Thom Garfat presented on the Characteristics of Relational Child and Youth Care at the second plenary. He noted his t-shirt to an
appreciative audience. Some in Canada will have attended the Joy of Child and Youth Care presentations Thom and Andy Leggett
have given across Canada over the last year. This work, adapted from collaborations with Leon Fulcher and James Freeman
outlines a way of approaching youth care work using the meaningful use of daily life events highlighting 24 characteristics. There
has always been this tension between structure and therapy and these characteristics outline how taking the relational approach,
focusing on the youth in the here and now, supports structure through the realization of genuine and reciprocal relationship. Too
often practitioners focus upon the structural task, say the evening meal, conclude it and retire to a break to chat and plan for the
evening, leaving the youth to wait for the next task/event. The relational approach would involve those youth interested to participate
throughout, preparing the meal, helping serve, clearing the table and doing the dishes. Aside from learning and sharing the young
person may have a moment of real significance to attend to which would have not necessarily happened in the isolated situation.
This work has special resonance in South African where many, thousands in fact, work alone entering the homes and families of
the youth in their care. Simply by their presence they are a part of daily life and charged with building relationships with all involved.
They bring structure to the family situation without expecting it to be a given.
Thom being Thom, also drew attention to the work of CYC-Net, his collaborative work with Brian Gannon to establish the world's
leading online resource for child and youth care professionals. Small plug moment but entirely accepted as many use the resource.
The Cape Town International Conference Centre has its own 5 star hotel and a quay that links it directly to the waterfront. This
provides a natural place to relax during breaks as the youth delegates demonstrate here. Their fellowship, smiles, song and
exuberance were as welcome as the setting.
Each day brought two breakaway sessions which allowed for 16 workshops choices. There was a tendency to place the
international presenters in the auditorium which presented each with a unique challenge as folks were often quite content to sit
anywhere. Jack Phelan faced this challenge with his Practical Methods for Creating Useful CYC Strategies. Those lucky enough to
attend a session with Jack are given an appreciation of the stages of experiential development over a CYC career. For example, a
youth care practitioner new to practice spends much of his or her first year simply taking it all in being overwhelmed by the
experience. This colours that person's view of things and demands different approaches across several levels such as supervision.
The result is often total attention as he hits on issues where the individual practitioner is at in their experience. When he retired as a
professor, Jack set out to explore child and youth care work around the world, certainly influencing this writer to attend this
conference. A honoured member of the CYCAA, Jack continues to consult and travel extensively.
Thom arranged for a visit to the home of Brian Gannon, founding Director of the NACCW for the afternoon, for many of the Canadian
delegation and others. This took us into the suburbs of Cape Town and past a river with flamingos! Andy Leggette, Kelly Shaw,
Brian Gannon, Christine Gaitens, and Jack Phelan were among the group.
As noted, this visit was appreciated on many levels. The opportunity to visit a
home anywhere is welcome but one purpose built in the past by a mining
company that departed due to apartheid to be a park like setting was
unexpected and marvelous. In this instance, the home is also where Brian
oversees the web casting of CYC-Net and Martin Stabrey is CEO of Pretext
Press and COO of The International Child and Youth Care Netwrok (click on
links below). It was an opportunity to meet the team responsible for the
Relational and finally to meet Brian, who was every bit as gracious and
insightfully appreciative of one's humble efforts as anyone could wish.
Everyone invited has made contributions to these publications and strive for its
ongoing success. Martin's wife, Helen Gray served a incredible buffet. In a trip
of wonders and highlights this afternoon will standout for most.