Residential Work within Special Youth Care

Based on personal experience in a residential setting for adolescent boys within special youth care, the author connects the ‘being difficult to guide’ label of some youngsters, which often results in exclusion from care, to a ‘not wanting’ on the one hand and a ‘being different’ on the other. From within a psychoanalytic perspective both aspects are linked through two clinical fagments with, respectively, an ignorance of the primary function of a residential institution, and, the exclusion of the subjective dimension in care. Instead of a global pedagogic project based on a generalised discourse of the ‘problem youngster’, the author pleads for a clinical orientation in the work, whereby the institution traces the path of each adolescent as subject, case by case.

A child is killed

The author begins his argument by confronting child murder in the real: in clinical work, in the media, in historical accounts of rituals. Studying ritual child murder within the Inca culture, together with stories of child murder throughout history, allows the author to draw some initial parallels between ritualistic child murder and its treatment in the clinic. A Winnicottian reading of the genesis of the subject, with narcissism as a central focus, provides a framework for understanding this kind of aggression in the clinic. Taking into consideration the effects of being able to psychically represent, we learn that fantasmatic, real and ritual murder of a child is embedded in the structure brought about by the entrance into language.