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Child Caregivers- Their Rights

November 18, 2013

In the previous Blog, ‘Child Caregivers – Their Value’, I discussed how we should value child caregivers in their difficult roles, and I suggested that we should also ensure they are seen as part of the care team.

While I am fully aware of the challenges of many organisations, especially in developing countries, the following rights should be noted and worked towards for best care practice for children.

Child caregivers have the right to:

Be treated with dignity and respect
  • Child caregivers can be shown respect by social workers, teachers and others by acknowledging them as the person who knows about the child.

  • Being spoken to not just as a child minder, but as a colleague, means their opinions are listened to and respected. As a social work supervisor in Asia, one of my main tasks was to write the child study for an international adoption agency. As a first step, I always went to the primary child caregiver for information, acknowledging them as the ‘expert’ on the child.

Receive recognition of their life experiences and existing skills
  • From my experience, the majority of child caregivers are females who are usually mothers and/or have extensive child care experience. Their existing skills should be recognised and acknowledged and used to the advantage of the children.

  • For instance, I know of foster mothers who care only for children with disabilities, and their level of expertise, especially dealing with various behaviors that the children demonstrate, is far superior to mine.

Receive assistance and support services
  • This includes staff or volunteers for tutoring, helping with home work, washing and cooking. Also additional support in times of extra difficulties, such as when a new child enters care, when a child is in hospital, when a child with disabilities is ill.

  • If the child caregivers are small group home parents, it is not uncommon for them to lack privacy, especially on their days or weekends off. It is sometimes impractical for them to leave the children’s village every 4 weeks, so there must be strong boundaries for the non-visiting of children and other staff unless in the case of an emergency.

Information as it relates to the care of children
  • While children in care have a right to privacy, and confidentiality of their histories, to care well for children with complex needs it is important that available and relevant information is given to the supervisor and/or caregivers.

Information on organisational policy, guidelines and a job description
  • Organisations should have a range of policies, including child protection, job descriptions, etc.

Access of a person or persons for their grievances
  • In many situations, child caregivers lack power, and are reluctant to express their opinions and grievances. It is a right for them to be aware of a supervisor or other to know they can go to express their grievances.

Supervision and Support
  • Child caregivers, like most in a caring role, are susceptible to burnout, which will be discussed in the next few Blogs. Support is preventative care to ensure that there is increased resiliency to burnout occurring.

Suggestions for support include:

    • All caregivers reflect on their work, often in an informal way. This may include thinking about the children and their situation and how to manage the task of caring for them.

    • Regular formal supervision time with a supervisor

    • Regular informal support time with a family member, a friend, or pastor (remember to keep confidentiality)

    • Discussing issues with fellow workers

    • Reading relevant material, surfing the net

    • Regular evaluation and feedback on their role

  • Care giving is demanding and often caregivers are reluctant to take respite. But time away from the demands of children is vital.

Working Wage
  • Child caregivers should receive a wage that is consistent with the importance of their role!

Initial and Ongoing Training
  • Child caregivers require extra patience, energy and time to understand and respond to the children in their care. But they also need knowledge.

  • I have observed and been told by child caregivers that they often feel ill equipped to cope with so many children, often with complex problems and needs. They feel overwhelmed and powerless.

  • Initial and ongoing training on topics such as loss and grief, attachment, child development, and discipline, will enhance their skills and ability to cope.

  • It is common for me to train child caregivers who have never received training in their roles, but there are high expectations that they will provide the best care for children.

  • It is very rewarding to train these caregivers, who value the knowledge and can quickly relate it to practical strategies.

  • When presented with their Certificate of Training they cry!

I have included a photo of conference participants in Myanmar. They are completing a difficult exercise, and at the conclusion, they will reflect on how they worked as a team.

The next Blog in the series of Caring for the Caregiver will be focused on ‘Child Caregivers – Burnout’ and why many child caregivers, and others in the caring role, have an increased susceptibility.

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