READING FOR CHILD
AND YOUTH CARE WORKERS
Child and youth care work
Our children's home is situated within the Chatsworth area of Durban and caters for the needs of 104 troubled youth and children. During 1998 there was an increasing demand from school staff for support from the child care staff in managing children and youth with severe behavioural problems and academic underachievement. The co-operation which developed between child and youth care workers and school staff is now regular and ongoing. However, this required careful planning and implementation.
The idea of involving such workers within the school environment was recommended to school staff at discussions which highlighted and clarified the role and functions of child and youth care workers. Hence, there was a positive point of departure to the programme. The programme was aimed at a target group of ten children, ages varying from 6-1 2 years, at a primary school. The target group was identified by the school staff as requiring immediate support. Child care workers offered to provide three hours per day over a period of two months and to be followed by an evaluation with children, the child care and the school staff.
The children involved in the programme were interviewed individually and 60% of them said that they experienced the role of the child and youth care worker as supportive. Further, they felt comfortable sharing their difficulties with these staff as compared with the teacher whom they perceived as more authoritative and easily frustrated. At the same time, 40% of the children indicated that they were embarrassed and felt labelled due to the child and youth care worker involvement in the classroom. They suggested that these staff should be made accessible ta the entire class, thereby removing the "children’s home" child stigma.
The care workers indicated that they experience recognition as full members of the team. Further, they viewed working within the life-space of the child in the school milieu as an exciting and challenging venture. They felt that they were able consistently to address the children’s developmental and academic tasks and needs, thereby building their competency and thus enhancing each child’s self-esteem. The child and youth care workers shared that the majority of the children involved in the programme felt supported and experienced them as being sensitive to their needs, whereas a few children reflected some discomfort but were nevertheless co-operative. According to school staff, behavioural changes were noted in those children involved in the programme. Specifically, they became more attentive during lessons, they completed tasks, there were fewer hitting out behaviours, their tendency to leave the classroom frequently was reduced, there was far less truancy from school, and they made an effort to be more responsible about their homework and care for stationery. The school staff indicated that the role of the child and youth care worker had provided for modelling of behaviour management and other intervention as well as creating an awareness of the non-academic needs of students. Hence the school staff viewed the involvement of child care workers as supportive and complementing their role as educators.
After school hours
The programme has created an awareness within the community, and parents have reached out to the children’s home for guidance and support in relation to their children. They have also suggested the idea of extra-curricular activities after school hours and during school holidays. The programme has been a positive learning experience for both child care and teaching staff. It is clear that the role of the child and youth care worker in the school environment can enhance the ability of children and youth to achieve scholastic, developmental and therapeutic goals.