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Cross discipline education

2015

Hello,

I’m a student at Mount Royal University in my second year of a child and youth care counselling degree, I am also completing a practicum in a residential treatment setting and work in two group homes. What has come to my attention, even with my relatively little experience, is a breakdown in communication and understanding between various organizations and disciplines. For instance, there seems to be a disconnect between social workers, police services, and front line staff. This disconnect inevitably leads to some very difficult situations.

What my coworkers and I were imagining is creating a stronger connection between the disciplines early on. While in school we could collaborate on larger projects, giving each discipline a better understanding of the others; how they can be used beneficially and any limits on their actions as well. While this won’t solve all the problems, we think that it may be beneficial to future generations. I was wondering if anyone who is either currently in school/recently finished has cooperated on projects across disciplines and their thoughts on the effectiveness of such projects?

Peter
...

Hello Peter,

I agree very strongly that there needs to be more awareness created between the various professions. Specifically, a greater awareness of the value that child and youth workers bring to difficult situations involving children and youth should be promoted, since I think that there is a very clear perception of what police and social workers contribute. However, since there is sometimes quite an overlap in responsibilities between social workers and CYC workers, this can sometimes cause confusion or friction.

I was involved in an interesting pilot project at Algonquin College which was an attempt to create collaboration and awareness between paramedics, police, nurses and child and youth workers. It was an online avatar programme (with each person assigned an avatar). Meetings and scenarios were played out online with the various different avatars and a culminating "live" scenario acted out as a final assignment. It was interesting but I am not sure what developed after that.

Still some way to go to iron out all these wrinkles!

Delphine
...

Hi Peter,

I studied Child and Youth Work at Algonquin College (graduated 2 years ago) and in our third year we participated in a course that involved CYC students, Police Foundation students, Paramedic students, and Nursing students. This course (which included role playing various scenarios that recreated real life events) was extremely useful and helpful for all the professions. It really helped us all understand the other professions prospective.

Luke Smith

Hi Everyone,

When I started working waaaay back in 1996 I worked at Stepping Stones Youth Justice Centre. It was the first of its kind in SA (and apparently the world, but don’t quote me on that). It was a one-stop centre for children in trouble with the law and involved three “big” departments, namely Police, Department Justice and Department Social Development, as well as NGO’s such as Nicro (National Institute for Prevention of Crime and Rehabilitation of Offenders). When a child was arrested anywhere in our district, the child would be brough to Stepping Stones rather than one of the 13 police stations, as was previously done. Here the child was received and all police procedures followed. At the same time a probation officer on duty (24/7) would meet with the children and ensure parents were notified immediately. An assessment was immediately done and the child would then appear in court (on the same premises) within 24 hours, even on weekends (this was a first). So within 24 hours police arrest procedures would be finalised, the child would be seen by a social worker, parents notified, and court appearance to determine custody. This fast tracked a process that would previously take 2 weeks minimum (the time that cases were postponed, often only to find the parents) and in the meantime children would remain in custody.

This was the first inter-departmental project of its kind in SA and required government departments to work together in a way that previously never happened. It was great. And it was terrible.

What was great? We all (from all the departments) got to know each other and understand the true nature of each other’s work. There was much greater respect for various professions and roles, and a high level of cooperation developed.

What was terrible? As with all new things, some learnings come later. It is really important that leadership in such projects are clarified and shared. When one department takes the lead to the exclusion of others, cooperation starts to fail. This is the one thing I would do differently: establish a strong leadership structure that is transparent in which departments have equal insight and power is shared equally. And this leadership cannot simply be management as it existed before, it is leadership that needs to be developed. There needs to be true understanding of a win-win philosophy.

I am not saying our leadership was terrible, but it could have been better if lessons were learnt and implemented. Sadly what could have been a true model for the rest of the world became a mediocre programme (with still some good results and good people working there), but lost it “magic” as departments slowly retreated back into their silos.

So I fully support that cross discipline education is needed, but I want to add to that – leadership!

Werner can der Westhuizen
South Africa
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