I am currently in my second year at university, and am planning to attain my bachelors in child studies. I am doing practicum at an after school program, and I had a question about appropriate boundaries with the youth involved in the program once the program has concluded for the day.
My main mode of transportation is public transit, and not surprisingly, this is the case for most of the youth involved in the program. I also live in the same community as the program, and thus, I live in the same community as a lot of the youth too. My question is this: is it ethical for me to take transit with the youth once the program is over? I'm conflicted about how to handle the situation, if I should utilize the bus but sit away from the youth, to engage on the bus and sit with them, or lastly, to just wait until I think they have all gone home.
I want to remain vigilant in establishing professional boundaries with the youth I work with, and I am unsure if this is a violation of those boundaries. Any input is welcome, and I look forward to your replies!
What a great opportunity to further build relationships. Get on the bus! They may or may not want to acknowledge you. They may or may not be on their "best behaviour". They may or may not....you fill in the blanks. Our work is about doing life with young people and you may (or may not!) find yourself with riding mates before you know it.
I totally agree with Deb - get on the bus and be with them - it is amazing how much you can learn about young people in a very non-threatening environment where you can just be...
I agree with Deb and Marlene (brilliant leaders in our field) – get the heck on the bus! If you are tuned in the youth will guide you in terms of how to be with them – to engage or not to engage…
If you have offered them an experience of being a caring adult in your role as a placement CYC – you will be able to continue to be a caring adult in their world regardless of your ‘official’ role with them.
Exploring and reflecting on the complexity of our practice is so important Keisha – continue that too.
I agree with Deb Fast and Marlene....getting on a bus to "just be" with youth is a great opportunity to connect.
I think you need to identify where your boundaries are and stick to them. getting on the bus is fine, as long as you don’t have concerns about them knowing where you live, ect. Sit with them, or near enough that they can talk to you if you want to, just be aware of personal and professional boundaries. Be aware of your self care and how it is effecting you emotionally. Its fine to engage, just don’t be over involved. Also check with policies at work too. Some have a confidentiality agreement that may prevent you from acknowledging them first, as a means of ‘outing them’ as having been in whichever program it is. In theory they may want that information kept private. But if they come to you first then its void... just check things out and do only what you’re comfortable with.
This is a simple yet very profound question...and I applaud you for taking the time to ask it. My suggestion is the first question to ask when making a decision that you believe may have ethical implications would be to look at the Child and Youth Care Code of Ethics and see if your choice would be a clear violation of the Code. It seems pretty clear that just getting on public transit would not be such a violation, in and of itself, so I would then go to see if riding with the child would break any agency or program policies.
Assuming you feel ok going ahead the first question I suggest for yourself is for whose primary benefit would you be riding with the child for? If it primarily is for you to have a travel partner then obviously it is not a good choice. But, if you feel that it would be primarily for the child's benefit then it seems to ride with the child would open up the door to a number of wonderful opportunities to make connections with this child. Much of quality and effective Child and Youth Care work is done "in the moment" and riding would be a great way, as Deb said, to just "live life with a child for a while". You would also want to feel out whether the child wanted you to ride with them. Of course, you could just ask them, but maybe better to let them make the first move to sit by you and to observe their body language and other non verbal comfort indicators. The child might feel honored you would want to spend time with them, or view it as an intrusion or stigmatization, and may not want to risk telling you. You can see it would be a great opportunity to put many of the CYC skills you have been learning to work!
I also think that if you choose to ride with them you should use the experience as a topic for you to discuss in supervision. You can also learn much about yourself by doing this and your own feelings about it, etc.
I am sure you will make a thoughtful choice...hopefully you will write back later and tell us how it played out!