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Burn out in child and youth care 

2010

Query received through our website Query form ...

I am currently looking at burnout in child and youth care as my thesis for my Masters in Child & Youth Care, at Mount Saint Vincent University. I am looking at whether or not an educational workshop on burnout could assist individuals in avoiding this often to common problem in C&YC. Is anyone else aware of any thesis work on this topic or recent material on burnout? I would appreciate any direction or information you could provide.

Thank you
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Vikki Reynolds has an interesting take on burn out although I can not say she works directly in the "child and youth care field". She is a therapist and a social activist working with homelessness in Vancouver, British Columbia. The short article I am referring to - Reynolds, V. (2009).
Collective ethics as a path to resisting burnout. You can retrieve some of her work here: http://therapeuticconversations.com/?page_id=720.

Angela Slade
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Hello. In California I have been to workshops as well as trainings titled "Care for the care provider" also try looking into Vicarious trauma for first responders.

Kamal Singh
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The burnout topic comes up frequently. In my experience, burnout has more to do with job stress unrelated to children than it does with the children themselves. See:

http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cyconline-june2009-stein.html on burnout in a residential setting.

Also:

http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cycol-0504-burnout.html on burnout with teachers. Also includes some references you might find helpful.

Simply using the search feature on the www.cyc-net.org home page will also produce many links, some of which might prove useful to you.

John Stein
New Orleans
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Hello,

Several years ago I completed my masters thesis on vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout and looked at the differences between these terms as part of the work. However, I did not look specifically at child and youth care. I think it is very important to make sure what you are looking at is burnout and not another phenomenon such as compassion fatigue. Maslach (the Guru of Burnout) is still writing on the topic and you may want to check out Figley for his work on compassion fatigue and he incorporates the concept of burnout in his work. There is also a website www.compassionfatigue.ca which you might find helpful since its funder focuses on workshops and workshop materials. I think your topic is very important as many people participate in workshops but then return to the same settings, and part of what contributes to burnout is workplace issues and systemic issues, not simply the worker.

I hope this helps and all the best with your work!
Pat Kostouros
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It's been years since I looked at the literature on burnout but based on a study we did of graduates from the 3-year CYW program at St. Lawrence College in Kingston Ontario where I was for 22 years, I have some suggestions.

Back then, we had seen the literature (mostly US) and heard regularly that 2-3 years was the average CYWs stayed in the job because of burn-out. But we knew of many grads who had been in the field for 10-15 years (we had 15 years of grads by the time of the study).

What we found was 2-3 yrs was when most changed jobs, until they got one with good working conditions or that suited them. After that, the only changes were to stop and have a family, but then they returned. So the "burn-out" phenomenon did not mean out of the field, but out of a particular agency.

Until my recent retirement, I was Director of the professional CYW association in Ontario for 13 years where we had members working front-line for 30+ years. I also got to know a lot of members with 2-3 yrs in the field and often they became members in order to be able to switch jobs, to get out of a burn-out-type agency into a better one.

My conclusion from all of this is that burn-out is basically a function of poor management. The longest lasting members are all in well-managed agencies, or in agencies less well run but with otherwise good working conditions, e.g., high pay or places like school boards with reasonable wages, shortened days and long holidays. And as long as the wages are reasonable, good management also trumps higher pay. Many members stayed at a lower paying agency if there was lots of opportunity for professional development (going to conferences/workshops, being able to run their own special groups/activities, etc.).

The only individual psychological variable that I could see worth addressing is the tendency of some CYWs to stay at a poorly run place to protect the kids. Dealing with their guilt about "abandoning" the kids is a personal, psychological issue, but otherwise it comes back to the "structural" issue of getting out, or for the right person and situation, fighting to bring in a union. But getting out and changing jobs is the most common answer.

Here, things like conferences, CYC-NET, connection with their professional association, etc. is what counts. Something that provides a wider perspective, and possible contacts for the next job. They need to see that the forces that maintain burn-out-prone agencies are well beyond their control, and they need to save themselves so they can go on and help other kids.

I hope this helps.

Dennis McDermott
Harrowsmith, Ontario
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