I am part of the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria and in one of our group discussions, we have come up with the following question:
In the experience of seasoned CYC practitioners, we wonder how much choice or agency children and youth have in regards to their personal and basic rights. How are their rights supported by CYC practitioners in various parts of the world?
We look forward to hearing what others have to say!
I work in the Western Isles of Scotland as an advocacy and participation worker. I work for an organisation called Who Cares? Scotland and we provide independent advocacy right across Scotland to young care experienced people. We are a unique organisation as we use relationship based advocacy and are totally independent. In other words the young person is effectively our boss. Our role is to ensure that their voice is heard.
I feel there are many opportunities for us to engage in children's rights.
Here in Ontario we have an annual weekend workshop
called "Shaking the Movers". Here is a link that shares about the event,
as well as further information about children's rights:
A few years ago, I had the privilege to be part of "Shaking the Movers" via a CYC degree course: Children's Rights. As part of our studies, our group utilized the ideals of Paulo Freire, who is well known for his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire (2011) spoke to the power of mutual dialogue in which we can learn from each other. He also spoke to the impact of such dialogue as an ever-evolving transformative process. During this workshop, our group engaged with young people in the gaining of knowledge and action plans in regards to their rights. CYCs are part of this every year. I found it to be a very moving experience. Many emotions - like elation and compassion - arose inside me as the voice of the youth shared on the topic of rights. In the supportive inclusive space created, youth voiced a range of feelings and experiences, as well as thoughts and ideas. We all came away empowered by the whole experience. Experiences like this one also reminds me of how I can continue to support children and youth in the every day.
Reflecting on the topic of rights, Freire's (2011) ideologies continually come to mind: its true form exists not in the 'taking' or 'giving', but it simply becomes or is. Thus, power is diminished. This topic also raises the concept of empowerment. In regards to empowering others, there is a difference between advocacy for and advocacy with. In advocacy with, we recognize the value and belief systems of those we serve and support them in their journey, as opposed to doing what we think is best for them (Fisher, 2010).
In regards to the personal and basic rights of children and youth, there are many opportunities in which CYC practitioners can empower young people: i.e. venues like the one mentioned above, and in-the-moment and/or planned opportunities within the life-space of the child. It is also important to be aware that we engage children and youth based on developmental stages and assets. CYCs can facilitate learning and engagement by supporting youth in the discovery of their rights and dialoguing about their journey to realize it. We can nurture, step back, and witness young people use their own "power" to engage their rights, as well as become supports/champions for their peers. Further, we ourselves can engage in other ways: i.e. be role models in our day-to-day interactions, and participate in the advocation of policies and relatable practices. As professionals who work with children and youth on a daily basis, we can be part of creating an environment and/or systems that increase agency and choice for the rights of children and youth.
Fisher, L (2010, Spring). Taking an advocacy with
approach to better support families [pdf document]. Perspective in
Family Support, 3, pp. 11-15.
Friere, P. (1968/2011). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th ed.). (M. Bergman Ramos, Trans.) New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.
I work in an Autism program in an inner-city high school at the Toronto District School Board, Ontario. We support our students rights by reading over their Individual Education plans with them and making sure they understand everything that is in it. We teach them to advocate for themselves in their classrooms by making quick tip sheets they can present to their teachers. On these sheets are a summary of their rights to educational accommodations.
Hope this helps, let me know if you want more information or samples of what we do. Great question!