NUMBER 635• 16 NOVEMBER • CHOICES IN CARING
A child care worker was asked to describe his job. He responded:
It’s about choices. First we decide that we want to become involved in.. .building relationships with children. Then we decide how we’re going to teach them the ABCs and DLRs [daily living routines]; how we’re going to tuck them in and help them solve problems; how we’re going to deal with temper tantrums, and so on. But in the end, they have to make choices about how they want to live. After they get to know and maybe like us, after they hopefully see and feel another side of themselves, they have to choose what they want to do with their lives. The most we can ultimately hope for is that they make better choices for themselves. It’s as simple or perhaps as complex as that.
We have chosen the title,Choices in Caring: Contemporary Approaches to Child and Youth Care Work, because we agree with this worker; child and youth care work is largely about choices. Choices that we make when we enter the field. Choices that we make when we select a certain intervention strategy or philosophy of treatment. And most important, the constructive choices that we hope our children will be empowered to make after they have been in our care.
These are all tough, difficult, and demanding choices. They stretch the human fiber to its limit, not only because young lives hang in the balance but because we also have to strive to make each decision in a caring way, with empathy, compassion, trust, and security foremost in our minds.
Choices in child and youth care work also have to be made with the knowledge that the future of our society is inextricably linked with the destiny of our children. Caring for children is not a societal option. If our society does not begin to make a more serious effort to confront the problems that plague our troubled children, the quality of life in the future for us and our children will be in question.
Rollo May wrote in The Courage to Create, "A man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them." The approaches that we have selected for this book reflect this attitude. Each contributor has based his or her approach on a conviction to enhance the quality of care for troubled children. Our philosophies and methods vary somewhat, but we all share a common commitment to serving the best interests of children and their families in today’s complex society. This shared commitment includes a continued striving to recognize each child as a unique individual who has dignity and potential and who requires nurturing and encouragement. In our view, emotional disturbances, cultural differences, behavioral problems, and developmental delays are not handicaps but special starting places from which to build.
We see child and youth care workers primarily as teachers of the necessary daily life skills of social and emotional competence. This teaching is done through the therapeutic use of a meaningful relationship and constructive adult modeling. Child and youth care workers are at times also scientists, artisans, and artists. As scientists, they conduct their practices with technical rigor and a constant search for appropriate answers. As artisans, they hone their skills through hard work and hours of practice. And finally, as artists, they draw upon their intuitive talents to foster dynamic learning environments.
For the purposes of this book, child and youth care workers are defined as persons who work directly with troubled (emotionally disturbed, abused, chemically dependent, dependent neglected, delinquent, etc.) and/or developmentally handicapped (mentally retarded, physically impaired, deaf, blind, autistic, mentally ill, etc.) children and youths in residential treatment centers, group homes, temporary shelter care, psychiatric hospitals, correctional facilities, and home- and community-based programs.
MARK KRUEGER & NORMAN POWELL
Krueger, M. A. & Powell, N. W. (1990) in the Preface to Choices in Caring: Contemporary approaches to child and youth care work. Washington D. C. : Child Welfare League of America. pp. ix - x