I entered the Child and Youth Work Diploma program at Centennial College, Scarborough, Ontario in 1995. I completed my first year and loved my work placement experience in the classroom. However, as a timid young adult not yet sure of my strengths, I became intimidated by the stories I heard about second year placements in residential programs. So, I dropped out to spend the next 10 years on a journey of self-development through travel and working abroad. In 2005, I decided it was time to come back to Canada and reconnect with my family. I asked Centennial College if I could rejoin the program and was immediately welcomed back into the field. I commenced my second year in Child and Youth Work exactly ten years after I started! Since College graduation in 2007, I have been working full-time at the Toronto District School Board in autism programs and part-time in residential care and the community. I have since completed both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in CYC at Ryerson University, Toronto. I look froward to continuing doctoral research in disability rights, inclusion, and transitions to Post Secondary Education at York University in Toronto.
I came into this field after getting support from my high school’s Special Education department when my mother passed away. I was 16 years old at the time and on the verge of dropping out. The Child and Youth Worker and teacher in the program were so instrumental in my successful completion of school that I wanted to give back and help others the same way they helped me. My CYW told me about the program at Centennial College and I got accepted.
“...if it’s something a single book can explain, it’s not worth having explained” Haruki Murakami, from the novel, ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’. I love this saying because it reminds me of our profession’s continued struggle to define ourselves and what we do. It can also be applied to so many things, like, trying to describe the labels given to the children and youth we care for.
As we struggle with defining our profession, I find it is important
to truly engage in our values of relational care and strength-based
work; As Mark Krueger once said, “I see relational work mainly as a way
of being with youth in the lived experience.” (http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cycol-0408-krueger.html)
For me, Child and Youth Care is more a way of being, in the everyday
routines of life, rather than it is a job.
I try to follow the young person’s lead, always.
It is so important to know your own values and sense of judgment. Without critical self-reflection CYC work cannot be effective.
All the Weight of Our Dreams: On living racialized autism. Edited by Lydia Brown, E. Ashkenazy and Morenike Giwa Onaiwu - https://www.amazon.com/All-Weight-Our-Dreams-Racialized/dp/0997504501
When a young lady of 16 years old put me in my place when I began to say: “People struggling with disability...” She immediately interrupted and said, “You mean people striving with disability”.
Learning is life-long in this field; continue to keep abreast of new approaches in Child and Youth Care as things change quickly.
If your work becomes ‘just a job’ for you, or tiresome, then it may be time for change.
Join your professional association of Child and Youth Care Practice in your area and advocate for young people as a united front.
Join CYC-Net and other networks to stay connected; at least once in your career attend a CYC conference (you’ll likely become addicted).
Many young people we work with have varying disabilities so please find time to engage in the emerging field of Critical Disabilities Studies. Such education, evolved from lived experiences, reinforces the value of disability within the spectrum of human diversity.
Challenge your personal perceptions every day and check in with yourself for signs of burn-out. Keep a few hobbies outside your work to help you relax and escape.
Marshall, Nancy (2017). Child and Youth Care and Disability Rights:
Listening to Young People, Challenging our Practice. RCYCP
Vol.30 No.2 pp 55
Marshall, N., & Thorn, C. (2017). Establishing relational care to support young people living with disabilities. CYC-Online, 226, 74-87.
Influences on my work include Lorraine Fox, Thom Garfat, Karen VanderVen, Jennifer Martin, Kiaras Gharabaghi, Tara Collins, Judy Finlay, and the many contributors to CYC-net. Others include the many advocates in the field of Critical Disability Studies including Judy Singer and Lydia X. Z. Brown. Most important influences come from the young people who have taught me the true essence of our work.
I am honoured to call myself a Child and Youth Care Practitioner and look forward to connecting with others who feel the same. I hope to see you at the next conference ;)
Last updated June 2018