Is it ethical having a client or youth in care
over into your home?
This is a very interesting question that I have grappled with many times. In the earlier days of my training I worked in the city with fairly stereotypical (in so far as there is such thing) children in residential care. I always believed that part of my role was to help the kids to broaden their world view, and general life experiences (from that which had usually been disadvantaged and involving some form of abuse or other). As part of approach, I would bring the small children to my farm in Spring to feed the baby lambs, collect eggs etc. As a result I was recently at a wedding of one of those children who is now aged 25 and spoke very warmly and confidently of his experiences in care, including visiting my farm. It is important to note that any visits to my home were always sanctioned by management, there were always two staff present and the children's mobility within my home was restricted (without them knowing) to the kitchen and yard as there was no NEED for them to be anywhere else. On one occasion I provided a camping holiday in my field for a boy (and staff) who would otherwise have had no summer holiday as staff refused to take him away due to his behavioural difficulties.
Unfortunately in the last 10 years, the clinical sanitisation of care practice in Ireland in the name of 'professionalism' has made it almost impossible for care staff to offer such gestures of what I would consider to be ordinary human kindness. The irony is that while I cannot bring a child to my farm with other staff, I can bring one off on my own for several hours in a car without anybody blinking an eye, what sense does that make?
In summary I guess you should ask yourself why you wish to bring a child to you home? Whose needs is it meeting? and can you cope if the personal information that you are bringing to your relationship is used against you at a later stage? after that if you can implement appropriate child and staff protection measures and make the experience as NORMAL as possible I would say go for it!!!
I wish you well and respect the fact that you are even asking the question in the first place, there is hope!!!
This can be a controversial topic but I will share an amusing story. A colleague locked herself out of her home but noticed that a small bathroom window was open. She returned to the unit and enlisted the services of a small adolescent male to accompany her to the house where he climbed through the window and assisted her entry. This experience built their relationship.
Issue 1. Agency protocols... Check with the Policies of your agency and/or management/supervisor.... Case manager/ social worker/ guardian approval would help too.
Issue 2. Allegations.... This can be a realm for false accusations -- esp if this is a youth of the opposite gender. Document you time.. have others'
eyes there. (Sorry but I'm old school on this issue). Beware of the perception of favoritism toward the youth you are bringing into your home...or the expectation of it.
Issue 3. Self care. In my opinion, and in the way I work ... work life and private life are separate... My home is my refuge away from the youth I work with.
This is difficult to answer this without knowing what the context is. Without knowing the context, I would have to say that one must err on the side of caution, and then it is a no-no.
Werner Van Westhuizen
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
When I was a relatively new CYC I was told that taking
children/youth to your home risked being a taunt to them, as in: "See
where you could be living if I chose to adopt you, but you only get a peek
and then we have to go back to.....because in fact I'm not going to adopt
you". That made sense to me and I always encouraged staff to keep
their live away from work separate from their caretaking of the children.
On the other hand, one night when I was an overnight worker the floor below us had a fire started by one of the residents. It was the middle of the night, I called my supervisor for advice and was told that we should consider taking the kids to our houses until other arrangements could be made. I bundled up the lot of them, they slept on my floor, and it did no damage to our relationship.
There's always more than one way to look at things.
I would in foster care where I am a support staff for a high needs adolescent female home. I have had a few youth over to my home, some to stay and some to visit. Some to help me paint and other times because they needed to place to get away and think.
All of these youth I have had a very positive, strong and caring relationship with. I ensured that these youth were aware of my expectations beforehand. I would never allow a youth into my home that I did not have a good relationship and good boundaries with. I would never take a youth over who i didn't know well, and never take over a youth who was in crisis. I think it depends on what need it is meeting, how its facilitated and the amount of trust you have in your relationship with the youth.
All the best!
The two most important words in the English language to use before you make a decision are: So that... e.g. I'm going to take a youth home with me, so that ........ finish the sentence with what your intentions are and see if the statement makes sense.
It is in the nature of ethical questions that there is no definitive answer.
I can remember when I lived close to the place where I worked and the children just loved coming into the family space and exploring our bits and pieces. Sometimes things went missing, but they were always little things, newspapers, bars of soap [always used] and so on. On balance I agree that taking children home is not a good idea. But where I work now we have highly personalised rooms, with valuable and personal items on open display. The doors are open and we have never had anything taken or deliberately broken even though we have the usual angry and destructive events. In ethical issues don't fixate on the answer and don't let go of the question.
This is an interesting discussion. I really like
Lorraine's response, and it makes perfect sense to me. I remember however a
really bad incident with lots of negative outcomes for lots of people in the
experience of a colleague. The first red flag was that the youth was a young
strapping male and the colleague a 30 something female, married for 15+ to
her high school sweetheart who she was less than sweet on at the time.
Despite lots of effort on the part of colleagues/treatment team, the boy's
parents, her husband, the youth went to live with her and her family after
leaving the program prematurely and against our advice. The outcomes were
disastrous for all; the marriage ended badly, her children felt displaced,
and began acting out, a lot; the youth's parents were very angry at her, and
the program, and her role as a team mate was negatively affected for the
rest of her time with the program.
I think all CYC's meet at least one or two children or youths who we think we could help by taking them home with us. Sometimes I think maybe we could; that said, I've never done it, and don't think I would. I'd further state that I'm a big believer in long, (really long) term foster placement where the foster parents are CYC's.
Re taking kids home: I'm thinking it depends on the setting and relationships. I'm more worried about the effects on the kids who do not get taken home by anyone.
Taking kids home: I think that this should be
avoided because of the position it puts the child care worker, child and
organization in. This of course would depend on your organizational
policy. In either case it is cause for concern due to boundaries that should
be established between the child and childcare worker may not be so easily
maintained after the child is allowed to visit in the home.
I think every agency should have a policy and procedure in place to deal with this issue. Staff need to know how to approach considering such outings/visits, and management needs to monitor it through their own procedures. Discuss and clear it ahead of time, get the appropriate approval (may need the client/family/ guardian approval), etc. Supervision re 'why is the staff person wanting to do this' and is it in the best interest of the child/youth/client? Use a cycle of review, assessment and planning on an ongoing basis.
There is some useful guidance on the national centre for
excellence in residential child care (http://www.ncb.org.uk/ncercc/a-z_of_rcc/residential_child_care_-_o.aspx).
Have a look at the a-z of residential child care and then the section on leaving care. I know the guidance is geared towards young people who have left care and professionals keeping in contact but the advice is good and worth keeping in mind. There are many good resources on this website that a lot of professionals would find useful not just those involved in residential care.
David, I couldn't agree more with your comments regarding ethical questions. I too believe there is no definitive answer to most ethical issues and I think that's why we refer to them as ethical dilemmas. I think the stronger issue is to consider each opportunity where you are faced with an ethical dilemma and honor it as a learning experience, and take the time to pause for reflection and further enquiry into your own beliefs and values, while always considering the children, youth, and families we serve.