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Transcripts of some of the discussions on CYC-Net's email discussion group

Characteristics of a Child and Youth Care approach


For a number of years now we (the field) have been referring to a Child and Youth Care (CYC) Approach. A typical list of characteristics associated with this approach might include:

• Being with people as they live their lives
• Pro-activity in intervention
• Responsive practice
• Intentionality of action
• Counselling on the go
• Developmentally appropriate intervention
• Hanging Out with people
• Hanging In – good times and bad
• Doing With, (Not For or To)
• Strengths-based focus
• Engagement & Connection as a foundation
• Being in Relationship and the relational
• Needs-based focus in planning and intervention
• Interventions focused on the present
• Flexibility/Individuality of Approach
• Family engagement
• Focus on Context of interaction and intervention
• Attention to Meaning-Making
• Attention to, and use of, rhythmicity
• Self awareness and the use of self (It’s All About Us)
• Use of daily life events as a focus for intervention

We think it is a good time to update this list and so, we were wondering ... As a CYC practitioner, student, teacher, trainer, writer, or whatever role you might occupy, we were wondering if you might respond to the following questions:

1. Are there characteristics, based on your experience in the field (working, workshops, reading, etc.), which you think should be added to the list because you find them appearing frequently in the field? If so, what are they? And where have you seen them?

2. Are there characteristics, based on your experiences, which you think should be eliminated from the list? If so, what are they, and why?

3. Are there characteristics, based on your own personal values and beliefs, which you think we should be trying to incorporate into our approach? If so, what are they?

So, whoever you are, please help us out here, and maybe we will also end up stimulating a discussion on what we all mean by a CYC Approach.

Thom Garfat and Leon Fulcher

Hi Thom and Leon.

Here are three suggestions for the already great list on the characteristics of CYC approach:

1. "Being present through the good and bad" (I may use this in place of "hanging out/hanging in" which sounds like it could lack a sense of being intentional)

2. "Trauma-informed" (not claiming an understanding of every source of trauma, but rather having a sensitive understanding of the effects of trauma on the development and experience of the individual)

3. "Creating a welcoming culture" (whether in a family or group setting the way in which individuals are welcomed into the environment can accelerate or hinder the development of the relationship)

Our organizational values (which are also personal for many of us) of respect, integrity, courage, and compassion are also vital to the CYC approach.

James Freeman
California USA

This may be considered later, but I would like to throw this idea out now... that is that after an inventory and discussion takes place, and that we have an updated list of CYC characteristics, that the presentational form of this list be changed and made more accessible (not just to CYC's in the professional field) and clear. What I would suggest is to conceptualize and articulate these items into several (not too many), short, sweet paragraphs of prose. I don't know about what others think, but I get weary of long lists, bullets and all ... and exactly who is the audience here?

Mark Greenwald

Hi Thom and Leon,

I am not sure if you have seen Martha Holden's book - Children and Residential Experiences (CARE): Creating Conditions for Change (2009). It is available through the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). It covers many of the aspects you list, under six core principles: developmentally focussed, family involved, relationship based, competence centered, trauma informed and ecologically oriented. The readers of CYC-NET might be interested in this articulation of core elements of CYC knowledge and research.

You (and CYC-NET participants) also may be interested to know that the Residential Child Care Project at Cornell University has over the last 6-7 years created the CARE program approach, in consultation with a number of agencies and many CYC staff in North and South Carolina, that is being qualitatively and quantitatively researched in an attempt to translate these CYC principles, values and approaches into more evidence-based practice. The above text presents the core content elements of the approach, but there is also a process of implementation at the agency level (and whole agencies are involved; it is not just about training workers) that is also being researched.

Thanks for keeping the "core of care" in front of the CYC network!

Jim Anglin

Thanks Thom and Leon for your suggestion that we again look at what we believe to be the core characteristics of the field. It seems to me a good idea to continue revisiting this issue, discussing what has evolved and exploring what it means to our practices today.

I suspect that at least some of the people who will be contributing to the conversation are not aware of the Competencies for Professional CYC Practice developed by the North American Certification Project. This is, to my knowledge, the most complete listing of the competencies that describe fully professional CYC practice in existence. These competencies are the foundation of the CYC Certification Board's certification program in the United States and are giving us an agreed upon set of competencies to integrate existing certification programs across practice settings. Earlier this year the competencies were reviewed and changes made to the language so that they better reflect changes in the field since they were first published in 2002. For an updated copy, visit or

Another source that is highly relevant to review is the Ethics for CYC Professionals also at both websites. The competency document describes knowledge and skills; the ethics document fills in values and beliefs.
Taken together, I believe they represent the most complete thinking in our field at this point in time. In many years of searching, I have not encountered a more complete description of who we are as practitioners.

That said, I am pleased to see this conversation occurring. One of the things I value most highly as a practitioner is our commitment to continually questioning our contribution to the community and to our societies. I hope we never become complacent about where our history and evolutionary trajectory have brought us. For all we have learned and bring, there is still so much more for us to embrace.

Frank Eckles
CYC Certification Board

Hi Thom

Hope you're well. Thanks for this and for the stimulating responses already sent. I see somethings in it that I find interesting, and challenging, maybe even contradicting. The term Intervention comes up a few times, but the list also includes, "doing with, (Not for or to)", and "Being with people as they live their lives" I find these ideas a little bit contradictory, and may need some help getting my head around them co-existing.

I think some other Characteristics or assets of a CYW, are the ability to tolerate, (and maybe even grow in the face of) Uncertainty, and a Willingness to Model, to recognize that our actions speak louder than our words. I'm sure these are ideas that come out of a "response based practice", and Self Awareness. 'I think this is such an important discussion, and again thanks for it.

Michael Wattie

Hi Thom and Leon, can I suggest 'culturally safe, sensitive and responsive'.

Jeremy Millar


I am a CYCC student at Mount Royal. I have been searching through all the CYCNET response emails for a while now and came across your Characteristics or assets of a CYW. It reminded me of what our professors having been teaching us over here for the last year and a half. When I read your list I was able to identify with it and elaborate it in my own way. From CYCC classes to practicum experience I find myself agreeing with your CYW Characteristic. Tolerance is definitely needed in this field because it calls for open mindedness and patience. In our class we read an article on Ambiguity Tolerance that means to face the fear of uncertainty by looking at a new challenge as an opportunity. This calls for an optimistic attitude, adaptability and a willingness to learn. In addition I also agree with you that actions do speak louder than words, which is why we are also taught that it is important to be consistent by talking the talk and walking the walk. When we walk the talk we are putting our money where our mouth is and we are also role-modeling positive behavior.

Most importantly being self aware helps us remain healthy and balanced which makes our work more effective and interpersonal (empathic).

Thank you all for an important topic and your time.

Mallaina Wynn

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