irish ideas “niall mcelwee

Making it count for children and young people

Its 3.15pm on a Wednesday and I am standing in “Jonny’s” room in a group home residential facility in the south of Ireland. It’s raining outside and Dr Dre is strutting his stuff on the CD player. We are both somewhat uncomfortable. “Jonny” is waiting for me to do an activity with him and I am wondering which activity might work best on a cold and damp day. We are limited in our options as the indoor recreational room is in use.

Jonny’s room is like any other I have seen on my travels thru the child care system. It has posters of sportspeople, rock bands and Gameboy characters on the wall, it has toiletries on the sink and it has a range of soccer jersey’s carelessly strewn around the floor.

Jonny is not in great form today.

We start a conversation that holds both of us for a while. The televised match the previous weekend between Manchester United and a European team. United lost and the collective mood of the group home took a turn for the worse. “It’s always the same. Whenever I like something, it never goes right for me”. I think about an appropriate response for a few seconds and try, “Well, you have no control over a soccer team playing outside Ireland Jonny. The best you can do is e-mail the supporters club and tell them you will be watching and supporting them. This will help the players.” “Yeah, I suppose. But I was annoyed that they let in that first goal. Any fool could have saved it”.

At this point in our conversation, I noticed that there was a set of clothes and sneakers, neatly folded at the end of Jonny’s bed. As it was only Wednesday, I was surprised and asked him why he had a full set of playing gear. Jonny answered that he “had a call from my keyworker and that they were going to a youth tournament that Saturday”. He was “just getting ready” by having the gear ready.

As I reflected on our conversation later in the day, I thought about the importance of planning in residential child care. I reflected on how much the children we work with believe in us, in this case, that the keyworker would actually manage his personal and professional life so that he could take Jonny to the soccer. Most of all, I thought about how much Jonny looked forward to this interaction. Perhaps, for the keyworker it was just a matter of turning up on Saturday. For Jonny, an event was being prepared for since Wednesday. This is but one example of how important daily interactions are to the children and youth we work with. It shows us that children listen to us and are hopeful that we will do with them what we promise.

Be well,


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