One of the great things about developed societies is the range of professionals involved in helping troubled children.
I have the privilege of working in a multi-disciplinary mental health team. There are nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.
I love it!
It’s such a stimulating environment to work in. And the opportunities to learn from people with different backgrounds, experience and training are endless.
Our place in the big machine…
The one downside in all this, is my tendency to feel inadequate. Sometimes in relation to the other professionals (most of whom are eminently more qualified than I am), but usually because it’s hard to effect change.
None of us change quickly. And the kids we’re trying to help are often so entrenched in their behaviours and habits, that change comes slowly there too.
It sometimes leaves me feeling a little lost – like my role is so small, so limited in its scope and so relatively impotent to effect meaningful change, that it seems hardly worth it.
Those are the bad days!
Our real role…
At times like that, I try to remind myself of what really matters. Of what it is that makes my role – any role – really worthwhile….
That it’s not about me at all. It’s about the kids we serve.
Yes. I use the word ‘serve’ deliberately. That, I believe, is our purpose.
– Not our sense of satisfaction
– Not to make use of our training and qualifications
– Not to pay the mortgage or provide for our families
Though all these are noble, of course.
This whole shooting match, the complex web of services, policies, laws and practices, is about helping troubled kids.
– It’s about service
– It’s about helping
– It’s about making a difference to their lives
To serve – this is our calling.
The soul of the work
In my book, Working With Troubled Children & Teenagers, I finished with a short section called ‘The Soul of the Work.
I outlined a number of simple principles that summarise all this for me.
– It’s about not judging children for the problems brought on by others
– It’s about speaking up for those who can’t speak up for themselves
– It’s about employing the privileges of relative wealth, education and power to promote the interests of children who have none of these
– It’s about challenging social policy and service provision to serve the real needs of troubled children rather than the felt or unfelt obligations of those with no real needs at all
And perhaps most of all…
– It’d about a belief in the power of relationship to change a child or young person’s life for the better.*
That’s service. That’s our role.
The agencies we work for, other people, our colleagues, even ourselves, may confuse this ideal and dilute it with other interests and priorities.
But if we can hold into the simple principle of service – of being focused fully on the welfare of the children we work with and for – I believe we can cut through the fog and practice in a truly child-centred way.
What do you think?…
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© Jonny Matthew 2019