It might be thought that bringing up children is the most natural thing to do. Parents do it day by day, and they do it without training or theoretical knowledge. But the education of children in the context of out-of-home care is not only a matter of bringing them up.
Working in institutional or residential care demands a high level of personal involvement and a willingness to deal with challenging situations. Beyond that, expert knowledge is (of course) one of the fundamentals of social pedagogic work.
Needs and Strengths
What do we face, when working in out-of-home care? We face children with specific needs, with particular deficits, with traumatising life stories. These children can be aggressive, reclusive, apathetic or ambivalent – or they can behave in many other ways. Whatever they present, we have to deal with this.
We can also identify resources, – mental and physical and familial resources – but you need the knowledge that there are resources, somewhere hidden behind each child’s particular attitude, and you need to know how to bring these resources to light.
To meet the demands of these children, to meet the demands of social pedagogic work, it needs more than personal dedication. It needs pedagogic, psychological, therapeutic, psychiatric and sometimes even medical basic knowledge.
A Social Pedagogue has to get a clear picture of the situation in which the child is living, has to encourage and support the child in developing the skills needed for every day life, has to work with all relevant persons (Social Workers, parents, Teachers, Psychologists and Psychiatrists), has to cooperate with Teachers and has to find solutions for the next steps in the child’s future. To meet these demands the Social Pedagogue needs a solid background of professional knowledge.
Standards in Vienna
Finally, I would like to describe the standard for Social Pedagogues from the Viennese point of view. The Viennese standards for out-of-home care say that Social Pedagogues have to demonstrate:
1. Professional qualification
- a diploma or vocational matriculation examination in Social Pedagogy
- expertise in different fields of social pedagogic work
- systemic understanding and awareness
- work-relevant legal knowledge
2. Reasoning power and sagacity
- competence in holistic assessment of complex (family) systems
- competence in problem-solving
3. Ability and motivation
- ability to work under pressure
- competence and motivation to work and take independent decisions
- motivation for personal, social and expert further development
4. Working technique
- methodological plurality
- creativity and flexibility
- organising ability
5. Social behaviour
- conflict management
- high communication skills
- willingness to work in a team
If we summarise all these specifications, it seems evident that the first request is the demonstration of professional vocational education. Professional training is inescapable if we want to meet the children’s needs. Children in out-of-home care need a lot of assistance and encouragement. And they deserve the most professional support they can get.