No matter where you read about our field, you will find constant references to the need for, and value of, supervision in order to adequately support staff in their work with young people and families. This support is not only seen as important in terms of staff “knowing what to do” or “knowing how to do it” but also in terms of staff being able to care appropriately for others. For, as Maier (1987) has said, “caregivers are enriched or limited as agents of care according to the care they receive”. There is, he argued, a direct connection between the quality of care received by the caregiver and the quality of care the caregiver is able to offer to young people. And if supervision is a form of professional caring for staff, then we can safely assume that there is also a direct relationship between the quality of supervision and the quality of care in a program.
Supervision in our field, as in others, is much more than simply providing caring support for the caregiver, essential as that may be to the process of care and treatment. Effective supervision, for example:
Is an important ingredient in the necessary ongoing self-awareness of staff
Supports staff development as reflective practitioners
Supports staff's creativity
Helps facilitates greater objectivity in thinking about youth and their situations
Helps staff in debriefing traumatic encounters
Is an important arena for skill and knowledge development
Assists staff in learning about a Child and Youth Care approach
And, of course, the list could go on – and on. Yet, regardless of how important supervision seems to be in out field, the writing on supervision is limited and, for the most part, tends to be drawn from other fields. As I have said elsewhere, (Garfat, 2001), we seem to want to borrow the frameworks for our supervision from other forms of practice, like social work or psychology or family therapy, and whereas we should be developing our own framework for supervision in child and youth care practice.
This is not to say there has been no important writing about supervision in our field. Quite the contrary. If you look at the list of links at the bottom of this piece, you will find a number of links to papers worth reading which have been posted here on CYC-Online. Many of them offer good food for thought. But it is not enough, and it does not define how supervision could, or should, should be within child and youth care.
So, that brings us to the purpose of this new section of CYC-Online. It is our hope that here, in this new section, you may find the opportunity to further thinking about supervision in child and youth care. We also hope that it will be a place where you, as someone affected by the quality of supervision in your work, will find a place to share your beliefs, experiences and dreams about effective (or not-so-effective) supervision through articles, papers and/or stories. It is not our mandate here at CYC-Net to “educate the field” or to tell you how things “should be”. But it is our mandate to connect practitioners around important issues. We believe that supervision is one such issue and we invite you to be a part of the supervision connection we are hoping to create here.
To get us started, we have invited a few people to share their thoughts about supervision. We have enough material, perhaps, to get us through the first few months. We are relying on you, the reader, to take this section beyond that first few months, so please, send us your experiences, thoughts, beliefs and hopes about the supervision experience in child and youth care practice.
If supervision is important, as we believe it is, then let’s make it really important “the young people and their families deserve no less from us. Send us your writing. About things like:
The Connection between supervision and practice
The Connections you make in supervision
The Connections supervision can help create between staff members
How supervision Connects you to your work
Or any of the other Connections involving supervision
Garfat, T. (2001). Editorial: Congruence between supervision and practice. Journal of Child and Youth Care. 15(2), iii-iv.
Maier, H.W. (1987) Developmental Group Care of Children and Youth: Concepts and Practice. New York: Haworth Press, pp. 120.