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Consistency 2

2015

It has been just over a year since I began my journey in the Child and Youth care field. I started as a bright eyed, bushy tailed student who came in to this field with a dream to “change the world”. It did not take long to recognize that become a CYCC consisted of way more challenges than I could have every anticipated. As my journey into the field of Child and Youth care continues I have gone from an expectation of changing the world, to a desire to at the very least be able to make some sort of impact in the lives of these vulnerable youth we work with day in and day out.

Since that first day of school just last year I have already been lucky enough to make huge strides in my journey to becoming a Child and Youth Care Counselor and have had the opportunity to learn and experience so many things about this field. There are so many fantastic things about this field and I could go on for hours about what I love about it, however the unfortunate truth is that like every other professions there is always going to be things that could be improved upon.

Consistency appears to be something that causes a great amount of challenges in many group homes and program and in many different areas of how the program is ran. There is a huge emphasis in this field on the importance of consistency and the benefits it offers the success of our work with children and youth. Unfortunately being able to be consistent one hundred percent of this time is impossible especially in circumstances where there are numerous people involved in the child’s live (ie: staff, guardians, case workers, teachers, clinicians etc…). So far my experience in this field has shown me both the positives of consistency but also the downfalls it has to offer.
What I am curious to know is what is your opinion on consistency in the field of CYC? How can we improve consistency in this field? How does your agency view consistency/how does it implement it?

Jessica Lindenaar
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Henry Maier once said,

"To be 'consistent' is not necessarily a virtuous position. On the contrary, it is neither an acceptable nor a desirable quality. To align our responses in terms of the individual child is far more effective."

Now he obviously meant consistency as implemented across relationships with various children. As a practitioner, I know that consistency is important for young people in care, but I often feel that as a profession, we over think it. Thinking reflexively, I look back to my own experience being cared for. In my opinion, having consistency in rules and boundaries is not necessarily as big an issue as we make it to be, but rather, the consistency that is important is that young people in our care consistently feel loved, cared for and supported. To me that is how you define and measure consistency in a CYC oriented program.

As someone who is still trying to change the world, never give up on that..

Good luck on your journey,

Catlin Thorn

PS. if you are able to, pick up Developmental Group Care of Children and Youth: Concepts and Practice by Henry Maier. It is dated now, but it is a masterful bit of literature and still quite relevant to our field today. I read it as a young man and it really changed my perspective on the work we do as CYC's. I think it should be a prerequisite reading for anyone in child and youth care.
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 Hello Jessica,

The question of consistency is a complex one since it can be viewed from multiple angles. For instance, if you think about consistency on a more micro level in terms of your daily work with children and youth, consistency would apply to daily routines that you as a worker can try to keep consistent, and consistency in your personal relationship with the child or youth you are working with. Your relationship needs to be consistent and the child or youth needs to develop trust through this consistency. Consistency is vital to the development of stable schemas particularly for traumatized or emotionally vulnerable children and youth (think Piaget).

Within the residential home or programme, there might be rules or an overarching theoretical perspective that needs to be consistently adhered to. From a larger more macro perspective, the difficulty in child and youth work lies in the fact that there are multiple theoretical perspectives, philosophies and and therapeutic tools that can be used in the field of child and youth work. As far as service provision is concerned, this can cause a lot of confusion and get in the way of effectively working with children, youth and families. For example, multiple different agencies within one provincial district might use different theoretical perspectives. One agency might be interested in using brief solution focused therapy and another in using collaborative problem solving. So, a family might be involved with one agency which uses the brief solution focused approach but the school that the child attends uses collaborative problem solving This can become not only confusing but actually get in the way of effective treatment. In Ottawa (Canada), there have been some efforts to try to implement CPS (collaborative problem solving by Ross Greene) universally. Through community of practice (weekly meetings with various agencies) and an effort to implement CPS in schools, there has been some progress establishing "consistency." However, these efforts are sometimes thwarted by individuals who personally don't appreciate, recognise or understand the method. So the challenge lies in trying to develop a "universal" language which everyone can "speak."

However, philosophically, this becomes tricky because many would argue that since the children and youth we work with are so unique, there is no "universal" language and no one size fits all approach, and that we should adapt and be flexible according to the needs of each unique child or youth. I think that in your case personally, if the agency or organisation you work in has an overarching theoretical perspective or guiding framework they work work within, you should try to adhere to this as closely as possible without undermining or endangering the child or youth's integrity. As a child and youth worker, you are going to need to constantly evaluate the decisions you make, but always, always remain consistent in your belief and desire to do what is best for the child or youth. If you don't feel that you are able to do this, then you need to discuss and move on.

All the best,
Delphine Amer
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Hi Jessica,

When I look at consistency, I feel I need to look at 2 things. There are rules, goals and mandates of the program that are for the most part “set in stone”. Then, there are different staff who work in different ways to meet a common goal (equifinality). All staff need to be on board with the rules that have been set for the program. However, as staff have different personalities, skills and toolboxes, they adhere to these rules using their own style. I find that a lot of conflict between staff around consistency is that we are not looking at the end goal but how we get there (and when it is in a different way, others assume it is wrong). Staff are going to run their shifts in different ways but the goal is the same among them, we need to celebrate the different working styles/strengths of others but know that we are all in this together, working towards the same thing. Does this make sense to you?

Lorinda Molner
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