made beds then sleep outside to pass the "white glove" Headmaster's inspection. Brian Gannon believed the system didn't work. So, he challenged the Headmaster. Strangely, the Headmaster agreed to an experiment at Beaton. No whip, no whistles, no bells, no sirens, no bugle calls, no cane, no threats. In three months Beaton fell apart. From unflushed toilets to scruffy uniforms and worse. Brian Gannon said "Here's the proof. The system of the cane and the strict external controlling practices do not work. The young people have internalised nothing. See, take away the external fear thing and they don't function or cope".  The Headmaster and the staff said "There, see - there's the proof. The system works" 
I was privy, able to have access, to the staff meeting minutes of that time. The staff insisted that Brian Gannon... "must go!. He must be removed". But Brian and the Headmaster had somehow bonded. He stayed but so did the old control system. Aside, from this, the idea of a child and youth care workers support Association was born.

In the early 80's, it was Brian Gannon who urged me to problem shoot an ailing facility. On arrival, I knocked on the big Victorian door. Opened by a lady in pink pom-pom slippers, large green plastic curlers in her hair and a wide carved leather strap in her hand. The strap was called "Sister Sarah" and so inscribed. Here the strap as child and young person control was applied because the bible says it should be so. 
"He that spareth the rod, hates his son"( Proverbs 13: 24). and "Do not hold back discipline from the child. Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die.You shall beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from Sheol".( Proverbs 23: 13-14.) That same morning I heard loud cries from the girl's dormitory. A girl had wet her bed and not rinsed her sheets. She was beaten with a kweperlat (quince stick).. Despite all of this the children and young people ran out of control.  Words used were "unmanageable, running amok". A year before, this system was applied. It was missionary based teachings hardened into a sect. When that was removed by the Welfare Department , Sister Sarah and the kweperlat attempted to restore order without success.

The Child and youth care worker walked in on a boys dormitory incident. A 14 year old new-comer stood naked at the end of his bed. A senior boy, feather duster in hand  used it to excite the youngsters genitals. The others awaited arousal and ejaculation. Reported as a critical incident , the initiator said that it was initiation. 'It happened to me and now it is my turn". Turning tho the child"and youth care worker, he said "And you. You you're out of here. And so it was. The child and youth care locked himself in his room for 4 days and then disappeared over night.

Last dot to join.

Only a few years back in the North West Province. It was a semi-rural community - based child and youth care work project.  The Tswana speaking village has an active tribal authority system. We learnt that the child rearing practices in this village for young peoples misdemeanors started with family gatherings and "lectures". Failing this, sometimes the police were called. The police acted as mediators in an attempt to restore justice and equanimity. Failing this, They arranged  a  "kgotla" at the tribal offices. Here a much wider group of significant people will gather . the youth is the centre of the discussion and everyone has a chance to speak. The idea is essentially that of restorative justice and changed behaviour. They say it works.

"It takes a village to raise a child ?"  "It happened to me. Now its my turn."



Sunday, 11 August 2019


It was all about being the best,smartest,fastest, most skilled, excelling at schoolwork,getting the highest awards being recognised for leadership. Over 300 trophies, awards, blazer badges, stripes, strips and ties. All designed to hold up the young person as an achiever. There was a huge emphasis on sport,and academics.The first above others. The winner.

It lost most of the young people in the programme. 

It had to go. The trophies gradually handed over to a school.

Child and youth care is developmental, We focus on  growth. Here you were to here you are. Here I was to here I am.

One of the trophies had been donated in the 60's"  . It was called the the "Headmaster's Trophy" subsequently renamed to become the "Directors Cup".  Pure silver, large and heavily insured because of it's asset value alone.. The only trophy to live in the safe. The idea was to take the list of all the other trophy winners and find that one boy with the most and most widely spread awards. The winner of the winners so to say.

It took close on three years to shift the competition culture. It was  painful. Even the writer of the long history of the "St Goodenough Home for Boys" came to visit, manuscript in hand. "I'm stopping this history at your arrival here.              St Goodenough is no longer. You are the iconoclast extraordinary, You change tradition just for the sake of destroying the traditional !" 

Something had to replace competition as the dominant, if not the only motivation for individual growth. In that year the Director's Cup had to become the icon for a different focus, a different value and set of values for which to be recognised and acknowledged.

The 17year old Mpho had about 20% cerebral palsy. At his age he was about to transition from the residential programme. A place had been secured for him in a residential setting for young persons with his kind of challenges. Slurred in speech, awkward in movement....otherwise labelled as "disabled". 

It was a never to be forgotten moment in my child and youth care experience. 

It was a "house meeting" called and held because two very young boys had run. They ran the buildings and grounds  of a neighbouring school closed for the weekend. My approach was to "watch and see". Sure enough they drifted back, but their message had to be explored It was to do with group relationships in the house linked with their having been severely emotionally abused before entering the programme. These two little ones were telling their story. The before and now story. The group discussion was suddenly interrupted by Mpho. It was a deep repeated series of loud wails. A tearless cry. A primal set of howls from deep within his gut.

I had a flash back to the howl of my beloved spaniel at the very moment of getting the injection which was to end her life.

He left the table, lay on the couch and wailed until he had gathered himself. On his return he said "Why? Why? Why are these things? Why do we hurt each other? Why do we have to hurt inside ? What are we going to do?"

Oh my word! I weep while writing.

Mpho was the voice of awareness, generosity, the value driven voice of the culture that had to be the revised St Goodenough. He was the bridge. The next time he cried, but silently, was when he was presented with the Director's Cup at the leaver's function. It was the move from human competition to human compassion. Somewhere within, Mpho knew. 

We were left with Mpho's question. "What must we do?". From competition to compassion. From compassion to active caring.

Another time, another space.

It was evening and bedding down time, heading toward final "lights out".  Laundry had to be prepared and individually laundry bagged. The laundry insisted that shirts had to unbuttoned. I called "Leslie, come and unbutton your shirts". 
Voice from the dormitory... "You do it. You're paid to care for me!". There it was. layed bare. Caring is a matter of reward. Given the power you can demand others to serve you. It came in a kind of flash. The Mpho question. "What must we do?" Another shift... From cared for caring for.".

That little incident has always stayed with me because it got me going on another child and youth care value driven journey. This I would hesitantly call "radical".  Can we design/create a child and youth care model that moves us from the idea of "cared for"  to "caring for"?

Further inspiration came from two other sources - even now. On googling "radical care"  got an article about radical care for the elderly. ( radical geriatric care). An elder person made a piece of land available upon which elderly people could build for themselves little cottages. They did this on the understanding that they would care care for e dedicated to each other. Hmmmmm sounds like the South Africa culture of U'Buntu. Mpho would have fitted well into this community of active caring for...

If the elderly can create an active, primarily "caring for" rather than a "cared for" environment, and make it a reality, then so can we in Child and Youth Care.

Radical geriatric care - now for radical Child and Youth Care.

This idea of "How can we help you?". is not really new. The Peer Support Approach is a "How can we help each other to do this?" approach. I'm not talking about Peer Management, but the idea that with child and youth care worker support, young people can be brought together to answer just that question. See, Mpho gave brain birth to the 'How can we help each other" idea in me. He however didn't have the  empowerment to move from compassion to active caring on his own. 

That's where we as child and youth care workers come in. After all, we all know that generosity has to do with experiencing and actively giving care.

It went viral last week. A 10year old boy saw a homeless waste picker pushing his heavy trolley up a hill. He asked his mom to stop the car so that he could help push together with the waste collector. Comment complemented the boy's parents for the boy's values in action.

Rdical as it may sound, I am convinced that we can shift the Leslie "cared for"to the Mpho compassion, and the Mpho compassion to the 10year old caring for in action.

It is what we do. 


Sunday, 4 August 2019


From 1982 to 1996 as a child and youth care worker and from then to 2006 as a clergy person I lived on the premises of the workplace. We used to say "Living above the cafe". It was part of the package.  The contract was "the accommodation goes with the job. The job goes with the accommodation."..Leave the one, you leave the other. The benefit of this to the employer started as a creeping realisation. Then in the child and youth care setting exploded into dispute. Outcome?... Living -out .was a non-negotiable.

It wasn't only the well being of me and my family that raised the debate but, for me, it came also the possibility that the best interests of the child were not served by being contracted live-ins.

Lets start with the so-called "staff benefit.'Firstly the financial implications. It looks very attractive at first. But when accommodation is part of the packaged deal, the cash portion of the child and youth care worker/manager/director's monthly income is considerably reduced....small. Because the accommodation and meals are calculated to have "value" This is often calculated at least roughly close to the going cost of renting similar accommodation in the market place. The big staff benefit debate for me, started when the South African Revenue Service ( SARS) taxed me on a calculated then-called, "value" to me. The cash portion of my package took yet another knock.

Having a reduced cash salary has many disadvantages for a child and youth care practitioner. The pension contribution was calculated as a percentage of the cash portion. It means, and here I talk from very real, present day financial struggles. It's obvious, the smaller the contribution the smaller the on retirement pension.

One of the compensating ideas in the mind of live-in staff and certainly in the church was the driving motivation to acquire your own residence , initially to rent and then to have somewhere to go if the wheels came off the child and youth care job. And where do you go when you are on leave? I saw some child and youth care workers lock themselves in their flatlets when obliged to take leave. So you explore the surrounding marketplace only to find that the bank will calculate the bond amount granted based on the cash portion of your income. For my 5 years in East London, as plan B, I bought a caravan. 

It was when the tax thing, the bond thing and the pension thing hit home that I realised the other, further benefits to the employer.

When budgeting, most organisations have to calculate what the call "cost to company" If the accommodation has been paid for as building costs, this can be kept quite low especially if meals are provided from the central kitchen. Same for everyone, no overtime costs, no "on call costs". I started to see my cash component as something more like a retainer than a salary. A type of forced overtime.

Now the non-financial issues. A cost to staff is seen to be a reduced experience of "normalisation". At a discernment interview I was put on my backfoot by the question "Why have you spent most of your life in institutions?" I tried to defend myself but found it hard to do. I tried calling it "community living", "living in community","group communal living". The discernment interviewer was unimpressed.  The suggestion was that I had become reliant on institutional life. At very worst, a risk of institionalisation. I did want a life that was normal. For me and my family, to live in my own house, socialise in the broader world, cook my own choice of food my way 

The live-in idea goes a long way back. There is a sneaky possibility that the Bowlby Attachment Theory may have influenced the child care models of care. You know. Children develop multiple connectedness by having made an attachment to one essential primary figure. He suggested,....the mother. So we had "housemothers" live-in alternative mothers, alternative parenting. Rutter 1972 however reassessed the maternal deprivation theory. He found that children and young person's connecting behaviours with others in the ever widening social spectrum will happen even if there are 5 and more primary connection figures. So, the live-out, shift system had for itself a theoretical basis to happen.

Yet the question is pervasive. Do children and young people get benefit in their best interests by having live-in child and youth care workers 24/7?  I know of no published research on this. Maybe there is, but I've not seen it. I have to rely on experience to attempt some kind of assessment of the positives of live-in child and youth care practitioners for children and young people in shorter term residential programmes. I must say that in the latter years when there were both live-in and live-out staff there was always tension between the two. Can't help but wonder why.

There was a time with live-in staff only when I called it "Alice in Wonderland". It happened as a result of a particular incident involving one boy, I applied a  perfectly logical consequence firmly based on an outcome as would be in the real world.Then came the delegations. "We don't do it like that here". Here we just ..........". And the in-here at that time was corporal punishment or transfer. Suddenly it became apparent that there was an out-there and an "in- here".

I wonder if this helps explain something of that tension referred to.

The live-outs always suggested that the live-ins were somehow protected from the real out-there and created an in-here culture, Put bluntly they said they were out of touch. shielded and to some extent protected. Hmmm a formula for tension.

The live-in staff said that shift staff know nothing of the tiredness, the fatigue of the reality of child and youth care and so, they were shielded, protected.

Live-out staff said they brought into the residential lifespace of children and young people, a richness that comes from living shoulder to shoulder exposed to the noise and life, colour, buzz of the township, city, neighbourhood, They said that they and the young people in care benefited from that. That the rub-off effect of living out contributed to help young people to be more coping and more appropriate.....not "Alice in Wonderland " kids.

So was the debate. So I see and hear is yet the debate.

Bring on the research.!!!!


Sunday, 28 July 2019


It must have been the child and youth care worker post advertising season just before this blog holiday. a sudden number of social media texts asked "what questions should I expect at a job interview?  The came the freezing of posts.....seems to be a pattern. Advertise, then freeze. But the question got the scribblings scribbling.

The job interview is but one part of the recruitment procedure. For the interviewee the most scary part, but be aware that a lot has been going on behind the scenes. A good advertisement has been very carefully drafted. Legally, it is the benchmark against which all applications are measured. Do you comply with the advertised requirements? If you have complied with every detail of the advertisement you then have a right to query why you were not appointed and the organisation must respond. Be sure to provide all the documentation requested. If to be certified be sure that they are certified within three months previous to submission.  CV's are very carefully interrogated and checked. References are traced,Your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are also likely to be checked to see what your posts show about you. The finest detail in all of this may be the reason for you not being shortlisted or put at the bottom of the pile.

A word about your CV. The standard of presentation speaks for you in your absence.

Shortlisted? Good. Now for the scary part. The most usual interview approach seems now to use a set of agreed questions. These then get divided among the panel members.Your response to each question is then scored by each member of the panel. At the end, the ranked scores are added up and a final score is reached. Then, a panel grand score total is calculated.  A recommendation is made by each panel member based on the scores and some impressions they had of the candidate. Someone is usually given the task of putting all this together and coming up with the top three.  A final choice is made.

For me, the approach has it's pro's and con's. At one level it all sounds very objective and scientific and panel members don't have to do much to get an assessment. Set questions, set ranks for scoring. Numbers for people.People as numbers. At another level. How does a  panel get an idea of the very tool of child and youth are workers.....the self if questions don't probe at least a little into the unmeasurables. The what makes you tick? How you react as a result of your own child rearing experiences your own emotive and sensitive issues and personal issues. Religious  and sexual matters as they apply in professional practice....  cant really put a "score"to all of this. 

But, it does raise the question for candidates, What questions are usually asked? That is what texts in the social media asked.

But let us start again from a slightly different perspective. The physical self. You will be scored on appearance and personal presentation. The physical self does invariably create a first impression. Take care of the way you dress....modestly,... the way you sit, hold eye contact and your tone of voice.

Then in answering questions. try to be brief and to the point. Add what you have learnt for child and youth care in each of you previous work experiences ,

Now for the usual questions.

The panel will always try to set you at ease. First question. "tell us about yourself. Who is ........( your name)? 

Then you can expect among  the questions "What are the "Bathopele" principles? This is typically a Government type question. If this helps then here they are.

 Consultation. The client is consulted on the quality and level of professional service they can expect to receive.
Service Standards. The client is told of the level  and standards as in the above.
Access. equal access to all.
Courtesy. always
Information.full accurate information about entitlement to professional services.
Redress. appealing and redress. Remedy of complaints and positive response to complaints.
Value for money. proven economically available service and best possible efficiency and value for money.

One social media response was that she was asked for 5 of the codes of conduct and 5 requirements of the code of ethics These are available in the regulations for the registration of child and youth care workers. Go to the South African Council for Social Services web site.

Interview panels like asking why you applied to be appointed to that particular programme. Don't say because you are unemployed and looking for work. Don't say that you are not happy or satisfied where you are presently working. You can refer to being able to contribute because of what you have learnt at previous employment and you can refer to the possibility of a career pathway.

You will inevitably be asked what skills you will bring into the workplace for young people here?
What brought you to choose child and youth care work in the first place? .....please do't say the it is because you "love"children. Keep your answer professional.
 I really don't like the "knowledge questions when a child and youth care worker gets interviewed by a panel comprised mainly of people from other professions. But attempts are usually made, like "Name three rights of children and three responsibilities".  Name a theory that you would use in understanding child development and what does the theory set out.? Have you heard of Erikson....What is his theory?

A few cautions. Beware of bringing God into your professional interview. In the US based Dependable strengths programme  which is a programme of excellence in training people in successful job seeking, we were told that it usually does not pay to say "Because God sent me" Panels don't see God as a measurable against which to score your response. They will frequently think that your God given ministry can be fulfilled where you are presently employed... "Why here?"

A few other seemingly random but important points about the job interview. The trade union representative will be present. If the shp steward is in a supervisory/management position, it could be the shop steward. Otherwise it will be an external trade Union representative. Their presence is to assure that proper procedure is followed and that the final selection is "right".

There are some questions which may  not be asked and/or the answer to which may not be used in determining an an appointment. You can refuse to answer this type of question. Religious and political beliefs and affiliations, sexual and gender issues, body mass issues, ....anything which hints at possible discrimination.

Yes, the employment interview is scary. You can and should prepare. Find out as much as you can about the organisation/facility/programme to which you are applying. And... be prepared for the unexpected question. 

If posts become unfrozen, and you have applied already ...may it go well for you.


Sunday, 21 July 2019


Having worked in and for organisations and programmes where the founder is the Director, Manager, Chairperson or the mother -body Head, a social media comment last week rang bells . 

The styles of management of some founders I experienced, showed patterns, which I am calling the "founder syndrome". 

It must be said that founders, especially in the smaller communities appear to have founded projects with genuine good intention. Then the programme attracts funders and donors, diversifies, employs a body of staff and or volunteers. It was then I often experienced what I am calling the founder syndrome 

One such township project called itself "Love". A group of three, with a dominant leader. established a project to help the poor. As it attracted goods for distribution, they said "We are the poor". "We need help as much as any other". No registration as an accredited non government organisation, a savings account and no receipted record of incoming donations or goods masked the very worst organisational symptom of "founders syndrome". It has to do with "ownership". If I/we own it then I/we have some kind of right to possession.

In small communities, founders as leaders of "welfare" projects are almost invariably respected and  highly regarded as community leaders and benefactors. This too contributes to the complex set of founder syndrome symptoms. The intention to do good does not necessarily need qualifications more than an ability to influence others, to have the power to mobilise and convince others of the value to the community. I worked in and for a "lead from the get go" founder directed initiative which expanded into a range of projects, one of which was a well funded child and youth care programme compelled to employ qualified and registered child and youth care workers,  Now founding skills were no longer enough. The professional knowledge and specialised skills, philosophy, approach and language of the child and youth care field was not only a,threat but exposed management approaches which child and youth care workers frequently challenged. An oftfound symptom of the founder syndrome is that founders hold onto ownership for as long as they can. They sometimes appear to resort to "for as long as you are employed in this organisation, you will do it this way.....we have always done it this way". In the very worst scenarios, child and youth care workers complain that they have experienced founder syndrome leadership vs professional practitioner power issue. Child and youth care workers in these situations tend to leave or spend a lot of time hankering to leave

Other contexts is when the founder is a church or faith-based structure. My experience, again in the worst much as we may want to think differently, many church structures are hierarchical, top down structures. If this has a trickle-down effect into child and youth care programmes, then church dogma, objectives and belief systems can, by child and youth care professionals be experienced as symptomatic of the "founder syndrome".  Actually, now I come to think about it, there can be a risk of the syndrome showing itself in any top down management approaches if , for example, founded by National Organisations or Government when the founder structures determine policy and compliance. It's the "ownership" thing and again maybe, the being out of touch with the field of child and youth care.

I worked in a facility where the Chairperson and the Board of Management had been in office so long, that they regarded themselves as the founders. They followed the founder syndrome symptom of becoming a fixture and frequently again out of sync with the child and youth care field and it's status. When the Act was changed to regulate the limit on the term of office of Board members. I had to inform them that they were required now by law to step down . This would then also allow for a body of different fields of expertise to sit in Management. They wrote to me saying that I had "fired" them and as in "unfair dismissal" they employed the services of a lawyer. he lawyer had to support the rotation of these founding members. He was very diplomatic with them saying that the "intention" was not that they fired. Such is the engagement and emotional connection that founders have with the organisation. It's part of the syndrome.

In child and youth care there is only one ting you can expect and that is change. This is where founders with good intention often tend to get stuck. 

Then there is the good news.

Recently I renewed acquaintance with a Director of a child and youth care facility after decades. Her comment was " Every time I think I can rest, things change"....Music to my ears. What she said brought back a memory of a planning meeting of the "welfare" arm of a church at Provincial level. The head of the Welfare section lead a breakaway group to discuss child and youth care. Two of us in child and youth care leadership positions had to correct misinformation and misunderstanding to bring child and youth care thinking, philosophy, language and practice up to date. ( "re- unification" for example). Next day he called for a plenary meeting. I was made out to be ignorant, put down, insulted" he said.......founders syndrome !  

I have been describing worst case scenarios. In doing Quality Assurance visits I encountered the founder syndrome and equally I encountered founders who were from the very beginning open and respectful of the professional growth and practice of child and youth care in a fast changing world.

Yet some child and youth care workers in South Africa do say that they feel they are pushing against an immovable force.

There was a "housefather"who called me "an educated idiot"He regarded himself as the founder of his group home. Educated idiots we are not.When the ground shifts, the playing field shifts, the goalpost shift and the game changes.

The social media outcry was that some child and youth care workers in some settings feel trapped in systems held static by the founders syndrome.

Sunday, 14 July 2019


As always this talk blog is written in my personal capacity as a child and youth care worker in private practice and not as a member or voice of or for any association or organisation.

We are all reeling in South Africa over the impact and effect of the 22nd NACCW Biennial & CYC- NET World  Conference 2019 Nation Building - One Child at a Time ! 
So big was the experience that there was a Conference resolution proposing that that the 3 days become 5 days

It could perhaps be said that the Youth Conference presentation stole the show. But truth is, ...the young people stole our hearts, exposed the realities their world and value of the role of child and youth care workers in their lives. 

Pity that the Deputy Minister of Social Development was not present then...During her speech the child and youth care workers behind me were chanting "No! No! No!" when she said that child and youth care workers should not complain about being paid stipends and not salaries or having to wait for payment.  The "No! No! No!" grew in volume when she said that child and youth care workers are "support workers".

To say that child and youth care workers are and will be "support workers" is highly emotive...especially when addressing child and youth care workers themselves at a World Conference. Dictionary and a search for similes  - words of equal meaning, found words  ...back-up, aid, to give assistance/aid to someone, to take a person's part in something, to underpin, buttress, reinforce someone or something. The most stabbing of the meanings for child and youth care workers is probably, "the action of contributing to the success or maintenance of the value of someone/something". Equally, in the language of organisational structures, the term "support staff"" is associated with domestic workers, kitchen, maintenance grounds, garden, estate and security workers. Little wonder that 1400+ child and youth care worker delegates at the conference took exception to the term being applied to them. Did I say "took exception"? Maybe,"expressed outrage" describes the mood more closely.

Support workers to whom? Support workers of what? In the context of the speech it was interpreted as support workers to other helping professions

The speech dominated discussion in passageways, Passage talk used the words "ill-informed","insulting" . Top of the pops.. "Government is making us nothing more than slaves!"

First, let us say something again about our journey to becoming a profession in South Africa.

In 1998 the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) agreed that Child and Youth Care was a true profession. The Professional Board for Child and Youth Care  Work ( PBCYCW) was incorporated into the SACSSP Act 110 of 1978. It's first warm body inauguration was i 2006. The regulations for the registration of child and youth care workers was signed by the then minister in October of 2014. some said that all this was "unexplained strategic delay". The qualification requirements and the levels of professional registration were meticulously matched as equal to the other social service professions ... as was later, the annual fee. 

So, child and youth care workers quite rightly, don't regard themselves as subordinate to any other profession at the same professional level. They don't regard themselves as more important. They regard themselves as equal. 

Child and Youth Care Work complies with all the requirements of a profession in it's own right. These are worth looking at again.

1. Child and Youth Care Work has it's own unique body of knowledge ans skills and it's own body of literature.
Sure, helping professions will and do share a thin thread of commonality and values. Important is that Child and Youth Care Work has not "grown out of".. is not the "child " any other one specific social service or helping profession which gave  it birth and so accounts for what it is or accounts for its practice. Why the term 'life-space" and "in the moment" discussion continues, I cannot fathom. Unique we are. 
That's it!  Our own research and our own praxis is indeed unique and embedded in our own literature.

2. This allows our practice to stand alone as a profession in it's own right. Independent bu integrated in case management. 

3. Child and youth care workers are nationally organised. We are a National body. The 2019 NACCW Conference is undeniable proof of this requirement for professional regulation. All 9 provinces were well represented as were a further 28 countries for around the world. Child and Youth Care in South Africa is internationally connected and recognised for it's professional status.

4. It abides by it's own ethical code of practice. The SACSSP has a department of Professional Conduct. Two Disciplinary Hearing Committee's exist. One for Social Work and the other for Child and Youth Care Work. The procedures for disciplinary hearings are very specifically detailed in the SACSSP Act 110 of 1978 with amendments. These are rigorously  followed.. It all means that our practice as child and youth care workers is regulated as it must be as a profession....and it is !

There is no valid discussion. Child and Youth Care Work in South Africa is a profession equal to any other helping profession registered at the same level.

Other plenary session speakers at the 22nd NACCW/World Conference had consoling and reassuring messages for child and youth care delegates. 

Aziwe Magida the Chairperson of the Professional Board fo Child and Youth Care Work (PBCYCW)  redirected the "support worker"label by saying that , in essence, the only support work we do is to troubled children and young people in their moments of distress when it happens, where it happens and as it happens.

Keynote speaker Kiaras Garabaghi said we should accept that the presence of politicians at our conferences is an indication of the importance they give child and youth care work irrespective of what they say. In other countries, he said, politicians don't come.

Good to hear.

But the issue didn't go away and hasn't even now.

At another forum, I heard a Departmental official say that the principle of equal dispensation ( pay) for equal value is to be upheld.

This is the very centre of what happened in that speech of the Deputy Minister. Child and youth care workers experienced the speech as devaluing of their work, profession and practice. The idea of equal value is seen as loaded with subjectivity differing perspectives, unmeasurables, understanding.  Equal dispensation for equal qualifications, equal levels of registration,ethical compliance is measurable 
and observable As are our statistics such as recivicity ( the return rate of young people into the system) and our success stories. The Youth Conference input gave testimony to exactly this.

The experience of being undervalued with all the feelings this raised for child and youth care workers was that being undervalued interpreted into salaries and posts being underpaid.

Alute Continuo


Sunday, 7 April 2019


I have the most bizarre dreams. Genuinely - six nights ago I dreamt I went to a neurosurgeon. In my dream I needed surgery. I asked the doctor to give me medical aid rates and an estimate. In my dream he said  " Oh. Here we have a clever ass asking for a quote on medical aid rates - go find yourself someone else - Good luck!". I said " What you just said to me is professionally unacceptable. I'm going to report you to the Medical and Dental Council" 
The Dr........"Good Luck!"

Then I woke up
...... and that's where it all stopped.... Bizarre? Maybe not.The dream abruptly stopped before any report was made. 

Do we have a broken dream in child and youth care?  Can we also leave unethical and unprofessional conduct as just a bizarre dream? Hanging there? Suspended? Unresolved? Like Medicine, Child and Youth Care has a regulating Professional Council.
Unfortunately unprofessional  conduct does happen. Then poof! It all seems to end there.

It's not asif we can say that we don't know about our required professional conduct and ethics. After the regulations were published in October of 2014, roadshows were held in 5 of the 9 provinces, Recently again in another three or four.  In the roadshows the NACCW video on the Code of ethics was shown. Professional compliance was explained.

Just in case we need a reminder, here follows a very short extract t from the Rules relating to the Act or Omissions for Child and Youth Care Workers:
"...the following acts and or omissions of a child and youth care worker are detrimental to the profession and constitute unprofessional or improper conduct: 
4,(a) The execution of professional duties in a manner which does not comply with generally accepted standards of child and youth care work;
   (b) conducting oneself in a manner which undermines the prestige, status and dignity of the profession.

There is, of course, more . Ethics has to do with what is morally right or wrong in a  profession. Conduct with what may actually be done or not done in practice.

But here's the BIG ONE . As social service professionals we have a regulated responsibility to hold each other accountable for upholding professional ethics. And so do our "clients.".

I have always felt uneasy that our 'clients'are minors in the legal sense. They are not legal complainants in any complaint submission. Their complaints have to be canalised through an adult. Who will do this? ..Parent: Manager? A child and youth care colleague? We are ourselves,then, the voice of the children and young people in care on issues of malpractice and unethical conduct.

We and especially in-house managers are not exempt If there is an in-house disciplinary hearing and sanctions imposed because of a breach of professional ethical conduct, the complaint should  be lodged also with the SACSSP.

Workplace issues are a labour affair. Professional conduct is a PROFESSIONAL concern, Connected possibly, but statutorily  different. The issue is that the integrity of the profession has different importance from that of the "job".  

Why, as in my dream, do incidents of unprofessional conduct and breach of ethics suddenly float away into a new day?

Some thoughts for talk.

I wonder if it's buried somewhere because of an unwillingness or fear of "being involved."   Are there work-place/career hazards in getting involved? Is there a cost involved? Time? Secondary abuse? Would we be somehow dark-clouded as a complainant?

Then maybe there are child and youth care workers who don't know how to complain or report beyond the borders of their programmes. OR, perhaps, we just say, "But this is the way it's done here".

I went to a secondary school where the School Prefects were mandated to enforce rules with the cane. In the prefect's room they administered "cuts".  Boys regulated boys, SO, it wasn't such a huge shock for me to find a similar system used in the Children"s Home I inherited in 1986. Various tactics were institutionalised to do this vicariously supervised by child and youth care workers.

CIRCLE KLAPS (slaps) The House monitor would instruct boys to stand in a circle. He then slapped the boy next to him hard across  the face. This continued until someone "owned up" to the offence.
RUN THE GAUNTLET. After showers the boys formed two rows to form a passage way. The naked offending boy ran down the passage as they flicked their wet towels at his body. OUCH!

Confronted, child and youth care workers would say "I didn't do anything. The boys have their own ways of sorting things out, It's been a tradition here for decades". Job secured !!!

TODAY. no matter the system. As a professional child and youth care worker..... You are accountable. You uphold the prestige and dignity of the PROFESSION.

This whole thing of us not acting to protect the integrity of the profession of child and youth care, is my personal and professional concern. I hope that it is the concern of others in the field. 

This blog is written as an urge for child and youth care workers in South Africa to stand firm in action if the integrity of our profession is threatened, violated and in need of safeguarding.

There is but one way to do this. A formal complaint must be lodged  ( no pun intended) with the SACSSP.

Go to htpps//                    Click "Complaints". 
Scroll down to Complaint form "click here" Click to download the complain form.

Please child and youth care professionals. remember that silence makes you party also to bringing our beloved profession into disrepute.

By protecting the profession we protect all child and youth care workers and more importantly, we protect out children and young people.