NUMBER 432• 15 JANUARY 2004 • INDIVIDUAL DEMANDS
INDEX OF QUOTES
We postulated earlier that quality practice in group care demands close intimate interactions — the essence of people-changing activity — while bureaucratic practices are antithetical to care and treatment efforts (Wolins & Wozner, 1982, p. 54). Group care workers tend to be caught between these opposing demands such as being fully engaged with all children and being especially attentive to children who require individual adult involvement. The daily worker’s dilemma is well known: provide a very personal “good night” to all and also provide quality involvement with a few individuals. These difficult time-chores are inherent in all caring care and do not represent an inadequacy in the organization or staff. The organizational issue is: In which way can staff be assisted to assure more quality time with the children or young people plus added time with some? Simultaneously, one needs to recognize as appropriate the children’s wish for more attention and the workers’ disappointment in not being able to deliver to everyone’s satisfaction. Organizationally and clinically, caring efforts have to be objectively reviewed for the possibility of additional or alternative opportunities for personal, intimate interactions between the children and their daily care-givers. Clinically and organizationally, efforts have to be directed towards finding new opportunities for intimate and varied interaction between children and workers. For the latter, this kind of searching may lead to such practices as provision for intimate conversations before bedtime, rather than a mere get-together snack period; reading a story rather than a TV hour; a quick tussle, or other special quality time with workers. Another example would be the worker being available in the morning as a person for protests or laughter rather than as an organizer of chores and a manager of the long day ahead.
Bureaucratically, individualized nurturing care has to be conceived as the central ingredient of group care work with children who have experienced many separations and disruptions in their lives. Nurturing is not only required out of compassion and a humanistic belief that children and young people need love and affection, it is also based on scientific knowledge that children and young people want and will learn to care for and to love others when they have experienced genuine care themselves (Kobak, 1979). Organizationally, then, emotional involvement has to be defined as part and parcel of the work commitment for care workers, It has to be explicitly specified in each job description as an integral part of the daily ingredients of group care practice.
Another practice dilemma stems from the continuous personal and emotional demands placed upon workers in the face of administrative expectations that they must not get too deeply involved emotionally in their work. This admonition seems to originate from the organizational demand for objectivity. Emotional involvement, at he same time, is the group care worker’s speciality (Barnes & Kelman, 1974). In many ways, group care workers find themselves n the same situation as parents who are overtaxed by children’s never-ending and frequently incomprehensible demands. In fact, care workers, in a different way, find themselves akin to “abusive parents,” who, as Durkin observes, “are chronically overstressed and undersupported, have incompatible demands made on them, and are alienated and relatively powerless to control their fate” (Durkin, 1982a, p.5).
In tune with Durkin’s pointed analysis, desired change cannot be accomplished by a frontal attack on the quality of a worker’s involvement. Instead, personal stress can be reduced through institutional support and the establishment of manageable working conditions. In concrete terms, this would mean established working hours with periodic rest breaks in a location which assures separation from the work place. Also, it is essential to work out concrete, achievable care objectives rather than vague care expectations. A vague objective like “to help the children to manage well throughout the day” is absurd when these same youngsters can actually barely manage sufficient concentration to lace up their shoes. Above all, it means providing care workers with support and supervision for their care work rather than their managerial work per se so that their emotional involvement enhances rather than deters nurturing care. Such practices are psychologically sound, make clinical sense, and can be logically as well as bureaucratically arranged, managed, and appraised.
Maier, H. (1987). Child Care within an organizational context: The inherent strain. In Henry Maier Developmental Group Care of Children and Youth: Concepts and Practice. New York: The Haworth Press. pp. 178-179
Barnes, F & Kelman, S. H. (1974) From Slogan to Concepts: A Basis for Change in Child Care Work. Child Care Quarterly, 34(1), 7-23
Durkin, R. P. (1982a) The Crisis in Children's Services: The dangers and opportunities for Child Care Workers. Second National Child Care Workers' Conference, Banff, Alberta. (Unpublished paper.)
Kobak, D. (1979) Teaching Children to Care. Children Today, 8(2), 6-7, 34-35
Wolins, M. & Wozner, Y. (1982) Revitalizing Residential Settings. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.