Sunday, 21 November 2021



It's said we have two pandemics - Covid 19 and childhood pregnancies 

Globally the stats are concerning. Apparently, an estimated 21 million girls aged 15 - 19  become pregnant and about 12 million in developing countries give birth every year.

News 24 reported a top story saying that more than 600 hundred girls aged 9 - 10 years gave birth in South Africa in 2020. It quotes Statistics South Africa as having 890,303 babies born and of these, 34,587 were born to girls 17 years and younger.

 Provincially, in South Africa I will focus on Gauteng, the Province in which I live. 

The Gauteng Department of Social Services announced that of the births recorded, there were more than 23,000 teenage pregnancies between April 2020 and March 2021. 

Again Gauteng, 2,976 girls aged 10 - 14 years chose abortion. That's a very scary figure which obviously raises the pregnancy statistics,. These are only the recorded abortions. Locally it is said that  there are herbal "Medicines' which, swollowed or vaginally douched can precipitate an abortion. Private doctors perform abortions. Individual statistics for these abortions, I have not seen.

The  counting confirms the crisis.

 The questions asked are whether there is any substantive research into the reasons for the huge increasing number of early pregnancies. I've only come across opinions, hear-say, and experiential narratives.

 My opinion is based on my experience as a child and youth care worker in a number of different settings.

 Bells would tinkle for me in any of these settings when sexual interest manifested in behaviours earlier than developmentally expected. 9- year olds provocatively picking up the skirt to expose her panties; a history of sexual abuse; school girls with working boyfriends; taking sanitary pads then having them found stashed in the top of the wardrobe or hidden in lockers; precocious flirtation.

My experience is that the first time is not the only time and that following her first penetrative sex experience we could safely say that the girl was sexually active. Given the right kind of trust in a child and youth care worker, girls would share their sexual status. It was important in any event because of possible HIV .

 She was 10 years old - not yet menstruating. The playground duty teacher found her pulling boys into the girls toilet. Some boys  complained. The school complained. Something they said, had to be done. One thing we could do was to allocate a child and youth care worker to be on hand to allow the school a swift call out. 

 We had a Sexologist on the Board of Management. She offered to spend time with the girl.

 "Barrie. You must put this girl onto contraception...the injection

"But she's not menstruating and she's only 10 "..

"You have to choose. She can menstruate at any time. Either you contracept, or you have a childhood pregnancy on your hands. You must decide"

I struggled. Do I, can I put a premenstrual girl on contraception?.'

I safe-guarded myself by taking my opinion to the full Board of Management.

Agreed. She must be on the injection.

If, as an institution, we found this to be such a complex ethical dilemma, then how much more is this for a parent both an ethical and practical dilemma.

The general chatter in the villages, townships, and even in the inner city was and I hear, still is that the local clinics are not always child friendly. The Health practitioners have been known to shout at the girls and to call them names. They can I was told, be judgemental, Local people have said often to me that they fear talk. Talk where everybody knows everybody. "Now everyone will know. What do they say about me as a girl? 'What do they say about me as a mother?'

There are other factors at work. One is economic. We have a child care grant to unworking mothers. When it was first made available and paid, there was a lot of talk that in poor families some of the girl's mothers, after the first baby was born, told the girl to go get herself pregnant again in order to get a second grant. Then there are incidents of the girl's mother applying to foster those children in order to get the larger foster care grant.

Sugar Daddies are now called ' Blessers' in South Africa. I experienced this mostly in township environments. If he had a car and some form of job title,  - he was a target. But then again the girls were frequently sought after, called 'Sweet 16's or "Fresh young ones" They would pay a 'girlfriend allowance and more. It's money for sex.  

Girls have explained their pregnancy as peer pressure. They say that their friends were all 'doing it.' and "It's nice. Don't listen to your parents, they are just old fashioned. The boy can wear a condom."

Boys, however were sayng that sex with a condom was like eating a sweet with it's paper on. Sex with a condom was not good sex.

I had more than one experience of girls deliberately trying to get pregnant to escape having to be at school or to escape their placement in the Children's Home. If girls were on the pill, we had to take responsibility as child and youth care workers to to administer the pill ourselves and to check under the tongue to see it had been swallowed.

The effect of early pregnancies in South Africa, as anywhere, but in a country riddled with excessive poverty and unemployment, is that the cycle, not only remains unbroken, but exacerbated. Girls are no longer expelled from school when pregnant. Once having given birth if there is a caregiver.. like granny, they can return to class. My experience is that many don't complete their education to matric (maturity) level. That makes it even more difficult to find work.

 Now for Covid 19.. are the two, now called pandemics, connected?

There has been , world wide, an incline in the number of girls giving birth during this period. Some opinions are that it is too early to tell if Covid 19 is a major contributing factor in this.

In SouthAfrica, there is a startling figure of a 60% increase following the lockdown period in which schools were closed or class reduced.  ( Again, the Gauteng Department of Health Report)

Some opinion has it that during the lockdown, contraceptives were in short supply or unavailable in the clinics. That included condoms.

 Violence against women and children has itself been called an epidemic and a culture in recent years in this country. The number if incidents of gender violence and child abuse increased during the lockdown.  The 2020| 2021 Annual Crime Statistics Report put the number of child assaults at 24000. Child rape statistics increased.

Taken all in all, we have a serious crisis with no easy solutions  When the Child and Youth Care system had to be overhauled and transformed in this country, in 1995 forward, an Inter Ministerial Committee was formed. It is time to form such a body again to address this crisis. Social Welfare, Health, Education, at least,

As social service professionals and practitioners, we advocate for social workers, community development workers, youth workers and child and youth care workers to be employed wherever children and young people are. As an inter managerial team (IMT), there has to be strategic, structured and unstructured interventions and support to contribute to the mitigation of  this crisis. 

 We need child and youth care workers employed in schools and in communities to do what they do best in the transformation of South African society.

That's what we do!





Sunday, 14 November 2021


You may say  this is not a child and youth care work story.

But it is!

I have been frequently asked "Who in your life influenced you the most to be what you are today, and why?' 

Teaching, like child and youth care work, changes lives. The teacher/child relationship (dyad) is perhaps, not as intense, not as intimate. Connectedness within the formality of the classroom environment doesn't always allow it.

My big teacher influence, did !

He was my Art subject teacher in Secondary School.

 There was a rule. If your class teacher didn't come to the classroom, then, after ten minutes, you "Get on with your own work ". 

 Our Maths teacher was the Deputy Headmaster. Deputies were required to to teach on a very reduced schedule because of their administrative responsibilities.. We called him "Klop". The boys gave him that name because he wore metal studs in his shoes. When he walked the cements corridors, we could hear him coming with the klip. klop, klip, klop.

 That day  - no klip, klop. After ten minutes "Get on with your own work." I had a partly completed cay pot waiting to be finished in the Art Block, ...far from the regular classroom. So, off I trotted.

"Klop came", they said. "He marked yo absent in the absentee book. Quick ! Go chase the absentee boy and cross out your name.".  Bunking class was an offence punishable by the cane. Klop was known to cane very hard. "'See, I'm not absent, I'm at school." So the absentee boy allowed my name to be crossed through. 

 Next morning in assembly, the Headmaster called out the names of offenders. "Come to my office". My name was among them.

"You bunked Maths."

"No Sir."...Explanation given.

 "Bunked AND tampering with official documents. This will hurt me more than it will hurt you - BEND !'

It was just a casual conversation with the Art teacher. "I came to finish my pot...and, and. and."

 "That's not right", he said. "That's  not fair. I'm going to the Headmaster about this. I'll talk to him about this."

 Which he did.

The report back to me was that the Headmaster apologised. He couldn't take back the cuts, but he would remove my name from the punishment book.

As a small, nothing learner, what was a somewhat thin teacher/learner connection, thickened. I had been heard, listened to and acted on behalf of , against extreme authority.

 As in class, I threw pots, we talked more than before. Especially about my future. In these interactions he dropped the school tags of "You boy!'...Lodge !.  "Little Lodge !". He called me by me first name.

 In one of these conversations, he said. "I know you want to be a doctor .  I know you think your parents can't afford it. That's not why I must tell you this. You are a teacher. Your not the best artist in the class but you are an Art teacher. But - do something about your voice. It's too monotone. You become an Art teacher and I'll take you into this Art School when you graduate."

And that' changed my life. I did want to teach Art. I knew it was my real career passion.  And that is what happened.

Art teacher in his Department..

Art teacher educator at a University,

Art therapist in a Child Guidance and Research Centre.

Clinical Director of Children and Youth Care residential facilities.

 Teacher of child and youth care workers

This is not a child and youth are story, you may say.


Sunday, 31 October 2021



There are a number of words for it:  ethos, culture, tone. My word was wallpaper...the wallpaper of the facility programme.

 My view was that the 'wallpaper' of the programme is carried primarily by the child and youth care workers as a result of a top-down influence including management. From the ethos carried by staff, comes the rub-off, the trickle-down, which cascades to the young people. I believe It becomes the pervasive relationship style, the pervasive way of problem solving, the world view,, the way of reacting one with the other throughout.

In a group home setting, the child and youth care worker was brisk, often abrasive in maintaining somewhat narrow boundaries . The assistant child and youth care worker experienced this more dominating relationship work style "You do it this way !". Often voices were raised, volume up, body stiffened. The whole House echoed the noise.

He was a newish admission. It was at a returned absconder House Meeting. The question was whether he 'ran from, ran to, or just ran'. He said it was a run from.  "From what exactly?" 

"From you guys, all of you guys. From the staff. I couldn't be me! it like that! That's the way it is here. All of you with your 'I'll report you to the child care worker. And the child care worker 'Just do it...otherwise... Otherwise what?"

"You'll see. You'll see... And I'll call the Director." "I ran from all of you. Not one of you.. all of you."

 A young person came to me in my office. "Don't tell the child care worker I came to see you. I've got a problem, but I don't want to talk with her. I want to tell you. You know, there were three of us sitting in the foyer waiting for you to come. That child care worker saw us and she got really shirty. She said, 'What you waiting for? If you have a problem you come to me, not to him. You come to me, He's not a child care worker.. he's the Director.".

There was a pervasive climate of relationship ownership throughout . "Listen I'm your child care worker!" 

And so the ethos trickled down. "She's not your friend. She's my friend. Go find your own friend " 

It was in the wallpaper. No teamwork. My child, my problem...I'll deal with it and no-one else. Let alone the strengths and bonds of others on the team, strict role definitions and territory gaurding throughout. Let alone the support staff... 

 Revealed years after having been through the system... "You know who helped me the most?  You'll be surprised. It was Thembeka the cleaner. She came in every day - regular. She was straight. "Why don't you....."I needed that. At that time I needed that.. elder's  advice. I liked that woman. I didn't tell anyone, We were sort-of friends."

 Another time, another place, Group Home number two , House Meeting. The child and youth care worker here was really quite gentle, a listener .House Meetings were held weekly to allow for discussion on anything... a blank agenda form was held by a magnet to the fridge door. If the children and young people wanted to discuss anything, they would write it on the agenda list. 

 The top-down over-all tone was one of help and support..

The message acted out in practice was "We are all here together  for a reason. Let's see what we can do to make our lives better." 

 One Sunday two little boys had run and were hiding in the school grounds opposite and across the road from the group home. They showed themselves sometimes and then ducked behind the school building. The child and youth care worker called me. Quite right. I was 'on call'. They were small children and she needed support...not authority. I could see them as they ducked and dived around the school building. 

My approach...we can't chase and catch them. They will just run even further away next time. Let's leave the. Ignore them. If they don't come back themselves when it gets dusky, we'll make other plans.

 Sure enough they came back. They were fed, bathed  without comment and a House Meeting was called. In this House there was an 'I'm prepared to tell you' approach in the wallpaper. They were soon to be adopted. Everyone knew.  They said at the meeting that they heard one of the others say "Those two ankle biters are running away.... So, We did.!"

 At this there was a dreadful. emotionally packed .almost primal wail form one of the adolescent boys at the table. Then heavy sobbing. At least three others shed silent tears. The child and youth care worker did a good job of comforting the wailing boy. He was brought back to the table.

"Why? Why? Why? Why can't we all be kind to each other? We all got problems here! Why can't we just be  kind to each other"

 The table... "We sorry!"

The staff tone trickle-down of "Be the world you want to see" ..of...even and especially, the young people being, one for the other, part of healing was to become a trickle-down into the next generation and perhaps the next.

 I can confirm this. The much later social media posts of past residents surrounded by that wallpaper speak loudly of the suffering of the world and their making the world a better place.

They speak now with loud voices.


Tuesday, 26 October 2021


The question went something like this: "What do you as a child and youth care worker regret or are reluctant to talk about for fear of humiliation or victimisation in the workplace?"

It took about three weeks self and soul searching to reach a place for me to put together  some sort of list and then even now to  gather the courage to talk abut the unspoken me in child and youth care -  more especially in the facilities in which  practice. It was all very personal and too exposing of my otherwise hidden vulnerabilities.

The same questioner, later posted a quote saying that leaders share their stories and knowledge.

 In this week's blog, I'm not about knowledge...Stories maybe, but inner experiences as a child and youth care worker. Ok, let me try. 

What I didn't talk about, share or say, was the real ME. The ME who had triggers, fears, often confused feelings. I didn't talk of what I knew about myself that I believed was unknown to others...Not to anyone...not my family, my supervisor and certainly not to the Board of Management or the staff. I was convinced that to speak these things out would severely damage my credibility, as a professional child and youth care worker and so erode my reputation, my image. In good organisational practice, this should not be.


In my child and youth care work with boys, mainly in trouble with the law, I was afraid of being physically hurt through  my having to intercede in any violent incident or by direct assault. It happened far too early in my practice that I was actually deliberately hurt, my head pushed against a barbed wire fence The bleeding of my forehead was excessive as it ran down my face. It wasn't as bad as it looked, but it left me with a lingering fear of, again being physically hurt by  boys  in the programme.

It was different with the girls. My fear was that at any time I might have false allegations of sexual abuse made against me.

 That got sparked by two incidents, again, early in my practice. I probably over reacted to an incident of what I regarded as a planned attempt at seduction. The other was an incident of exposure...stripping off.

I refused to have any discussion with a girl unless the office door was open or at least ajar. A female staff member had to be within calling distance during any interview with a girl No stockroom entry unless on my own. I would not drive a girl in the car unless I was accompanied. Rules, rules, rules . My triggered over reactions stayed untold.

On Friday, after school he had gone home for the weekend. By Saturday mid-morning, he was back on his own volition. Tea was always set out in the foyer for staff. When I came in for tea - there he was, drinking from the saucer ( culturally the way it was done) with his feet on the coffee table.

 Me: "What are you doing here. You're supposed to be at home. This is  staff tea. Don't drink out of the saucer and TAKE YOUR FEET OFF THE TABLE !!"...volume building to a crescendo.

 He raised himself a little, took the cup and saucer filled with tea and smashed it against the foyer wall. "You know f**k all !."

 He was right. Turns out that he went home on Friday to find Mom with a boyfriend and she told him to go back to the facility as it wasn't convenient for him to be at home that weekend.

Eventually the link was made inside me. I was a teacher at the time. I went into the Main Hall to watch a talent competition rehearsal. I put my feet on the chair in front of me. I walked the Headmaster "Get your feet off that chair" very loudly, and then quietly, "Sorry, I thought that you were one of the boys." I felt so very humiliated, so belittled in front of my pupils. I had been spoken to, by the Headmaster asif a naughty child.

 Putting feet on the table was a come-back of that moment.

 Then, unspoken was the person, the being I am... the I ams. Knowing myself as what they call a perfectionist. Advantages and disadvantages as that affects practice performance. I can't ( couldn't ) delegate. My fear was that it wouldn't be done as well as I would have done it.. End result...burnout, not once but twice.

 And then the fear of abandonment. I had unspoken fears that I would be left with only me to do what had to be done. It came to me ...I was able to make the link to a hospitalisation experience when I was about 5years old. I looked out of the hospital window during visiting hours to see two people - as I thought, my mother and father leaving without having visited me.

It wasn't them!

Abandoned, I thought, left by my very support system.

 We can talk of child and youth care politics ( small p ) but my thinking is that we, as self, very often in child and youth care work unspeak and unshare our selves.

"And I never told my supervisor".


Sunday, 17 October 2021


Surely, it will not be forgotten that our South African pioneer and child and youth care guru, Brian Gannon, in the mid eighties initiated a year of Making Memories. The idea was to encourage child and youth  care workers to design, to create moments which would provide children and young people with positive, meaningful, lasting memories. That, as an initiative was needed at that time. Really meaningful, purposefully structured, creative positive, life enhancing moments tended at the time to be lost in what Brian Gannon called child and youth care logistics. Creating purposeful meaningful memories was breaking new ground.      

Some time past now, in Facebook, someone posted  a text which read something like this."  If you want to know what I miss about the residential programme, it is the lunch that the child care worker ( name) cooked on Sundays.

Unusual for a, now middle aged past resident to have a lasting good memory of a! Mostly food is remembered with complaint - except for puddings. Puddings were a Wednesday treat, They have a way of being remembered long into adulthood. 

Anyway, it got me wondering. What is it that children and young people remember? What memories linger for life? 

Responses to that post and the experience of other , now middle age past residents was that the people in the programme, child and youth care workers were well remembered. Often fondly, often not.

 He was about 9 years old. She had been in my residential facility for 2 years when she was moved to another in another City in another Province to be with her brother, also in care. After some 2 years, then 11, he asked to visit the old place for part of a school holiday. They thought it to be a sound developmental, therapeutic idea, so with a one-on-one child and youth care worker, he came.

On seeing me from a reasonably close distance, he said to the child and youth care worker "There he is. That's him! I'll never forget that SMILE." 

 Social media posts among long past residents and community - based young people followed that theme. Child and youth care workers were remembered years after. mentioned by name for their personal characteristics, their qualities of caring or not caring, as they then experienced it and for their relationship. Often with gratitude.

She had to be moved to a more secure facility and immediately because of issues connected with her parents. 

Where is she?  - very upset and angry. "She was here when we left for school and not here when we came back. That's not right. At least we should have been told. Don't you know  for us injury to one is an injury to all " 

The connection among each other is another of those lasting memory threads. "They were / we were, like family, - brothers and sisters"

 The social media posts like that abound,  Many still keep contact with each other. "You were always there for me . I could always share with you". Sharing common life experiences and situations strengthen the peer bond into memories which social media has proven last well into adulthood.

 Then came so well the "Do you remember when ? " posts. Most I read are lasting memories of what they got up to as  and young people in a facility. Especially if it was a  daring escapade.

"Do you you know what I remember?  We had such fun when we used to break into the tuck shop at night and steal sweets and chocolate bars. It was such fun man!  We planned together so carefully. Night-time creeping down there... breaking in so quietly and then... the chocolates. That's  what I remember so well."

Some can't forget now as adults, the child and youth care system and what it forced on them in the name of discipline. Way back before the law prohibited young people from being held in prison cells, there came the Juvenile Prison. An advance was the Reformatory. and a less restrictive institution called an Industrial School in which the boys were accommodated in secure dormitories.

They were told to expect us, at the Juvenile Prison. We were proposing Child and Youth Care training training for the prison wardens. What we experienced in any event  happened every day.. The boys stood at attention at the foot of their beds, holing their identification open at the, age, offence. The big memory for me were the made beds. Military style with one blanket covering the bed and the other rolled and twisted to make a decorative feature on the single pillow. ..each different and each twisted into very creative designs. They never forgot. For when, after the law change, they trickled down into the bigger boys residential caring facility called  St Goodenough Children's Home...Lo and Behold - they followed exactly the same bed-making thing.

At the residential facility I inherited in 1986 the boys chewed the blanket edges on the bed to make a sharp creased edge. Staff would hold an inspection with the boys standing at attention at the end of the bed. This has come up endlessly on Social Media as positive never  to be forgotten.

Some try to forget. "Oh, I don't talk about that. didn't happen I say I was at a Hostel as a boarder. It's part of my life that doesn't exist. Some remember proudly and let the memory be known. 'I made it through all that. Look at me now

 Today, child and youth care workers do design and  purposefully create experiences, activities and moments to last as lasting, uplifting memories They seem not to get much social media mention. Pity

Again and again there is a need for we child and youth care workers and for young people to tell our stories. Again and again we must let our memory making in the lives of children be known. It's part of what we do, It's so very important.

Sunday, 10 October 2021


"Your God is shit!" We were walking down to the pool - towels over our shoulders. She was about 15 years old. "Your God is shit", she said, I just think of my life, my family. No work, no money, fighting and struggling. Your God is shit".

I believed what she said to be her genuine belief and not, as an ordained person, just an attempt to touch a tender spot and push my buttons.

"Ok, I've  been there. I've been right where you are. It was a journey. Like me, I guess you have to decide whether God is punishing, a God for White people only, a God for all or a God for a few. It's up to you."

The boys were compulsorily requires to attend chapel services on Sunday nights. They were dressed smartly in the 'Home Uniform". ...blazer, tie, grey slacks. There was a resident chaplain. He celebrated and preached. The senior boys sat in front, juniors at the back.

Right in the midst of the sermon, a very large senior stood up. "You talk shit". he shouted. "You talk one thing and you don't do those things. You don't do what you preach"....He was right.

The chaplain, from the pulpit ordered him out of the chapel. "Take him out!. You get out. Child and youth care workers, take him out" It caused a 10 minute delay as child and youth care workers persuaded him just to leave quietly in his own best interests... which he did, taking three other boys with him. 

The compulsion to attend Sunday evening chapel got changed to voluntary attendance in ordinary clothes.

Smallish in stature and sort of arty looking, he was a satanist and didn't in any way hide it.  He wasn't the only one. There were probably three in the dormitory facility at the time. The others were secretive. The Constitution of South Africa states very clearly that we have a right to choice of faith and of worship provided that the laws of the country are not breached in doing so. He had an upside down cross on his bedroom wall. He burnt black candles,

His explanation was "Your God does nothing to help make a better world Satan can make a difference. Satan rules the world".

He broke no laws.

The child and youth care worker every night on bedding down and checking for lights out would pass his bedroom, open the door and say "My God is stronger than your god!"

We did once, in the stables. find a black cat with it's throat cut. It wasn't him. It was one on the others who we found also cut himself to let blood.

 He came from a place of safety. He said that there was a satanic coven there and he was drawn into one. He couldn't say anything more because the coven had said "You you leave, you die." He wanted to . A local church specialised in counselling young people out of satanism and it's coven activities. The counsellor said that there were different levels in satanism. The highest level, he said, required that a life be taken. "A young person has to be counselled and freed from the sworn articles of belief and practices of each of the levels". 

I don't know what it means but he said he was at the third level.

The social worker resigned. Her husband insisted that she must . There is a young people into satanism in the house . He said I am not to work where there is a satanist. Pity, - she was a good social worker.

He had become known in the residential dormitory facility as a bully. He smoked and threatened violence to intimidate other boys and to get his way or wanted materially. Marijuana was illegal in those days. I inherited him as the senior server in the chapel. There was always something of a queue  to be a server. You got to .wear a nice red vestment and permitted to enter the sanctuary. ... the holy of holies and when the chaplain wasn't around to to clear the altar. This gave servers access to the communion wine. Every Sunday as senior server, with his long black hair, he stately led the procession to the altar. He was really good.

Behind the altar was a tabernacle which  stored and locked away some remains of the blessed sacrament (wafers and wine) for visits to the sick. He and the  chaplain were the only ones with keys. 

 I was often asked why he was the head server when his behaviour outside of chapel was known to me . I said that the church was a place for sinners.  But I saw the Sunday serving as an excellent therapeutic experience for him.

One day the chaplain had rare reason to open the tabernacle himself. Big shock.. Inside was the blessed bread and wine but also a stash of marijuana.

 Confronted, he said "I thought no-one would ever think to find it in the tabernacle.

Completely out of character,. she up one night and ran away. - into Hillbrow, the then red light area of Johannesburg.

 On return. "Tell me what got into your head to run there - of all places."

"God told me to do it". 

 Who was I to argue with God?

Sunday, 3 October 2021



At 3.00 pm, she said she was going to buy the girls some winter jerseys.

Bu they can go themselves, or go with you to choose"

"I'll choose".

She didn't come back.

 Her sister 'phoned to say that she's not coming back and she, the sister, will come to collect her clothing.

One minute an on-line child and youth care worker - the next minute...walk out...gone!! 

"She needs a year", said the sister. She'll come back in a year."

An immediate dormitory meeting.

"What did we do?"

"Nothing, nothing at all. You did nothing, She needed a rest". 

Fairly soon after, a new appointee child and youth care worker was  introduced to the girls. She came early next day to start and to wake them. The moment the girls had gone to school, she came to my office, letter in hand. "Here, - I resign. You've got a nest of snakes up there. I'm on three months trial and 24hours notice. Here it is". She had barely put done her handbag when she picked it up again.

At the dormitory meeting..."We liked Sister Pat. We didn't like that one."

Connections count.

"Do you have a place for a 14year old girl as a place of safety? We'll get the Place of Safety Order and promise a  placement order within 3 days, After 4 years of being her child and youth care worker, that woman left overnight. She was there when they went to bed. Gone in the morning - clothes and all - no warning. This girl tried to cut her wrists. She needs a connecting female child and youth care worker immediately.

 There was a place in a group home...small number of children, close supervision and a warm, female child and youth care worker.

It's little wonder considering experiences like these in the lives of children that I encountered this.

I arrived at the facility late evening as the newly appointed Director. I was met by a group of girls in their pyjamas sitting in the foyer. Each r girl was introduced to me by a senior girl. 

That done.

 "Ok Mr Lodge. Now you are here. When are you going to leave?"

Oh, my word! My first moment in child and youth care. going   first encounter and I was called upon to do some fancy footwork. When they were satisfied that I wasn't beat a hasty retreat, they laid down the rules they said I must follow.

" No drinking. You are allowed one beer at our yearly picnic...and that' s all!"  

"You won't hit a girl"

'When you make rules, you will discuss them with us first". 

"When you want to leave you will tell us before. We want to say goodbye properly."

As it was, I had given them my promised 5 years minimum. They were told 4 months before. By then the Board of Management had established a 'Transition' Committee. It had 2 Psychologists among other professionals. I was given personal psychological supervision and the Transition' committee worked on and evaluated the strategy with the children for my departure. Each step was planned. A noticeboard was put into each dormitory and each of the group homes. It displayed a calendar showing the countdown events for each step.

My wife and I were due to leave in5 days.

"You must come now!!" It was the night nurse. " Three girls have cut their wrists". One was hospitalised.

Three days before leaving there was a final 'farewell' Board of Management meeting. I reported the incident of the three girls...and wept. I really thought we had done everything right. Weeping at a Board meeting was an embarrassment for me. I thought it was a slight on my professionality. Professionals don't cry!...hey do sometimes!!

The professional practice  learning was to live with me.   

Firing and retrenchment of child and youth care workers proved to be experienced differently. Both of these staff-leaving contingencies are at some time inevitable...each with its own child and youth care implications. I can't help thinking of a divorce in which one or both parties bad mouth the other to the children.

The usual suspension of the child and youth care worker before the hearing does provide  a window of time in which to meet with the young people, prepare them and reassure them of of fairness in the treatment of the child and youth care worker and continued child and youth care services...if.if, if

Shift workers are usually told not to come into the facility during suspension. It is obviously more difficult with resident child and youth care workers who are then told "No interaction with the young people." to avoid the possible badmouthing of the Board of Management, the management team and other child and youth care the avoid splitting and pairing .. How is this then enforced?

Child and youth care worker James was to be retrenched at the end of a year school term because we were moving from a dormitory to a group home setting. The dormitory styled buildings were to be used as a school. We had to be out. There were more dormitories than group homes,. The number of young people  had to be about halved The staff reduced by three. All the fair warning, retrenchment protocols were strictly followed and the young people, one by one were briefed with all the moves. Again a "Transition' Committee was formed. 

Here came a delegation of boys. "Why are you firing Mr James? This is supposed to be a place of caring. It's going to be Christmas at the end of the month. Where's he going to go? You say you care. You don't. You should let him stay."

 Every word had been prompted and rehearsed by James.       I knew because he had sent a letter to the Board of Management  in which he had used exactly their little speech, word for word. 

To tell the young people that this is a bad place to be, that it doesn't care may and can happen in firing and retrenchment situations. It's really hard to maintain child and youth care professional practice in the best interests of the child if one is forced to leave.

In the main, young people seem to understand retirement "She's old. She must rest now. She must go and stay with her family."

Each of these staff-leaving leaving scenarios happen...including the possibility of an over night absconding and absence without leave. It means that if staff leaving can be expected that there has to be orgaisational  back-up to cover the contingency.

Masud Hoghughi had two important mantras. Repeatedly in his training he would say, "The only thing that is certain, is uncertainty" and "Expect the unexpected".

Staff leaving is to be expected.