NUMBER 1191 • 01 JULY • A NEW APPROACH TO RESIDENTIAL CHILD CARE
A particular weakness in Morris’ attack on residential special schools is its anglocentric emphasis, for no reference is made to residential child care practice in other countries. For example, if Morris had looked at practice in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, she would have found that the main requirement for people working in residential child care is a qualification in social pedagogy (Petrie, Boddy & Cameron, 2002). Social pedagogy is not narrowly concerned with just a child’s schooling but relates to the whole child: body, mind, feelings, spirit, creativity and, crucially, the relationship of the individual to others (Hart & Monteux, 2004). It has much more in common with parenting than with social work or social care, as social pedagogues working in residential settings share all aspects of the children’s everyday lives. Petrie et al. (2002) have expressed the view that:
Framing children’s work in terms of pedagogy has the potential for an inclusive, normalising approach, with the main focus on children as children, while recognising that some children have special and additional needs. (Petrie et al., 2002, p. 34)
According to Petrie et al. (2002), the emphasis on relationships and living alongside children, expanding their world through creative activities and providing positive role models, has much to commend it in the UK. What is noteworthy here is the contention that those residential special schools which adopt a social pedagogic model provide a more inclusive and normal setting; one in which the individual needs of the children and young people are likely to be better met. Particularly important is the transformation in the nature of the relationship between care worker and child from clientship to friendship (Petrie et al., 2002).
It should be made clear that friendship should not be equated with friendliness. As John Macmurray has noted, whilst friendliness should not be despised, it is only the imitation of friendship and a poor substitute for the real thing (Costello, 2002). Friendship is the social cement that binds individuals and communities together. The most important feature of that relationship is its reciprocity which dispenses with all notions of those giving and those receiving care. Further, a relationship which is based on mutuality is a relationship of equals in which each learns from the other. Acceptance of this model presents a clear challenge to the purpose and value of conventional professional relationships.
But as Wolfensberger (2003) has observed, even if a child is fortunate enough to have a care worker who is a friend, that worker will be constrained by all manner of rules, regulations and restrictions from acting in true friendship. Further, whilst childcare agencies may assume some parental roles, they cannot offer the love that goes with the parental role. And where love is absent, Wolfensberger argues, weak and devalued people will continue to be at risk of exposure to,abuse and violence.
Jackson, R. (2004). Residential special schooling : The inclusive option. Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 3(2) pp. 27-28