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Whose Definitions Matter? Who Gives Meaning To An Experience? Rethinking The Social Value Of Residential Child Care

Whose definitions matter? Who gives meaning to an experience? Rethinking the social value of Residential Child Care

We currently have created a context and methodology regarding social value where the objective outweighs the experience. Is this the way it has to be? Is this the way we want it to be?

Does economic cost effectiveness incorporate the following questions? If not, then what is to be done?

What is the social value of a pain eased, be it physical, social, emotional, or psychological?

What is the value of a life held together from fragmenting or spiralling enough to feel a security in the relationship such that it acts as a base to start a redirection, a recovery, that continues into adult life?

How do we value the contributions of the team around the child that we can attribute to one or another this or that element of social value?

How does caring for a child for one child compare in value with caring for another if their starting points intensity and frequency of needs were different?

How do we account for the caring enabling the child to read, to write, to draw, to express themselves?

How do we account for the child being able to write a poem or a song, and perform it?

How does the work of the provider in making a correct but extremely difficult diagnosis compare with the child painting a great canvas?

Caring for children is more than a technical task. Relationships are more complicated than that.

Should we be satisfied with the value of this technical capacity and delivery rather than the value of what has really been achieved?

Of course not. We need to recognise not only the technical task but also the development of the child and the meaningfulness of the relationships.

If this is so then you cannot expect to evaluate a person’s care as though it were stock in a warehouse. There is no scale of measurement possible.

In our currently validated ways of understanding we do not know how to acknowledge, to measure the contribution of an ordinary Residential Child Care worker. By ‘measure’ I do not mean calculate according to a fix scale but rather take the measure of. It is not a question of comparing one with another then arranging in a winning order. It is a question of comparing them so that in the light of other examples we can better appreciate what the Residential Child Care worker/provider is doing, or not doing.

Whose definitions matter? Who gives meaning to an experience?

Residential Child Care workers are not heroes in the popular imagination. The portrayal of children’s homes in the media and research is negative. There is a negative recognition. It is applied by those outside by what they think, say, and do in relation to Residential Child Care. This has to be struggled against by those within, to hold on to a positive ideal for their daily task. Residential Child Care is not placed in a supportive facilitating environment. It has come to occupy a last resort position, a hierarchical reluctant option. People seek diversion, alternatives, from its use.

The daily task of Residential Child Care requires a commitment to the belief that extraordinary parenting is possible.

If there is any potential for their best endeavours to be met with disillusionment is a terrifying prospect as it prevents new people and providers from joining.

Imagine children’s services without residential options. No doubt soon we would find we have to invent them.

If that ever were to be the case what would be the social value we would bring to Residential Child Care?

The recognition of the social value of Residential Child Care is necessary to be continually made resilient. Residential Child Care has to be seen and see itself within any definition of social value.

There is need for the public recognition of the task of Residential Child Care. It is assumed Residential Child Care is ordinary devoted parenting rather than therapeutic management of the dynamic environment that is a child.

How do we get to the situation where every Residential Child Care worker holds the identity and self-esteem of being recognised: ‘I have social value, I can experience social value, I am contributing to social value’?

If I am to say what another’s social value is then I must first say what is my contribution to their social value.

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