I am a second year student taking Child and Youth Care Counselling at Mount Royal University. I am doing my practicum through an alternative suspension program for high school students. We collaborate with certain high schools in the community where specified students will be referred to us for a 3-5 day alternative suspension. I think this is a great program as we spend time counselling the students on their decisions that got them suspended and help them reintegrate back into their high school. The program is strength based and we help the students focus on their strengths. The goal of the program is to reintegrate them back into class and help them understand the decisions they made that got them suspended. The students will be with us for a minimum 3 days and a maximum 5 days. Most of the student will come and serve their time and some even do learn something during their time and leave with a positive attitude. During the 3-5 days we spend with these youths we get to know them as they share their personal issues and challenges. Some are so bright and you know will be ok, but there are some that share such challenges that concern you. You do everything you can to help them and provide referrals and other resources. But you know the time you spend with them is not enough to have built trust where they will seek that help. We support the youth to be reintegrated back into high school believing they are ready but have concerns whether they really will fit in.
I guess my question to everyone is, if my role as a professional is just to fulfill a specific goal from my agency. How far if any, do I go to help a client I believe needs more support knowing I may be stepping out of my role? Where does my responsibility end? Is it ok to just put these youths back into the system knowing they may fail.
Just wanting some advice or shared experiences on any others who have gone the extra mile to help their clients.
From my experience of working with young people who are drug addicts I believe there's always more to do for young people at risk. I’d say if your agency allows after care you can keep in contact to check their progress. Working with young people there's never a point where when they leave the program I feel that it’s is enough. I always feel like doing more. The young people you work with are lucky to have a caring person like you. Keep it up.
I think your struggle is one we all face from time to time. Where is the line in the amount of time and effort you put into an individual who needs more help than they are getting, which if we are honest is almost all of them. I personally have faced this dilemma, where you know of groups or supports. One thing I would consider is looking at changing the goal of the agency. I know that is often much easier said than done, but maybe a follow up program or provision could be added to the program as reintegration is the end goal. It would be helpful to have a follow up procedure to measure your effectiveness in achieving that goal and then to provide supports to those who may not be currently as successful as you know they could be.
Within the context of a follow up session, just knowing that someone cared enough to follow up and see how they are doing, you are five times more likely to reach a level of trust in which they may take your advice and avail of additional services. Obviously the development of a follow up service is a long process, but in the meantime there is little you can do outside the scope of your job description. Do only what you feel your organization would be comfortable with. I think you probably know the answer to your own questions. If your organization would prefer you not step outside your role for whatever reason then your efforts should be focused on showing them where the program is lacking and develop a policy around it.
It may also be worth your while to give the information to the schools as well, exposure is important and re-exposure is even more powerful, from you then the school and hopefully you again.
Great question. Check out one of the CYC code of ethics at www.cyccb.org/ethics. You have a responsibility to both the young person, your employer, and the profession. If you believe they need more support it is likely your responsibility to speak up for them.
When you say, "you know the time you spend with them is not enough to have built trust where they will seek that help" – remember that when you connect and engage others and provide an experience that is different than what they have learned to expect, trust can be established very quickly.
Keep asking the questions and don't lose your concern for the young people you are working alongside!