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Relational Child and Youth Care Practice


ISSN 2410-2954  /  VOLUME 28 NUMBER 4, WINTER 2015

Table of Contents and Article Abstracts

3  /  Editorial: Different Voices, Different Worlds / Rika Swanzen

I am writing the Editorial for this issue from a country I love with my very being. You will either herald South Africa as a beautiful and inspiring country or you will reflect on our troublesome challenges to stay balanced in our developmental and cultural strivings. We have again recently witnessed the demonstrations by students against fee increases at public South African universities.

For those looking from the outside it may be a strange sight to see how quickly the protest involves destruction of property and violence. It is a difficult rhetoric to understand if demands are made from a belief in individual rights to the detriment of the institution. If the history and underlying tensions are not understood, there are reasons to be concerned about a generation that already obtained access to higher education – demanded by the young activist voices of the past – but who seems perturbed and disgruntled.

While I will not venture into the political underpinnings of this movement, I will allow myself to wonder about solutions for this discontent. Albert Einstein said 'Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.' Another quote I came across recently by Dr. Steve Maraboli states that ‘For most people, blaming others is a subconscious mechanism for avoiding accountability. In reality the only thing in your way is you’. Reflections on our society show our struggle with these difficult questions of who’s to blame and what is needed for change.

We remain a proud nation with depth and richness in our cultural histories. The need for authenticity that may not always be understood by everyone, lies at our core and translates into an underlying resistance to accept the answers from the rest of the world. Empty promises stir anger because people do not have the luxury to relax for a moment, and to trust that someone will pick up the tab for the opportunities and access our youth are told they have.

I may be biased through my involvement with this journal, but I do firmly believe that tensions are solved through a focus on relationships. We need to speak to each other in a way that is perceived as meaningful by all parties. In this issue I’m humbled by what is shared by real practitioners and fellow colleagues in Child and Youth Care. With each article that reflects on a piece of the relational picture in child and youth care, we build a foundation piece by piece to enable change in that small part we each influence each day.

This fourth issue of the first year of the e-format of the journal is very special for this moment in time – the editorial, guest editorial and four of the articles are written by South Africans. And for those who don’t know this, the administrator and publisher are also South Africans. Together with our international colleagues that contributed to this issue with us, we do hope you get a glimpse of how serious we take the relational care of our children, youth and families. The contribution from various countries demonstrates the international status of this journal and of child and youth care workers speaking to each other across geographical boundaries – remaining relational in our thinking – be it in a virtual space of sharing.

As we end the year and start to think about celebrating the holidays, this issue provides a look – a reminder – of what it means to be a child. With all we do, we know never to forget what lies beneath our strategies when working with children: the best interest of the child.

The authors in this issue raise reflective questions such as what we want for children and remind us whose responsibility they are. We realise that with diversity comes vulnerability if society does not respond to the needs of children. The importance of play is highlighted with a practice idea that provides resources for play to under resourced communities. We are also informed of the outcome and impact of early childhood intervention and how a quality assessment focus can increase the success of a programme that uses play for a purpose.

A warning of the effect of an overemphasis on wrong-doing in child care centres is given through a comparison with Zimbardo’s Stanford experiment of the behaviour of role-playing prison guards. A sobering reminder of the few protective factors with which children in care enter the system. A provoking statement is made: “Punishment gets redefined as discipline which is further redefined as behaviour management – a much more acceptable concept”.

In the information age we are reminded that the generation of youth we are working with has been ‘plugged in’ most of their lives. What does the social media reality say about the life space we work in? Should our conversations change or do we need to ‘unplug’? A study on vicarious trauma and caregiver burnout reminds us of the cost of caring and provides further strategies for practitioners.

A number of authors touched on the ecological model that encourages us to consider that the environment influences most of what we do. In work with families we are directed to look at the conditions for supporting change, "with change as movement that requires a collaborative engagement". The impact of environment on the experience of vulnerability is further explored through a heart-warming reflection on dyslexia and reiterating the matter of accessibility. Another focus in this realm is on the creation of a sensory-safe class environment for traumatised children.

Words related to these topics that sound like an echo through our practice and remind us of the relational walls that can keep people safe or which can become obstacles to overcome, are homesickness, reflection, personal awareness, challenging behaviours, resistance, chaos, action, cultural ceremonies, security objects and transitions.

As Nancy Getty says in her article in this issue: “Listen closely to the song you sing and do not fear to share your authentic song with others. Join together and we may one day become a choir and sing in unison.” May we remain unique when we join in the melody of the song with others, and may differences add to exciting variety instead of conflict.

Happy holidays!

5  /  Guest Editorial: A Board Member's Experience of the Professionalisation of Child and Youth Care Workers in South Africa /  Barrie Lodge

11  /  Unplugged: Life without Social Media: A Qualitative Exploration /  Cassandra Nader, Catherine Hedlin, Donna Jamieson and Gerard Bellefeuille

Social media has become a taken for granted part of life for many people. The current generation of young people, in particular, has been 'plugged in' for most of their lives. This article reports the findings from a qualitative exploratory course-based research study that asked a group comprised primarily of child and youth care (CYC) students to give up all forms of social media for a one-week period and to share their reactions to this experience. Three main themes emerged from the thematic analysis: (1) more free time; (2) urge to go on to social media decreased over time; and (3) an eagerness to 'catch up' on the final day of data collection period.

20  /  The Dynamics of Change and the Implications in our Work with Families  /  Donicka Budd

29  /  The devil in our system /  Werner van der Westhuizen

It is commonly accepted within social and behavioural sciences that people are in a constant state of dynamic interaction with their social and physical environment, both influencing and at the same time being influenced by their environment. Where 'wrongdoings' are concerned the focus often remains on the responsibility of the individual for his or her choices and actions - often to the exclusion of social and environmental forces that play a role and form part of the context within which the individual behaviour occurs. Within residential care for children this principle often applies both to the professional staff and the children. When the behaviour of children in residential care lands them in trouble the emphasis is often on the choices they made as individuals where their behaviour is concerned and how to help them correct such behaviour. Similarly, when the conduct of staff contravenes the rules of the organisation they undergo a corrective or disciplinary process which once again places the emphasis on the choices and conduct of the individual. Very rarely is careful attention paid to the social and environmental forces and how they impact on the psyche and behaviour of the person within that context. When individual responsibility is balanced with consideration of social and environmental influences it not only provides a better understanding of events that unfolded, but also of the potential solutions to address the situation successfully.  

36  /  The role of play and toy libraries in the child and youth care sector /  Monica Stach 

45  /  Reflections on the Implementation of the Play-With-A-Purpose Mentorship Programme  / Robyn Wienand

57 /  Creating Trauma Focused Educational Milieus  /  Theresa Fraser

70 /  Fostering the Diversity and Innocence of the Child / Nancy Getty

78 /  A Child and Youth Care Approach to Vicarious Trauma  /  Libby Holmes

88 /  My Personal Experiences of Security Objects for Children in care  /  Vincent Hlabangana

91 /  How to Respond When Disability is the Problem  / Devi Dee Mucina

As a Child and Youth Care (CYC) practitioner who is Black, Indigenous Ubuntu and has a learning disability in Canada, I embody difference. From this marked embodiment I have begun to understand that disability materializes and matters through our social political meaning making. This means my disabled individuation is a social experience which is informed by our social interpretive encounters. In these social interpretive encounters, disability has been read as not mattering in useful ways (Titchkosky, 2009). To counter the interpretation of disability as not mattering, I want to share a story with you. My story is about how we might in these encounters tell new stories that read disabled as mattering and more importantly affirm our relational humanity. I hope that this story will transform you so that you question all our relations with the aim of determining how we all matter to each other. I believe it is when we question how we matter to each other that we become interested in each other’s stories. This is the power of storytelling; it speaks to our story and to the story of the other. Our stories make us matter to each other and because of this we can use a story to heal suffering and we can use a story to create great suffering. In these stories I am looking for ways to make our diverse forms of embodiment matter so that we nurture our total health. 

100 /  Deep Brain Learning: Evidence-Based Essentials in Education, Treatment, and Youth Development  /  Wolfgang Vachon

103 /  I Miss my Home  /  Donna Jamieson

107 /  Data Matters /  Garth Goodwin

111 /  Twilight Reflections: I was 26 /  Thom Garfat

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