I have seen several variations of this, and many might consider it cliche but I think it is very true.
Child Welfare is not rocket science. It’s harder than rocket science.
David Liederman”CWLA Adoption Conference, 1998
In addition to being a houseparent, I am also a webmaster, mechanic, HVAC technician, fabricator, and handyman. Beside houseparenting all those other fields have several things in common: They are very absolute-an 8′ piece of steel is going to remain an 8′ piece of steel unless you cut. A web-page will look exactly like you want it to if you use the right html tags. They have procedures that basically remain constant- a starter or alternator is pretty much replaced the same way every time. And the procedures for charging an AC system are basically the same regardless of the system.
Working with children and their welfare is much more complex. You are dealing with beings that given the exact same stimuli will react very differently. For example: you give one child a hug and they will accept it as normal affection, another child might interpret it as a precursor to sexual abuse.
Unlike a computer they are often not very good at understanding or following directions.
Personalities – there’s a complication. Some kids will have personalities you will totally mesh with. Others will have personalities that totally clash with yours. Some kids no matter what you do will never like you, and believe it or not there will be some kids you won’t like and will have difficulty working with.
Communication – very complex and includes much more than speaking. Tone, body-language, inflection, attitude, comprehension, cultural differences, prejudices (yours & theirs) all add to the complexity.
Finally and probably most important are relationships. Trying to build trust with people that have been betrayed many many times is a very complicated process. Many children will test your loyalty and act out severely to see if you will bale on them like others have in their past. You have to be able to provide security and structure, something many of the children we work with have never known, while at the same time providing for their needs and not your convenience. You have to believe in what you are doing, because these kids are very street smart and can easily spot a phony.
Complicated, complex, ambiguous yet also very rewarding when you make a difference in that child and family’s life.