NUMBER 324• 31 JULY 2003 • CYC 20 YEARS AGO
INDEX OF QUOTES
It is clear from the demographic data that child care workers are out there working with social workers since an overwhelming (77%) majority of the social workers had worked with child care workers. However, on all accounts child care workers are "newer on the block" e.g. mean years in the field, range of years in field, mean years employed, mean years in their professional associations, levels attained by formal training.
No doubt the experience of working together contributes to their similarities in defining child care. Both groups used functions performed, outcome of service and/or descriptive affective characteristics in conceptualizing, therefore defining child care. They not only conceptualized child care similarly, but within the five most frequently cited child care functions they agree on four out of five: professional consultation, child management, assessment of child/family, and report writing. It is interesting to note that social workers have recreational leadership as one of the top five whereas child care workers do not have recreational leadership anywhere on their list. It is possible, if not likely, that because child care workers often program children into group activities this is viewed by social workers as “recreation or play”, whereas for child care workers the recreation activity is viewed as a way of dealing with peer relations, co-operation, attending to task, or some other abstraction of a child’s needs. This kind of confusion may be the result of not communicating in greater detail what child care entails, or leaving to the imagination of other professionals their perceptions of child care functions. It is noteworthy that social workers used fewer dimensions than child care workers in defining child care and that social workers who had never worked with child care workers attributed even fewer functions to child care. The implication of these data is that the more direct experience one has with child care and child care workers, the more information and understanding.
What is surprising, and somewhat disconcerting, is the number of child care workers (58%) and social workers (67%) who agree that the child care profession lacks clarity of role. Even though they conceptualize child care similarly and identify the same functions they tend to believe there is confusion. Perhaps it is as some reported that child care workers are clear but that the world is confused! Alternatively, it may be that the professional literature in child care is perpetrating an unfounded myth! Finally, and grasping for straws, it may be that like the “new kid on the block” until a newer kid hits the street child care remains perceived as new and therefore undefined!
Whether the role confusion exists or not, may not be the main issue. The effects of perceived confusion differed for social workers and child care workers. Social workers tended to report that confusion had implications for the field or profession, e.g. lack of solidarity, lack of appropriate and consistent utilization of child care workers. Perhaps working together, more communication and/or a good old fashion education-public relations campaign could clear up these kinds of issues.
More complex is the fact that child care workers reported being frustrated, confused, feeling forced to perform inappropriate functions, and/or experiencing job dissatisfaction. These reported impacts of role confusion are more personal and hint at a personal professional identity crisis. It is difficult to explain why persons who are doing child care, who can define child care and who can agree on functions of child care claim to be unclear about their role(s) and confused! The fact that they work in a variety of settings with different special needs children, have different specialty training and use diverse methods/technology does not help to explain these reports since medical personnel, psychologists, social workers, and teachers also have such diversity. Perhaps what these allied professions have that child care does not have is social sanction or permission from other professions to cross certain boundaries. In other words the new rules about whether and how these new kids are going to participate are not yet clearly established or at least not articulated, or at the very least not yet in print!
This changing of boundaries (the establishment of new rules about who participates and how) in large systems is a slow, arduous and often painful process. Even when the system wants to change, restructuring is often difficult. Child care workers can help to establish these boundary changes if they see it as that kind of an issue — a systems change issue — as opposed to a rejection, “we are not good enough”, issue. Additionally, other professional groups can facilitate boundary changes by appreciating the need to accommodate these new participants on the team rather than protecting their turf.
FRANCES RICKS and JENNIFER CHARLESWORTH
Ricks, F. & Charlesworth, J.(1982) Role and Function of Child Care Workers. Journal of Child Care. Vol.1 No.1 pp 40-42