I started working in this field in 1979. I have worked front-line, primarily in residential care in several provinces in Canada and found them all quite different. This taught me a lot about how the location and the system affects the work we do. After some time in front-line practice I took a position teaching in a college level program for First Nations child and youth care students. It was 1984, and having just had my first child it provided me with more “regular” hours than the residential shift work. I went back and forth for a while between teaching, training, and working in group care settings and then in 1991 when I went back to school to get my Ph.D. I started teaching at University of Victoria and since then have been teaching and researching from a Child and Youth Care base. More recently, at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, I’ve been able to apply my understanding of location, systems, young people, and relationships to an administrative position.
I took a job as a waterfront counselor at Browndale’s summer camp. Browndale was an agency begun by the infamous John Brown, who left Warrendale and Thistletown in Toronto to start his own agency. He had some very interesting ideas about therapeutic communities, but ultimately he was jailed for defrauding the government in relation to how he used his operating expenses. We spent the first two months of summer camp carving the camp out of the woods, building the waterfront, and rescuing the docks every time they blew down the lake. Then these fascinating children arrived, en masse, from all over Ontario with their child care workers and they lived in tents on sites that were named for the address of the house they really lived in. Like 120 Grove St. I was hooked. I left University and stayed on in the fall to work – at 120 Grove St. Over the years I’ve moved in and out of different roles in group homes and community practice and I’ve taught young (and not so young) aspiring child and youth care practitioners in college and university in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Recently, in a consultation I was doing I met a young woman working at 122 Grove St. I stay connected with the field because it brings hope to young people and emphasizes care and relationship with others. I find it important to stay connected to these values in today’s world.
"Take care". This makes a nice email signature which I could put on “auto” but I don’t, I type it every time. And as I type I imagine how I might place the emphasis to go with this particular message. Because there are dozens of way to place the emphasis when you read “Take care” and hundreds of ways to interpret it.
You need several things to work in child and youth care:
A high tolerance for adrenalin
Genuine interest in people under the age of 18
An affinity for the unusual
“The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North
America” by Thomas King.
“Strong Helpers Teachings: The Value of Indigenous Knowledges in the Helping Professions” by Cyndy Baskin
I have many favorite experiences in child and youth care and it’s hard to pull one out to describe. Favorite implies that it was fun and I truly enjoyed it. I generally enjoy most things that I do, particularly in Child and Youth Care. So I have to describe something that stands out. Today one experience that comes to mind was my “good-bye” party from my very first job as a Child and Youth Worker. It was the first time that I realized that, even though the children were still “in care” and I wondered what kind of an influence I had on them, there were indicators, in the way in which they said good-bye, that I was important to them and that some aspects of the relationship I had with each one of them would carry forward both in them and in me.
Figure out as best you can who YOU are and be yourself in everything you do. This is the essence of genuineness.
The Youth in Care Network is an example of youth advocating for youth
and has grown from a small network to a nation-wide movement with many
I have 2 books published. “Foundations of Child and Youth Care” (2013-Kendall/Hunt Publishers) and “Right Here, Right Now: Life-space Intervention for Children and Youth” co-author with Kiaras Gharabaghi (2012-Pearson, Canada).
The first group of children and youth that I worked with: Gerry, Patti, Peter, Kathy, Danny, Brad, and their families and the agency that I worked in. The students I’ve taught over the last 25 years. Camping, canoeing, karate, swimming. The forests and lakes in Northern Ontario, the mountains in Alberta, and the ocean in British Columbia. Tragedies, particularly those that happen to people I’m close to.
A thank you to the people in the field who bring themselves to every conversation I have about Child and Youth Care and an acknowledgement to the diversity of Toronto, where I’ lived since 1999, and which challenges my assumptions in every single moment of my teaching.
Last updated October 2016