As I write this newsletter, I am cuddling our 2 week old grandson. Another grandchild, a little girl, was born 8 weeks earlier. Nothing brings home the needs of infants as being directly involved in their tiny lives. I am reminded once again of an infants vulnerability, helplessness and dependency on adults. And I reflect on others who are not so blessed!
Therefore my next five blogs will focus on child caregivers, especially those caring for many children in ‘orphanages’. The topics will include:
When I train in the developing world, I find that many child caregivers, the vast majority women, are untrained, under paid, undervalued and unsupported. Dedicated to their children that are often traumatised due to abandonment, abuse and neglect, they are attempting to cope with difficult behaviors, and trying to understand hidden and unresolved issues.
They work long and irregular hours in difficult circumstances, often with a lack of resources and an overwhelming responsibility to care for 8, 10, 20 or far more children. They also lack status in their communities, and are seen as child minders.
Many organisations I visit also face significant challenges. Often they lack funding, have too few child caregivers for quality care, or are forced to take volunteers for short periods or part time.
I am constantly thankful for child caregivers, as I observe them providing for the spiritual, physical, social, emotional and intellectual needs of children.
Even with their very best intentions, the amount of children, and their problems, makes child caring a difficult task.
Child caregivers are my heroes! How do we value them?
Recognising the Importance of the Child Caregiver Role
As an important first step, we all need to perceive the role of child caregivers as important- individuals, NGOs, ministries, churches and governments and others! Child caregivers do not just care for children by providing for their basic needs; they provide a close interpersonal relationship that is essential for the child’s healthy attachment and overall development. In many instances, they are responsible for the child’s very survival.
A strong and supportive relationship with a primary, trusted caregiver is not a gift to the child, but a right and a need, essential for their very well being.
Recognising Child Caregiver’s Position as Members of the Care Team
Child caregivers must be recognised and acknowledged as essential and valuable members of the team who care for children. Without their ongoing commitment and abilities, quality care for orphans and vulnerable children is impossible.
Affirming caregivers in their role will increase their confidence and self esteem, resulting in higher work satisfaction and ultimately will go well towards achieving best care practice and the most positive outcomes for children at risk.
The photo is of conference participants in Myanmar.
The next Blog in this series, Caring for the Caregiver is ‘Child Caregivers – Their Rights’.
In the mean time, I look forward to your comments, especially if you are a child caregiver!