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

Recognition

Query received from a class project of first year students at a Canadian university:

"What can we do as students and individuals to advocate for the recognition of Child and Youth Care practitioners as a legitimate profession recognized in legislation and regulations?"

Thanks for your assistance.
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To advocate for recognition - make sure that you join your association - for example, if you are in Ontario it is the OACYC. Those groups will work towards gaining recognition as well as becoming your governing body.

Denise Halliday
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Recently Denise said "To advocate for recognition - make sure that you join your association." I write in agreement and confess that I like to imagine what it would be like if everyone who practiced Child and Youth Care belonged to their local association - how much stronger our association of the like-minded would be.

I have been in this field for over 35 years now (yup, I'm an old-timer) and still, for the life of me, I do not understand why people would 'not' join their association. I have heard all the arguments of course: what does the association do for me?; what do I get for my money?; it does not change my standards of work, and the like. But perhaps these are self-perpetuating complaints. Someone does not think the association does enough for them, so they do not join, and so the association does not have enough resources to do anything, so people complain that the association would not do anything for them, and the cycle is complete.

Shall I scream this out loud? It is a question of identify and belonging.

Identity and belonging: two of the most important things in our lives, never mind our field. For example, when you are a member of an association, you have the opportunity to identify with a group who hold common interests, working towards common goals, sharing experiences, connecting. When you belong to your association you, well, you belong. And we all know how important 'belonging' is, don't we?

And while I am on this rant, what is it with people (CYCs) who do 'not' subscribe to the journals of the field? How do they stay in touch with what's going on, new developments, changing roles, and the like? And yes, I have heard those arguments, too - it costs so much. I appreciate that for some people, in some contexts, this is very true. I mean, if you live, for example, in Kenya, subscribing to an international journal costs a lot. But when you can afford whatever is available, why would you not subscribe? Let me take Canada, for example, where the 'local' journal is RCYCP. An individual subscription costs 74$ Canadian a year. Divide that by the average 225 working days a year, and it comes to .32 cents a day to stay in touch, keep informed, learn more. Yet, it seems, the average CYC in this country is unable to spend 32 cents per working day (20 cents if you count all the days in a year) to keep up to date. So, what's the thinking behind that: I already know everything? I don't want to know more? I am as good as I will ever be? Or, I just don't care about whether or not I am giving the best I can for kids and families?

And if you don't subscribe to a journal yourself, does your agency or program make it available to you? If not, do you advocate to have it available for you and the team? Even if you all as a team have to pay for it, if there are 6 people on your team that comes to about 5 cents a working day each.

And if that is still too much (which I find hard to believe) what about CYC-Net - how come there are people working in this field who do not join up? Heck, you can even join CYC-Net for free, so the 'it costs too much' argument doesn't hold water. And while I am on that subject, if you do belong, why don't you support it financially? How about this: You can access over 15,000 pages of information on CYC-Net and yet most of those who do belong, don't even find it within themselves to offer up a dollar a month of support for what is, unquestionably, the fullest and most accessible source of information available on our field. How shameful is that, eh?

So, if you want to support the development of our field - and if you are in this field and do not want to support it, perhaps you should be looking for another job - why wouldn't you:

1. Join your local association
2. Subscribe to whatever journal is locally available to you and,
3. Join CYC-Net or some other local discussion group relevant to the field.

And there is going to conferences, engaging in training, write for the field, etc.

All over the world, we annually graduate thousands of Child and Youth Care workers, whatever they are called, and thousands more are hired without degrees or certificates, yet, I would argue that the behaviour of the majority, judging by their lack of participation in all these areas, suggests that they just don't (are you ready for it) ... just don't care.
Period. Because if they cared, they would participate.

And before you start shouting at me, rationalizing and explaining, let me say this - I paid my association dues when I was making 2 dollars an hour, I subscribed to the journal when I was struggling to pay the rent, and I went to conferences with a sleeping bag, so I just don't accept the arguments. And I know lots of people today who work part time for poor wages, have a tough time making ends meet, and they still participate. Why? Because they believe - in themselves and the values of the field; in a CYC approach to helping; in the importance of doing it well. Because they are CYCs and want to be the best that they can be.

And, I suspect, they like the feeling of belonging and identity.

Personally, I believe that if you care, you contribute.

So, here I am at the end of my rant and I would be interested in knowing the real reasons why people do not participate.

Maybe I missed the boat.

Thom Garfat
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Dear University students

Firstly I'd echo Denise's advice to join your association.

Next, and perhaps most challenging for all of us, remember, and build on our roots. Child Care Work training has it's origins in Canada anyways in the very milieu where the work occurred; in residential treatment centres. From there it went onto the community colleges, and in the early part of this was taught by those who had done or were still doing the work they were teaching. The university programs in our field are exciting, but challenging developments for our "profession".

And lastly reflect on this issue of "professionalism". Is it the right direction for our field? If so, why? Consider the experience of "other" - "professions" Nurses , Social workers. In the end, are the people we serve better served by this development?

I have done this work for nearly 30 years, and undoubtedly have developed some bias. I see nurses from university programs who all want to be educators and managers and very few want to do the shift work and bedside stuff that was the genesis of their "profession". I know SWs who, especially those at the masters level, are already, or are doing their best to become managers. Would CYC's and more specifically the children and youth we care for be better off if CYC's were in these positions. Maybe, but I'm not sure about this yet. If it means taking the strongest from the front line, or direct care, and moving them away from the families, maybe not.

What is our drive for becoming acknowledged as "professionals", better wages? better hours? I see countless new young doctors and teachers who entered their chosen fields for these reasons as opposed to a call on their lives to care for and heal the sick and suffering.

Oh and maybe one more thing: Critically read those who write in our field these days.

Thanks for the question,
Michael Wattie, CYC, cert.
Canada
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Thom, I agree with you and it is frustrating that in England and Wales we have not as a child care work force attempted to do what you suggest. I think it is something to do with feeling powerless and assuming - like many of the children we look after when we first meet them - that no one will listen. If this is so, what an irony. In Europe and particularly in Germany there are signs, first, that residential child care is being seen as a first option rather than a last resort for vulnerable youngsters, and secondly that the role of the residential child care worker ('the social pedagogue') is being recognised as a discreet and legitimate profession with its own post-graduate level training. In the 1970s and 1980s the University of Newcastle upon Tyne introduced the notion of Social Pedagogy ("life space work") as a separate profession. Sporadically others have attempted to continue to promote the idea. There has been a lot of lip service paid in favour of it but little committed political and professional action.

Best wishes
Charles Sharpe
UK
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Hey guys ... I'm a first year student at Malaspina-Naniamo ... I need more input on how we in Child and Youth Care can be recognised as a profession!! Give me more ideas!!

Cynthia Kopp
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You are asking a question that plenty of people have asked before you. I think of it this way.... the field of CYC is very young. Professions need foundational infrastructure to build on. CYC is just beginning to have it. I include the following in what a profession needs: unified code of ethics, definition of the field of practice and the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for practice, credentialing to regulate who is considered 'in the field', education programs to support professional development, a recognized professional culture and literature written by practitioners. When these things exist, it is evidence that the profession has reached the beginning of a new developmental stage.

The ideas that ultimately become a profession typically develop in small pockets, in many places, with little inter-relationship. We are doing the best we know in our local community. In the early days of CYC, most people didn't realize what was going on in the next town, much less in other parts of their own country or in other countries . Over time, our consciousness (and our awareness of ourselves) expands and we develop a more unified vision of who we are, what we offer, and how we offer it.

So where are we now? Elements of all of the things I listed above exist in both the United States and Canada (and many other countries). This is an important step because it recognizes that CYCs, as a group, are evolving into a profession and we are taking similar routes to get there (and finding similar answers to the important questions). In the early days of most professions, you will see a period where the people in the field struggle to define themselves: their knowledge, skills, values, culture and literature. We are doing that now. If we are successful here it will lead to a unified vision that we can all accept and promote. I think this will be the beginning of the next stage: when people in the field recognize the value of what we offer the community and begin working together using common definitions and visions. You will notice that although there is increasing agreement on commonality, we have multiple credentialing programs (with little reciprocity across regions and countries), many sets of ethics, no generally recognized definition of the field,.... We are making progress and things are clearly changing: the fact that you are communicating on an international electronic network (evidence of culture and consciousness), that you recognize CYC as a profession (many before you didn't!), many credentialing programs exist (evidence of efforts to regulate), state, provincial, national and international organizations exist in many places that represent CYC interests, you are communicating from a recognized higher education program that offers education specific to CYC practice, we are getting ready for the 9th International CYC Conference (evidence of culture) and not insignificantly, I am using a developmental framework to describe my thinking (evidence of common knowledge base across two countries). We have come a long way.

So now what? I think the next step will happen when we find ways of unifying ourselves. Many of us already recognize the importance of our work in the community. We offer something valuable and unique. We now recognize this. There are more CYCs working with kids than any other professional group. You will see educators working together to promote the education profession and better practices. You will see the same thing for social workers, psychologists, physicians, etc. within their professions. They work together to promote their common interests and through that process, improve their ability to offer services to the people and communities they serve. It also gives them a way to promote their own interests (which, by the way, are not necessarily at odds with the needs of the community as many seem to believe). CYC is just beginning to struggle with this developmental level. We haven't gotten to the place where territoriality, local interests, and limited view of ourselves has given way to recognition that we can be much more impactful when we work together as the very large group that we are. I have great hope that I will live long enough to see this stage actualized.

Just a thought,
Frank Eckles
CYC Certification Board
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Cynthia, I am a graduate of Malaspina and have many conversations with people who have also graduated from the field wanting more action on this topic. Four years in a degree and no professional designation is frustrating when a Social Work degree or an Early Childhood Education Diploma will give you such professionalism. I believe in BC some of the answers may reside in the BC Child and Youth Care Association. It needs a lot of renewed energy and membership, membership, membership! If you look at Social Work or the ECE professional designation process it was implemented at government level. In order to advocate at a government level there needs to be a strong membership in this province to stand up and have a voice. If you look at the Ontario Association of Child and Youth Care they are a great example of the direction BC needs to move in. With other provinces on board we need to continue to lobby for professional recognition and a strong presence send a strong message. I know there is a designation process in place (I believe it originated in Alberta) to some extent and admit I do not know everything there is to know but it is a perspective that you might consider.

Angela
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I believe we are a "profession" and it starts with a shift in thinking.

We need to move from how others see us to how we see ourselves and conduct ourselves accordingly i.e. seek input on how we in Child and Youth Care currently recognize and celebrate our profession!

David in PEI
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I agree with much of what Frank Eckles says about how a professional discipline evolves and that eventually a collegiate process is started so that a formalised body is set up in order to protect and promote a profession. However some 'professional disciplines' - in my view the weaker, less unified, less informed, less political ones - will not survive or at best will not flourish in such an evolutionary process. In England and Wales the latter is the case for life space workers. Here they are a disparate band, never considered 'quite professional', seldom qualified in any profession, understood to be below the status of teachers and social workers and very much marginalised by these and other professional disciplines.

This has meant that historically (and it is possible the evidence coming from the excavations now being carried out in the former children's home in Jersey will bear this out) and currently there has been no real and committed investment in the recruiting and training of workers to enable them to carry out the complex role of nurturing, supporting and looking after children and young people in the life space. Nothing happens until the next scandal takes place, an investigation occurs, new procedures are rolled out, a great deal of noise is made about them and then everything returns to what it was until the next scandalous discovery. In my view life space work should be developed proactively and not after the damage has been done in the reactive blaming culture that is prevalent following the latest child care crisis.

There are many good people involved in this work but in my view we lose too many of them because they feel unheard and undervalued and consequently begin to feel ineffective.

The problem for such a profession is that at the moment the workers it would encompass are so disparate. It includes people working in residential homes, in day centres, in family centres, in outdoor activity settings and in the young persons' family homes. To further complicate matters, these workers are employed in settings which may come under different umbrellas of the public, voluntary or the private sectors. It is difficult to pull this together and this is why I was gladdened to discover CYC-NET which offers an opportunity for people to be involved in discussing and developing the profession both nationally and internationally. At national level in the UK the establishment of the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care was also a great step towards this. The Scottish Institute in turn has been a great influence on the formation in England of the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care which is beginning to raise the profile of the practice of residential child care in England.

Yet it will in my view take workers making a conscious and organised decision to unite if they are to energise this drive towards a discreet,unified and internationally recognised profession. To achieve this I fear that I am moving reluctantly towards a more politicised approach. I acknowledge the process which Frank describes but I do feel that our work's thread in the evolutionary weft and waft is so tenuous that it needs some powerful external reinforcing.

Best wishes,
Charles Sharpe
UK
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Hi Charles, well said.
It is sad that many 'life space' workers don't know or understand the history of the struggle of working people. Here in the University I am struck by the uncritical acceptance of the mixed economy of care as the only 'fit for purpose' model. The radical social work of the '70's is an embarrassing footnote in history. There is no evolutionary process in the post modern world. There are however many possible worlds. These can happen in spite of the centralising technical rational standardising inclinations of the apparatchiks of the ruling elites. I recall when I ran a residential unit testing many of the paper based returns that we had to do for the bean counters by filling in wildly inaccurate guestimate figures. If no one came back to me I would then ignore the paperwork. It was also quite possible to subvert many other procedures utilising a balance of charm and delinquency. The goal being to maximise opportunity for the young people we worked with rather than act as rationers of care on behalf of the state.

Happy to expand on a new Radicalism in residential work.

Cheers
Jeremy
Scotland
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While I agree with Charles Sharpe that we need to present a common front, I have to say that in my opinion it has become very difficult in this day and age for professionals in our field of work to unite and advocate. This rings true in the fact that we have become so overworked and much underpaid that we do not have the time, energy and the drive to advocate for ourselves.

Indeed it is very important for most of us to receive the kind of outside recognition we truly deserve. Unfortunately, for the population at large our work has gone unnoticed for the most part. In fact, unless one of our young clients commits a homicide or just puts the community in danger which turns the spotlight on our work for the wrong reasons, we remain the ghostly child savers.

When I tell people that I am a Youth Protection Social Worker their facial expression changes from happy to sympathetic and they tell me "It must be very difficult to do what you do. Terrible weather we are having". Of course I have stretched the truth a little but I think you understand what I mean. It has become much easier for members of our society to accept that some men and women earn millions of dollars to chase a puck, hit a ball with a stick or brutally tackle another person in football than to recognize that those of us who work with their youth are actually fixing their "screw ups". If the grown-ups were to acknowledge our presence and our work it would mean that there exists a problem with their children. Now who out there wants to point the finger at themselves? Since when have the members of our society accepted responsibility for their lack of action and overt apathy for our children or anything for that matter?

As far as I am concerned I get my validation from my colleagues, my coordinator and most specifically my clients. Somehow most of our efforts and interventions pay off at the end, or at least I like to think so. That piece of gum and the hello from your adolescent client, who by the way you thought was mute because he/she was consistently silent when you spoke to them, is validation enough for me. As far as the outside recognition and the pay increase is concerned "Not going to happen in our lifetime".

Thank you

Yvan Fullum
SCC BSW PSW

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