I am in my second year of Child and Youth Care Counselling at Mount Royal University. I am currently placed in a school with children who have learning challenges and disabilities. The class I am placed with have many behavioural challenges that are due to the children's home life. I find the students have the support they need or lack it. Some are strictly there due to how they are raised and can no longer be at other schools. Whereas others are there because their parents recognize their child's differences and want to give them the help they need.
I find it challenging to let some students go home at the end of the day because my personal feelings get in the way. Some children go home to supportive parents and others are raised in a home where everything goes with no discipline and others are unaware of where they will be staying the following week.
I am hoping that someone will be able to give me some tools on how to keep my personal emotions separate from my professional life. My main concerns are how do you let a child go home every day when you know that it probably is not the best thing for them? How do you leave your opinions at the door everyday without being able to confront their parents?
The minute you stop hurting and worrying you should quit. Unfortunately, accepting federal “standards of care”, i.e. “the minimum standard of care” will always cause us some angst. We care about our kids and want more for them – but the law doesn’t want for them what we want for them. Take the best care of them you can while you’re with them, and turn them over to God. Pray if you want to. Let them know you are on their side and wish they could get what they deserve. Always wish them well and be thankful for the opportunity to give them whatever it is you can – think of how their life would be if they didn’t have you.
Don’t underestimate the power of a moment you spend with a child while they are in your care. Sometimes modelling what a respectful relationship is is all we can do for children. Knowing that planting seeds around a relational experience that may be something they have never experienced is a gift you can give to them, even if they are not accepting of it at the time. This is how you can do your best work and be proud of the work you do, this is the part you have control [not in an over powering sense] over because once they leave your care you no longer have control over what happens in their life. Knowing you did not create the circumstances in which they live but that you can be a positive piece in their life puzzle…this is what has helped me over the years. And, some will stick with you more than others. If I find a client I have worked with is lingering with me in thought for a while afterwards this is my prompt to seek consultation and process things more. Best of luck to you, its great insight you have in asking about this.
Macalyn, I think it's important to remember that we are never just working with the child. Whether or not we have much, or any contact with the family, they are always part of the package. Something I have come to understand over the past 24 years is that I have to put aside my personal values and judgments about what "good" parents and families look like. In fact, I often have to broaden my definition of "good" parents and families. What I know is that kids love their parents even when they are not doing as good a job as we wish they were. It is important to respect these relationships even though they are not perfect. I'm not talking about accepting abuse. I'm talking about supporting families who are struggling, parents who are doing their best in any given moment with what they know and the resources they have. Support begins with building trusting relationships with the parents as well as the child. Once we have a foundation of trust we can move on to helping parents see a different way of doing things. Also, and you will get there eventually, we learn over time to accept the limitations of our job. When you are at work give it everything you've got and go home with the knowledge you have done so. Believe that you have made a difference. You have. Then leave it to God, the Universe. Just leave it. We do what we can and that's all we can do but never worry that it isn't enough. Good luck in your journey. Clearly you have a caring heart and the kids you work with will benefit from that.