Principle 1: A client is a person
Given that we serve dozens and maybe even hundreds of
‘clients’ a year, it
is easy to forget that every ‘client’ we admit is in fact a person. All persons,
whether marginalised in some way or not, are vulnerable to some degree. Most
of us can manage our vulnerabilities reasonably well, but only because our lives
are relatively stable, and therefore we can avoid exposing our vulnerabilities to
threats. Our ‘clients’ typically do not have stable lives, and by virtue of being
significantly marginalised, they cannot control their social environment. This
means that they cannot avoid exposing their vulnerabilities. As such, there will
be times when they feel under threat.
We know that when a person perceives a threat, stress
begins to build, and
under conditions of stress, our ability to function constructively is reduced.
Our response to stress varies. Some of us become
depressed or passive in spite
of the obvious need to take action; others become defensive and incapacitated
by a lack of trust. The children and young people with whom we work present
us with a wide range of responses to the stress of living as a marginalised
person, and we must abstain from judging such responses until we understand
them fully. It is reasonable that a young person may be uncooperative in an
environment in which they feel threatened.
It is imperative that we do not form opinions about the
behaviour of children
and young people until we get to know them not as ‘clients’ but as persons.
In discovering their vulnerabilities, we can then assist them to find ways of
avoiding exposure to threats in spite of the lack of stability in their lives. This
help will be a major step forward in the search for stability.
Gharabaghi, K. (2008). Ten principles of residential child care. Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, Vol.8 No.1 p.53