Sunday, 7 February 2021

COVID VACCINATIONS CONCERNS...CHILD AND YOUTH CARE IN SOUTH AFRICA.

 


I have some concerns an a whole pile of questions around the Covid 19 vaccination roll out in South Africa. as it affects Child and Youth Care.

 Mostly questions.

 On February 1st 2021, the President outlined the vaccine roll-out. First, Health Care Workers, then essential service workers, then the aged and persons with underlying conditions. Then the adults of the Nation. No mention of children at all. There is this so called scientific evidence that children are at low risk.

Firstly. Child and youth care workers are legally essential service providers. Never, never have I heard the President in all his now many addresses to the Nation, nor anyone in high authority mention child and youth care workers as essential service workers.

The question, then is, Are they to get priority vaccinations?    We have lost child and youth care workers to Covid 19 and the new variant.

 In social media I saw that some child and youth care workers are saying quite forcefully that as their constitutional right, they won't accept vaccination. I must say that I have adopted something of a 'wait and see'  approach to this. At my age I have some concerns about the after effects. We are assured in South Africa that the vaccination is effective and safe. So where are we? 

It's a consideration that child and youth care workers work in close proximity with young adults and children and then go home to their own families. That proximity is not easily controlled as, for example, in a school. They don't sit at desks. In the residential facilities, social distancing between child and child and child and child care worker is particularly difficult, if not well nigh impossible. I see child and youth care workers saying that it is a constant battle to have children wear a mask or keep some type of distancing. In my experience, child care facilities are most likely high risk spaces. Many children and young people go home or to hosts for weekends and holidays. Who knows what precautions are taken there?

And the children? Did the 'people tests' of the vaccine also include children? What were the results? Are they to be excluded altogether? At what age will a young person, then, be considered eligible for the  vaccination roll-out?  This raises the question of constitutional rights of children. Will or is there a constitutional or regulatory age at which a child or young person can refuse a vaccination or that the parent, guardian or custodian can do that? 

Again, are there, or is there to be a child friendly vaccine? On admission to a child and youth care facility, we had to have a clinic card which showed that children had up to date vaccinations against small-pox, diphtheria, polio and so on. With Covid 19 will we soon as child and youth care workers have to check for evidence of such a vaccination as well?

In South Africa there is continuous and vocal debate as to whether it is safe or right that teachers go back to school, even now. Child and youth care workers have not been so debated. Obviously because there can't be debate. Like health care workers there simply is no choice.  

From experience this isn't any fun and certainly not easy. An epidemic of chicken pox in the facility was, on a smaller scale a learning experience. In brief...cut-off, no entry by anybody , food delivered only to the gate and very very, controlled movement of child and youth care workers. Some shift workers had to find a spare bed. Now with a vaccine, at least for adults this could be easier.

Child and youth care practice changes in both community settings and others.We learnt from the Hiv-AIDS pandemic. As with precautionary measures and as with ARV's and now with the Covid vaccine, it meant programmes of family education with the children as the central focus. Programmes that dispel fears, enlighten about the vaccine.

 So what then, as child and youth care workers, we have our own fears of the vaccination? As I said, I saw such fears spoken out on social media?

When being trained as a Life-line counsellor and later being a Life-line trainer, we were always told. If they say " I'm going to...or, I'm not going to" and it has the potential of risk or harm to self or others, you say "Yes, it is a choice, but  let's together think about what can be the outcomes, the consequences of doing that, or not doing that."

 The most likely 'to do or won't do today will be to get vaccinated or not to be vaccinated..to go to school, or not to go to school?...  that is the question. For the family one exercise, for child and youth care workers another...and what if there is, or will be a vaccination for children?

 



Sunday, 31 January 2021

WE NEED, WE WANT...CHILD AND YOUTH CARE IN SOUTH AFRICA

 


At one time or another all of this has been said in these blogs..It all needs to be said again. Time ticks on and very little has changed.

The drive toward child and youth care professionalisation has been long. My guess is that the start was sometime in the early 1980's when the first training materials reached workers then continued towards becoming basic, then a university degree in child and youth care work in about  the early 90's. It was provided at the then Technicon University of South Africa ( UNISA).

I hold a National Association of Child Care Workers ( NACCW) certificate of registration introduced as a meantime measure to safeguard against unethical practice. It is dated 1993 together with a code of ethics for child and youth care workers.

This was in anticipation of the day when there would be a Professional Board for Child and Youth Care Work (PBCYCW) as part of the then amended South African Council for Social Work Which became the South Africa Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP).The first PBCYCW sat in 2005 but the regulations for registration were gazetted only in 2013.!! Why the delays???

 I was given the task for the PBCYCW of presenting the regulations for registration to child and youth care workers in a national outreach programme. The enthusiasm and recognition for the need to register was demonstrated by the huge numbers of child and youth care workers who crowded the venues  in the Provinces to collect forms for registration.

With the registration of child and youth care workers came the expectation that there would be considerable advance in the status, availability of university degrees, salaries, recognition

Let's start with the last first.

 Well before registration  Masud Hoghughi trained South African organisations in the Problem Profile Approach ( PPA). Never will I  forget. He asked the question "How do you treat the children?" The answers came back in a long list. Given a voice, heard, listened to, with dignity, non-judgementally, developmentally, with respect, advocated for. Then he asked the question "How do you want to be treated?" When it came back...it was the same list. 

"You see," he said " what's good for the goose is good for the gander".

Implications - - management, other social service professions, employers and higher authorities should treat child and youth care workers as they expect child and youth care workers to treat the children.

 What child and youth care workers want is for this to happen. Especially after so many years of being regarded as a support worker, nanny, housefather, housemother, 

I have concluded that what child and youth care worker . want is more than this...it's what child and youth care workers and the field of Child and Youth Care NEED. 

Child and youth care workers, registered as professionals, constantly complain that the profession and their work is not recognised, And now with knowledge, skill and professionalisation. they are still treated like support workers. Some say that they are given domestic duties, driving and what I call "counting underpants". 

For all those years now, child and youth care workers themselves, the PBCYCW, the Council, the NACCW and others in higher authority have been informing and advocating to the authorities that child and youth care workers are in need of formal, administrative recognition as professionals and so given equal status and recognition as other social service professionals with the same qualifications and experience.  There is advocacy happening and advocates. It's a pity, I think that we don't always get to hear about what was said and done. The response is invariably that this is heard and that it is ongoing work in progress

But as I said "time ticks by". The effect of all this is reported as not  experienced by child and  youth care workers in the workplace. Despite the public service strike some years ago when social service professionals delivered 13 demands to higher authority. These demands included better conditions and salaries and equality of status for child and youth care workers. Despite the undertaking by the then Minister that by the end of that October month the demands would be met, in real terms for child and youth care workers...nothing, they say, has changed.

Child and youth care workers say that they need to be heard, to be listened to, that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, appears to be an unfulfilled need. It has to do  with need for esteem and for self-actualisation. When needs are not met.?.. well.. ask Maslow.

Availability of University education grew at first, then shrunk. Distance learning through UNISA was a huge step in the right direction for the field of Child and Youth Care. Then quite suddenly, it didn't accept an intake and removed child and youth care from the list of courses offered. This left, country wide, a good number of child and youth care workers trapped.at  the diploma level. In terms of the SACSSP registration regulations, their level of education permits them to register only at the auxiliary level unless they submit a Portfolio of Evidence (PoE) showing competence at the degree level

Just before registration regulations were signed and published in a Government Gazette in 2013, the then Minister of Social Development injected a significant boost into the Child and Youth Care field and practice in South Africa. Her Department of Social Development on her initiative and leadership  .  funded 10,000 child and youth care workers to be trained as. learners at the Auxiliary level and to be deployed throughout South Africa in the community -based Child and Youth Care model known as ISIBINDI. It rolled out very well. Targets were largely met. Learners received two years training while they practiced. Stipends were given to the learners...Ideal !

The Child and Youth Care service reached village and rural areas where it was needed and otherwise not available.

 I remember at the launch of the project in one of the Provinces, a state official said to the learners and leaders that, in that Province, the budget had been approved and available for the stipends. There were to be graduates at the end of that year. I asked for the budget for those who would then be qualified....silence. 

 And so, will you believe it? That situation has continued for many, child and youth care workers. Graduated at the auxiliary level but still paid the learners stipend. (and sometimes not paid for long periods).

 At a fairly recent meeting with the Department of Social Development, I was told that salaries (as opposed to stipends), can only be paid to persons appointed to posts and that posts have not been created or approved. There were times when, in any case, posts in the state service had been frozen. The procedures and protocols for the establishment of posts is a very long complicated process. they said.

The wants of child and youth care workers? The needs of child and youth care workers? 

Remember, it's quite a long list ; status, recognition, a voice, heard, dignity, development, respect University access, equality, salaries.

Remember. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.








Sunday, 24 January 2021

NIGHTSHIFT...CHILD AND YOUTH CARE IN SOUTH AFRICA

 


It was but a few weeks into my career - yes, it IS a career. Because of staff problems, I was the Director and the on-line child and youth care worker on the boys floor. 

I would sleep on a small bed in my office with the door open. Close enough to hear anything .

 One night I awoke and heard the  boys breathing - the deep sleep breathing. It came to me "OMG "- not blasphemous, a real prayer call for help .OMG, I am responsible for the well-being and the lives of all these children !.

 The reality of the responsibility hit me as a very scary moment.

 There is a misunderstanding among many - including some managers and supervisors that nightshift is easy. It's not. And with Covid 19 now...well???

"I'm so tired. I've just come off nightshift"... a regular cry from child and youth care workers. 

The 24/7 child and youth care worker did sleep as I did, with one ear open and a get-up at 22.00 and at 02.00hrs for the routine bed check.

 With shifts, nightshift is an awake shift. Caught napping and your in for a disciplinary.

 I want to begin at bedding down. As evening and night approaches, we, as child and youth care workers experience what is called a critical moment in the day's activity.

 Child and youth care workers learn to  know the children's individual night and sleeping behaviours and issues.

 This is probably not a full list but based on experiences: Night fears, bedwetting, scared of the dark, sleep talking, sleep walking, insomnia... (these like to talk to others at close beds when the others want to sleep).

 This blog is not intended to train. It is a conversation starter and a sharing of experiences. What follows are some bedding down and nightshift experiences.

Bedding down started at least an hour before lights out. The rhythm of the day gradually changed...slowed down. One of the past practices was to  put children and  young people into  beds and bedrooms from a brightly lit, TV on, noisy space to a sudden lights out blackness. "Goodnight everyone...WHAM! dark. It didn't work. All those night fearers, bad dreamers, and others were plunged into their darkest  moment. - so to speak. 

It wasn't at all expensive to fit dimmer light switches . The TV went off in the pre-bedtime hour, no screen blue light they say has been proven to negatively affect falling asleep). It was a good time to get into pyjamas, read, play board games ,and to talk. It's a really good time to talk, exchange the stories of the day's events and to talk. A lot of really good child and youth care work was done inthis quieter time.

"Ok, lets get into bed."

 The younger ones liked story time, were eased and supported by the child and youth care worker sitting ant the end of the bed for a while and just saying good night. In the space of the older ones, if they shared, they enjoyed talking for a while among themselves. Lights were reduced on the dimmer. Re-assurances were given, especially to night fearers that the child and youth care worker will be awake and checking regularly. 

Children and young people who had been sexually abused at night were often afraid to sleep or of the night.

Rhythm slowly, slowly slowed.

Then dark.

 There he walked eyes open. I was afraid that he would trip over furniture and fall. Someone told me that sleepwalkers can hear and understand when you talk. Gentle quiet talking. Gently slipped my  arm under his. Gently turned and guided back to bed. talking and explaining. Next morning he remembered nothing about it 

There must be debate as to whether, in the night check and bedwetters toilet time you find a young person having a wet bed. Can a young person sleep in a wet bed, or must the the linen be changed there and then ..with much disruption for everyone?

He was a bedwetter. Also one  of those who didn't sleep. He had such level of awake alertness at night that he most frequently disturbed the others mot often deliberately to organise night time fun and games. Following medical examination, he was put on medication to give him sleep. Which he did, so deeply that the bedwetting became what we called flooding. Everything was wet. Duvet and even the pillow. Bed changes would sometimes happen twice a night. With the boy pretty well asleep standing up during the disruption to everyone in the same space.

Night fears were expressed as the lights dimmed.to semi-dark. "I'm scared". A little night light was good.

It was tempting to use a candle as in the village, but not that clever. We had a fire...a real evacuation fire. Why? She was reading a book under the blankets with a candle after lights out. ... These no sleepers!

"Are You awake?" "Yes",. "Can I sleep in the bed with you?" You must have had a bad dream, "No. At home we all sleep in one bed. I'm all by myself in my bed. - not Ok for me. I can't sleep nice". ....... and now?

Fortunately, fortunately day shift usually come in to do the wake-up moments  and deal with the wake-up dramas

The night is enough!

And with Covid 19... added nightshift child and youth care tap-dancing.









Sunday, 10 January 2021

KEEPING GOOD IMPRESSIONS ...CHILD AND YOUTH CARE IN SOUTH AFRICA

 


It had to do with a small funding request for staff training and an idea to use an underused room to develop a Training Centre. "It would be good for the organisation and the facility to be known for Training and Education. We need child and youth care workers to be professionals". 

Board Member: "We don't want professionals. Our funding public just want to know that we have people who love the children Professionals want money like soccer players That's not what is wanted."

My first Board meeting on appointment after a month in office.  "It's to be expected...change in top management and their anxieties about change to what they had become used to. We had five absconders this month. The regulations require that I  report this.

Board: "Why have we not had absconders before?"

Board member: " Because we were not told. The absconder figures were never reported before."

I understood that. The Board members wanted to hear the good news. They wanted to tell their business colleagues of the excellence of the children's project they manage.

So, Managers often felt pressure to give them what the Board wanted to hear.

Win/win for the IMAGE of the programme, the Board and the Manager  

 Image had most frequently to do with what I called the funding image or branding image. Funders wanted to be identified with a positive, seriously successful programme. The media, especially the local newspaper were regarded as a critical, major tool in this. It had to do with funding. 

The Board changed my job description. Targets were set. I was told to write aditorials (advertising in the form of an editorial type article) and to have five media mentions a week.   50% of my time was to be spent fundraising through soliciting verbally or the writing of funding proposals which were to be submitted to the Board each month either for signature or for noting.

My argument was that the Board had the responsibility of ensuring that the service was financed. It was my responsibilty to ensure therapeutic and developmental programmes reach the children.

 "We don't have time for that, we have our own businesses to run. We can advise and use   our business contacts." 

Before my time the good impression tone was set.

There was an objection mad by the church denominations to the Department of Welfare that the children were being taken by the facility Manager to one particular religious gathering every Sunday. One church denomination in particular voiced the objection and gathered support from the others. "They belong with the denominations of their parents and in which they were raised." The objection was written as a letter and sent to the local newspaper for publication. The Board was informed of this. 

The Board Chairperson rushed to the newspaper editor and asked  him to not publish the letter...in the best interest of the facility. The editor blocked publication. 

The press was silenced. 

I did hear of some programmes having a nothing in the press policy in case the good image can, in any way somehow be brought into question through misinterpretation by journalists or the public. If not a nothing in the press policy, Mangers were often held responsible by their Boards to put strict controls on what gets published. Staff are usually contractually not allowed to release anything to the media. 

We met once a month... the Directors of the Anglican Children's Homes in Johannesburg. We did this together  with the lay counsellor's Chairperson who then reported to the Bishop monthly.

 Like the absconders story, the many realities of child and youth care work and experiences within the facilities were never reported, What was reported, was similar to what we understood the Boards wanted to hear and the Bishop had the ultimate authority over the Boards. Managers wanted the crack free image to be carried. The reports were always the same. Good school results, pass rates, sporting achievements, young people recognised as school prefects, captains and good behaviour, work well done by child and  youth care workers.

 It  worried me that if Managers were under pressure to keep making good impressions then their need could become expectations and then possibly. become demands on child and youth care workers. What then is the possibility that child and youth care workers be disciplined for the very behaviours of the children and young people they are professionally employed to grow from not-coping, to coping, from socially intolerable to tolerable, from unregulated to self-regulated? I worried that if pressure to keep a good impression, the branding image, was to become systemic it would shape what we do as child and youth care workers.

 I was amused but equally concerned by a post in Facebook. Some child and youth care worker reported that her niece said that it is the work of child and youth care workers to police children.  

The follow-up comment was.. "First lesson (101) in child and youth care work."     





Sunday, 3 January 2021

HEAR THE LONGING...CHILD AND YOUTH CARE IN SOUTH AFRICA

 


It was a Conference presentation. A residential facility for girls had clearly briefed about 4 adolescent girls to present the, facility and its programme in a very positive light. "It's nice here, we are well cared for with clothing food and child and youth care workers who look after us", and more and more...

 The coaching, for me, was far too obvious.

I was told later, "You never do that". Unfortunately, too late. I had. Come question time my question was, "Girls, If I had a magic wand and gave you one wish to come true, what will it be?"

The team leader replied, "to be with my family as a happy family". She then broke down and wept. Then the rest of the girls cried also. 

This wasn't that unexpected. I had this before. Once in a facility, the middle class lifestyle is attractive, but as child and youth care workers, do we hear the real longing?

They were each given a piece of paper and pen. "Write down "What is CARE?" Boys and girls, all ages. Child and youth care workers wrote what the little ones wanted to say. The idea was to get a profile, a picture the children's view of care so that, if needed, policy and child and youth care work could adjust to meet their expectations of care - seen as their needs.

First, some little background. It was my professional view that at least 50% of the children and young people didn't really need to be there. The conscience solving the then so called issue of white poverty by filling up and funding Children's Homes was not ethical and quite deaf to the the children's real longings. It was further supported by Boards of Management which were keen to keep a steady predictable heads on beds monthly income by keeping the facility full. It encouraged long term stay.

 The environment was comfortable with excellent facilities, decor, meals and recreational facilities.

The children's response to the "What is CARE" question followed the Conference girl's presentation. It was defined in terms of the child as and youth care worker's, then, practice view. "You are cared for when they give you nice clothes to wear, nice duvet on my bed, nice food...especially pudding, sweets and ice-cream. They look after you when you are sick."

I'll stay", she said. "My little brother can go to my mother. I'll never get to college. If I stay, I will. I need to be with her and my brother but I'll stay".

But do you hear the longing?

In other contexts, I heard that called, parking off. 

Small built. A good looking youngster in care. His mother's situation eased' She said that she could look after him now. He can come to the room where she was staying. In my opinion it was a bit risky. What if the psychological and so the small financial situation should change again? 

"What if things change again?  You can choose. What if you and your mom have to live under bridges again? No TV, No new clothes, cardboard for a bed? " 

No hesitation "Ill be with Mom". 

'Twas like that Conference moment  The longing.

She only ever glimpsed her father once as he passed her and her mother when the bus he was driving passed them in that street. "That's your father", the mother said. Now knowing the bus company name for whom he worked, she set out to find him. It took three weeks and she went to an address given to her by some other driver. When she got there she was told that he had died in a vehicle crash. She grieved deeply. In her tears she sobbed, " I didn't even have time to call you Dad."  

There's a song I really love. It's called The Prayer of the Children. It is a call through the voices of children for peace, safety, and love in the world in which they are caught up, trapped in violence and war-like situations. A prayer also for the saving of their souls if they should die before they wake. Trapped in our world

Most moving. 

As at the Conference presentation, all too often the needs, the longing can be masked in an institution world. Then through the cracks,the light shines.

"Only you", she said "Only you. You and Social Welfare are keeping me from my mother. You and the Social Workers are keeping me prisoner."

Hear the longing. 

Do we hear the prayer of the children? 

  




Wednesday, 30 December 2020

PRE-COVID CHRISTMAS IN CARE ...CHILD AND YOUTH CARE IN SOUTH AFRICA

 


"My children have sorted out their old toys. We wanted them to learn how to give to the less fortunate".

 There their children stood. Boxes in hand. Old, often worn and broken toys. '' This is for the poor children".  they would say.

"I'm sure you can fix them," say the parents

The intention, I suppose is good. The reality longer term - I'm not sure.

 With this kind of experience in mind, a newspaper journalist who wrote at Christmas referred to the children in care as   "weggooi kinders" (throw-away children). It was an insulting, irresponsible choice of word to highlight abandonment and neglect...and to encourage people to give of their unwanted toys and children's clothing.

The children and youth in the facility picked it up. The children read what she wrote, as "she says we are garbage. We are throw-away children"

The delegation came to the office. They wanted action from the newspaper reporter, an apology and a firm agreement with the newspaper that nothing would be printed in the press without them. "Nothing about us, without us". Quite right!

Meanwhile broken toys and worn clothing streamed in.

 What the children and youth wanted was NEW CLOTHES. It was predictable. Every year "Christmas clothes, chosen by us". 

Miracles, I always would say, happen in the helping profession - especially for children. The Board of Management made it their annual project. Child and youth care workers accompanied children and young people to the clothing retail shops. It was a memory making event. Some of the young people in care at the time, now 45 to 50 something years old still remember. 

For some reason there appeared to be a certain leniency at Christmas in the granting of leave of absence. Was it in some cases sentiment over professionality on the part of the Department of Welfare? "Families must be together at Christmas."  And if it wasn't direct family, hosts abounded. "We would like to have an orphan with us at Christmas.'

Then came the many happy returns. "Please come and get me. Things are bad here".

'Twas so. Weddings funerals and Christmas, alcohol flows freely. It starts out OK. Then family feuds often raise themselves all over again.

Christmas day then, was often a day of suprises.

The policy was that staff got away every second Christmas, Christmas  "off".  That included me. We took it in turns to host Christmas lunch for the left behinds and the otherwise unexpected number of many happy returns. who could have had to be fetched on Christmas day itself. The numbers game.

 No wine on the table that year...and no turkey leftovers !!.

 Oh, I forgot to tell you. Before the end of the fourth term, the Board of Management insisted that they join the children for a Christmas dinner. They wanted that the children should meet them and that they saw the children in the newly bought Christmas clothes. The children saw the faces of the gift givers. Thanks were the order of the occasion

At some point, Father Christmas arrived. Ho, Ho Ho. - bag full of wrapped presents for each child.

Every year at Christmas the motorbike boys in Johannesburg have what they call the Toy Run. They buy toys and bike en-masse to some place to hand them to  poor children.

One year the chose St Goodenough for their handout. There was any amount of preparation needed for this high profile event. St Goodenough had the responsibility of getting some other child and youth care facilities and programmes to come on that day, to provide catering and to accomodate 300 - 500 motorbikes 600 - 1000 counting riders and their pavilion passengers. Father Christmas would arrive in a helicopter landed on the soccer-fields.

 First came the motorbikes and bikers. Hell's Angels, in fact all manner of Angels, Christian bikers and skinheads and whosoever more. Then the wrapped parcels were made into piles. Boy, Girls aged 4-13, boys ,girls 13 and over. They          formed small mountains of wrapped gifts. Then came the helicopter. The bearded man in the red outfit appeared.

 There was some semblance of order created with long queues of children and young people regulated by child and youth care workers to meet, one by one with Father Christmas and be given a present.

Things happened which disrupted the intended good order of the event. Many a child and young person stashed the gift away and joined the queue again. On leaving I saw children and young people carrying up to five presents in their arms. "It's for my cousins at home. They couldn't come", 

 There was the problem of the bread rolls filled with our traditional sausage (boerewors). The St Goodenough Old-Boys ran out. Had to out to buy more and all their money was stolen.

 Then for the final blow. After the event the organisers came to see me. 'We will never come back here again.  There were far too many black children getting presents!"

Christmas giving is never intended to do this. We all know. But in child and youth care work It seems to me to be a difficult balance, creating memorable Christmas moments, exampling the spirit of giving against the possibility, the risk, of a life-span world view. A risk of of learned dependency, the handout mentality and "I'm deprived, you must, you owe me".

 I wonder?

I wonder also, has Christmas 2020, the Covid Christmas presented us with any lessons?

Sunday, 20 December 2020

DISTORTED...DAMAGING OR DIFFERENT...CHILD AND YOUTH CARE IN SOUTH AFRICA.

 


Radio 2020 FM

"We apologise for that. there was distortion on that last tune we played. It wasn't the disk. The disk is fine. It was the motor that drives it. It was irregular. It caused WOW. We'll fix it.

 I knew the tune well. Not quite as I was accustomed to hear it. It's called the Unchained Melody.  

A South African couple in London were eating takeaway cooked chicken as they walked through the streets. A stranger, a Londoner stopped them. "Are you from South Africa?" he asked. "Yes. How do you know?"

"Only South Africans eat chicken with their fingers walking in the streets and crunch on the chicken bones." 

 Wasn't the bones exactly, but those crunchy bits of bone at the joints.

It was not quite as Londoners were accustomed to see chicken eaten. It was another normal.

 It was a policy change. "As at the new term, we won't have Junior and Senior Houses. Younger or older brother siblings will be in the same House." All were duly briefed and prepared.

Day one - more accurately, night one, of the new term.

 Stones were thrown onto my roof. Being a galvanised metal roof, the hard metallic thuds could not be ignored.

 It was Moleta. "Tomorrow morning we'll talk".

"We were always together in the streets. We came in together. We were together, our beds next to each other, in the dormitory.  Now he's not next to me in the dorm. You took my friend from me and put him in another house. You have broken our friendship. It can't ever be same now".

I heard myself talking in my head.

"I have childhood and school friends. We live in different cities  even different Provinces. We see each other seldom. We are still and will always be. This is distorted relationship behaviour".

I heard my professional self say

"Let's see what we can do. Your friend is with his brother, I can see, you too are his brother, Let's find a bed for you in that other house as well. And Moleta,if you want to talk anytime, you can knock on my door, even it's at night. I'll listen."

I had to make a sideways step. 

"You had better come quickly. He's getting very aggressive, threatening. He says he'll beat us up now. He says he wants to talk with you.

He stood, feet firmly planted a little apart, his arms as if he had tennis- balls in his armpits. His pupils were narrow and his colour up...the fighting stance.

"You will take me home in the mini-bus"

It  was his weekend to go to his mother after a long time on the streets and a lot of reunion work.

 "We gave you money to get home in the taxi"

 I'll @@@ you up if you don't take me home in the mini-bus."

There was a very long verbal toing and froing when suddenly the main man burst into tears. "I don't know how to do it."

It's not that he didn't know the taxi bus ranks. He didn't know which taxi-bus to board and what to do to pay and get home..

Two professional steps backwards. It was a WOW. So much unlearning to be done. Unlearning about streetwise, learned dependency, adolescent independence, hand-out living, ... the world owes me, . - lots of misconceptions for us to relearn. And so we did. ,.. slowly but surely. 

He was said to be streetwise. It meant that he knew very well how to survive . His favourite haunt was the red-light area of Johannesburg.

 It was on his mother's insistence that social workers place  him in the facility. She said that he needed to be contained - not locked in, but to be managed, He needed to learn, she said, to live within some so-called normal societal behavioural constraints, to shift his behaviour from intolerable to be at least tolerable, acceptable to her and to most other people.

 Sounded reasonable.

Do's and don'ts, institutional rules made little sense to him. "Why?" 

US, "Because that's how it is". 

HIM "" You got it all wrong. Boring, very boring. In the streets I'm free. I live by being clever. About four days later he would reappear, "I'm back." It was an unchained melody in notes that we were unaccustomed to hearing. It was another normal for us.

It was all an unlearning and relearning experience for us, It asked us to look at our young people and children's worlds through their spectacles. Our thinking took a major shift. Our programmes, our approach had to meet the young people's world and their needs...not the young people fit our mould..fit our cookie cutter.