NUMBER 1099 • 4 DECEMBER • what goes right
It is always much easier to spot and talk about what goes ‘wrong’ than to discuss and feel the weight of what goes ‘right’. Though it is often difficult to identify good work in a residential unit for this very reason it is extremely important to do so.
Most individuals generally know fairly clearly when they have made a ‘mistake’ in handling (for the children let them know in no uncertain terms). It is much more difficult for them to see when something good has been done because they are less sensitive (through training or otherwise) to the more subtle response of the children to ‘good’ handling. However unless staff do discern good work or are genuinely credited with it, the inevitable depression associated with ‘mistakes’ tends to get the upper hand.
Here we see another of the difficulties associated with residential work. In one sense the whole unit is ‘the worker’. In a fieldwork setting the worker can tell far more clearly when he or she has done a ‘good’ or a ‘poor’ bit of work and whether or not the agency is involved. In the residential setting it is much more difficult to disentangle the influence, and therefore the satisfaction due, to the individual worker or to the unit as a whole. Such influence is generally separated out more clearly for ‘mistakes’ (or seems to be so) than for ‘good’ work. The consequence is that the individual worker often feels personally more ‘blame’ than ‘praise’ and this adds to the already considerable stress involved. To enable us to redress this balance more realistically there is a desperate need for detailed case studies on short and longer periods in the life of a unit which will concentrate on well-functioning as well as ill-functioning aspects of the unit’s work.
Beedell, C.(1970) Residential life with Children. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. pp. 92–93.