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74 MARCH 2005
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Child and Youth Care education – The challenge of congruency

Jack Phelan

There are three aspects involved in creating a Child and Youth Care professional post secondary experience that are distinct and integral to the learning process:

Child and Youth Care Materials
There are several sources of Child and Youth Care literature; journals and CYC-NET are the most accessible current sources, and there are many relevant books and monographs available. It is not the same world professionally as it was ten years ago, when we had to rely on materials and models of practice from other helping professions for our curriculum. Yet the literature used to teach Child and Youth Care practice is problematic in many schools. If you visit the bookstore in some colleges and universities that have a Child and Youth Care program, you will see too many examples of professional literature from psychology, education, and social work. These books are particularly evident in areas like counseling and family work. The interesting dilemma is that in Child and Youth Care practice both of these areas are very different and distinct areas of expertise from the “therapy orientation" inherent in other disciplines. The challenge for all Child and Youth Care programs is to cull the unnecessary borrowing from other fields, particularly materials that describe helping people as an office based endeavor, since it diminishes the work that we do and ignores the good Child and Youth Care materials that already exist.

Congruent teaching strategies
A primary issue for both teachers and practitioners is to create a safe environment for learning. Students in a Child and Youth Care program have safety concerns based on being new to the classroom group, their values and beliefs that may not fit their new career’s expectations, and worrying about whether they are smart enough to be successful academically. Mature students have issues about returning to school, where they may not have been successful in the distant past. These issues are very similar to the dynamics for a new youth or family in our care, and we can highlight and utilize this in our teaching. A useful resource is the book Intuition Is Not Enough by Ward and McMahon, which explains the connections between the challenges of learning and of doing Child and Youth Care work. The book introduces the “matching principle", which states that in order to be successful, training for any field of practice should match or reflect key aspects of that practice in terms of personal experience as well as academic content. Child and Youth Care teaching should strive to develop this congruence between curriculum delivery and Child and Youth Care attitudes and skills.

Professional identity
Professional schools often struggle with creating relevant, field based information and practice examples that resonate with practicum situations. Professional school education is more tuned in to student behavior and experience outside the classroom and deals with practice, ethics and theoretical implementation as much as cognitive assimilation of facts and data. Faculty who are grounded in Child and Youth Care field work, who have a clear and distinct professional identity as Child and Youth Care professionals, are an integral part of this process. Child and Youth Care education historically has been delivered in many places by faculty trained in and practice based in non Child and Youth Care disciplines. The field no longer requires this assistance from other groups, and can clearly demand that all Child and Youth Care education be delivered by Child and Youth Care professionals. Role modeling by the faculty of ethical implementation of practice in Child and Youth Care situations and settings is a vital part of the learning process for students, especially in higher levels of degree programs.

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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