By MAUREE N VINCENT fr was Charlie's thirteenth birthday on the day he got home from school to find his house empty. Charlie was an only child. Suddenly his parents just left him.
James is 16. All his family are in prison—except for his father, who is on the run from the police. James is a habitual offender and has had 16 findings of guilt— one for each year of his age.
From the time Fred was 14. his father drove him unceasingly to pass exams. Fred's father was an alcoholic and his drunken rages sapped his son's ability to learn. In the end Fred had to leave home.
Charlie. James and Fred are not unique, isolated or extraordinary cases. Sadly, they are merely typical examples of the kind of thing which can and does happen to the more unfortunate children of our society. Some children have even more horrifying histories.
Why this happens to a percentage of the children of our affluent society is no mystery. There are always some individuals who are unable to cope with their lives, their marriages, their relationships with others and with .the community in general. Their inability to cope is
disastrous enough f o r themselves; often it spells tragedy for their unhappy children.
Charlie. James and Fred have been lucky. They are being cared for by St. Christopher's Fellowship. This is a non-denominational volun
tary organisation which manages seven residential houses catering for the needs of
seriously disturbed and homeless adolescent boys.
Charlie, James and Fred have, each in his own way. learned to adjust to life. The future looks much more hopeful for them now.
But their pathetic stories underline the importance of the Child Care Service in all its many aspects. The children for whom the service is run are, quite simply. children in difficulties. Any kind of difficulties.
Perhaps their parents are ill or in trouble, Perhaps they are dead. Or they may have deserted their families or treated them badly. Child care officers are there to try to replace what the children have lost.
The service has many different types of post, and needs people of different types to fill them. from schoolleavers of 15 to graduates qualified in social work, teaching or nursing.
There are two main branches of the service : residential work and field work. St. Christopher's Homes are examples of the openings there are in residential work, in this case for a voluntary society. Many homes. too. are provided by county or borough councils.
It is usual for boys and girls of a wide age range to live in a children's home, and to go out to school and to join in other activities, such as Scouts and Guides, in the locality.
The modern trend is away from larger institutions and towards smaller homes in ordinary houses. Even where provision is made for a larger number the children are usually divided into small groups either in separate cottages on one site or in flats.
Residential staff are usually known as housemothers and housefathers. They do not try to replace the child's real parents; it is an important part of their work to act as good friends to the child's own family. Larger homes, especially those caring for older children, often have a married couple in charge.
There are four types of training course open to those wishing to take up residential work with children and young people. Preliminary courses, for school-leavers of 16 or over. are held in colleges of further education in many parts of the country. Students are selected by interview and have to show that they have the personal qualities needed to work with children and the ability to follow the course of study.
Many local authority children's departments and voluntary organisations are now providing in-service study courses, completion of which entitles students to receive the Central Training Council's National Certificate, One-year full-time professional courses are also available, some run by voluntary organisations or independent colleges and some provided by local education authorities.
There are opportunities on all these courses for students who wish to specialise in one particular branch of residential work, such as work with difficult or delinquent adolescents, or with physically or mentally handicapped children.
Financial help is available during training in certain circumstances.
Field work in the Child Care Service is of vital importance. The basic aim of the service is the preservation of family life, and children are not, in fact, taken into residential care except when there is no other reasonable alternative.
Living with his own family. however inadequate that family may be, gives a child the best opportunity to develop into a mature adult, able in his turn to provide a stable background for his own Children.
There are various ways of training for the work of a child care officer who will do field work. The appropriate course of training will depend on age, experience and academic qualifications already held.
All the training courses, however, cover the same general areas of learning, which embrace social studies (e.g.. psychology, sociology, etc.) and methods of social work (e.g. for helping individuals, for helping families, for influencing social policy, etc.) Anyone considering a career in child care work can ask for advice from the children's officer in his or her own locality. Information can also be obtained from the Secretary, the Central Training Council in Child Care, Home Office, Children's Department, Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, S.W.I.