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Session 10/13

Page 4/7: 10.4 Topic B: Creating caregiver teams and the development of the child's personal identity

Topic B: Creating caregiver teams and the development of the child’s personal identity


In order to offer children long term caregiver/ child relations, the way you organize work plans and schedules can be examined and designed or re-designed if necessary. In session 9 “The Secure Base Model” – you discussed how work shift plans can offer children stable caregivers during the daytime. Perhaps you may want to discuss this again at the end of this session. Or, perhaps you already made this framework for family like groups.


What is required to perform long-term relations work?
Here are some suggestions and experiences from others which you can discuss after seeing them all. You may want your leader to join the discussion when you have made some suggestions for improvements. Please look at all the suggestions, and then pick the ones you think are most important as your project until next session. You can always go back and include more ideas for development:


A useful work model – especially in large institutions – is to divide the staff into groups so that certain staff persons form a daily work team. This team is responsible for performing the practical tasks and for working with the children’s social relations, the physical care and the attachment behaviour of a certain group of children. They are the “parenting team” with a group of children in their care for a long time.

The team is responsible for making a useful activity plan daily, weekly and monthly, for making observations of children, write reports for meetings and suggest what kind of placement the child may need after leaving the group. The team is responsible for promoting a strong sense of group identity and promote bonding between children and in child/ caregiver relations.


Small groups (8 children or less) offer room for intimacy and personal relations. Smaller groups are vulnerable if one member leaves. Large groups (9-xx children) offer more social variation, but less individual attention from a certain caregiver.

Babies and toddlers of course need the smallest groups and more caregivers for intimacy and care, but in general 6-8 children having 1-3 caregivers is a good group size for social purposes. How many staff members this requires depends on tasks and local conditions.

So, in an institution the child should basically live in a family group with 4-7 other children, and during the day the group may split up into different activities, or the whole group may sometimes be part of a larger assembly (f.ex. all groups meet for eating dinner together or for sports activities).

For example: 3 groups of 5-8 children may eat together or do sport activities together and then live separately at other times of the day. If some children have severe problems, they may be in the family group some of the time if it is too difficult for them to be in a large group. But all children should feel that the family group is their primary group, their secure base.


When living in the group, the child should have an adult relation which is especially important, and a caregiver (or two) who has a special job in relating to that particular child. Usually one caregiver can have the role of “primary caregiver” for 2 – 4 children, depending on circumstances.

Seen from the perspective of the child it should experience that the primary caregiver takes all important decisions about the child, helps the child keep a diary with its personal history, helps and talks to the child in case of conflicts and bonding with other children. If the primary caregiver has to leave for some time or permanently, the child will have a goodbye session with the person, and be introduced to a new primary caregiver.

If the primary caregiver is not present, other staff members will answer to the child’s needs and questions by referring to the primary caregiver.
For example:
“Anna (your primary caregiver) is not here, but I think she would say this or that, or decide this or that concerning you”.


30 minutes

Please only discuss issues which you find necessary – you may already practice some of this:

  • What is our present size for staff teams? What are the present responsibilities of the team in social relations with the children?
  • Do we have a work plan that allows us to offer children the same caregivers in the daytime for long periods of time?
  • How can we adjust the work plan to do this as much as possible?
  • Are we ready to give specific teams the responsibility and the tasks described with a certain group of children? What should we work to do?
  • Do we have a Primary Caregiver system? What can we work at to design and improve it?
  • How can we (please look at the list) make the suggestions for supporting personal identity development a part of our daily routines?
  • What problems will we probably encounter, and how can we foresee them?

Each child should have a personal space
This can be a part of the sleeping room or a personal chair where meals are served, also a bed or a box which only the child and the primary caregiver are allowed to open.

For babies and toddlers it can be a special personal object such as a teddy bear, a toy or perhaps a valued t-shirt or something else. Caregivers help the child protect the personal space and personal objects from being invaded by other children.

To support the baby/ toddler’s growing awareness of itself: play with mirrors, let the child hear its own voice on a tape recorder, or to let the child see itself on short video clips from daily activities is helpful. In this way the child can learn to be aware of itself and to understand how it affects others.

A photo of each child can be attached to their beds or in another place, and children’s names be written in bright coloured letters.

For toddlers and up: each child can have a diary book. Every day you talk to the child about what happened today or what it is interested in, and write it down while the child is watching. If you are short of staff or time, this can be a group activity where the children take 3 minute turns in telling about their day.

Occasionally you can take pictures of the child’s activities and place them in the book. Any information about the child’s relatives is also discussed with the child and noted.

The primary caregiver can talk to the child about what is special and personal in its behaviour, in the way it relates to others in the group, and what special talents or gifts the child seems to have. With the child you can regularly measure physical developments – you can for example let the child stand against the wall and use a pencil to write on the wall how tall the child has grown every 3 months.

Pre-school children and schoolchildren also have another personal space that should be planned for: the right to be alone sometimes, without having to interact with other children or caregivers. For children with behaviour problems it can be very exhausting to be in a relation all the time, and instead of isolating them because they are disobedient, regular short pauses where they can be alone can prevent many social problems. This can be while the child does school homework or wherever you think there is a natural opportunity.

Caregiver filming a child’s activity

“We have created a chart on the wall and it worked very well. For each one of them we created a memory box. Photos, clip art papers, Shoes and so on. It is so much fun and sometimes, sad.”
Staff member’s statement


  • How did these suggestions inspire you?
  • Do you have good practices, traditions or ideas for promoting the child’s sense of having a personal space and feel at home?
  • How can you help the child become more aware of itself, and understand how it interacts with other children in the institution?
  • What activities do you think will help your child become more aware of itself? For example: write in a diary each day, record video or monologues on your cell phone, playing with mirrors, or other activities.