CYC-Online 53 JUNE 2003
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the profession

An overview of current national trends in the profession of child and youth care

David Thomas

Through the past several decades, progress has been made in establishing a profession of child and youth care work. However, the information on what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done is spread throughout a widely dispersed body of literature that is poorly indexed and difficult to find. In addition, leading theorists argue about what identity and form the profession should take while societal barriers against the creation of the profession have made progress difficult.

Kelly (1990) identified seven criteria that have traditionally been used to define a profession: formal education; an organized body of knowledge with theoretical underpinnings and minimum competencies; research activity; a code of ethics regulating the profession; a professional culture or association supporting a long term commitment to the profession; autonomy and self-regulation; and a clientele that recognizes the authority and integrity of the profession. By 1990, according to Kelly, advocates for the field child and youth care had made considerable progress on meeting some of these criteria and had only begun on others. Although college and university child and youth care programs existed, the curriculum had not been defined yet. Kelly's assessment was that the body of knowledge and research for the field were being defined, there was no code of ethics for the profession, and the numerous professional organizations were not communicating or coordinating with one another. Certification, accreditation, and other systems for self-regulation by the profession were being discussed but no apparent action was being taken. Advocates for the profession still had a long way to go in order to develop public acceptance of the authority of the profession and to establish professionals' long-term commitment to the field, but Kelly proposed that, “our challenge is to mature as we continue our journey in the process of professionalizing child care" (Kelly, 1990, p. 175).

After a comprehensive review of the literature on professionalization of the field, Lochhead (2001) concluded that, despite considerable barriers to the establishment of the profession, both from within the profession and from outside, substantial progress had been made by 2001 toward defining an identity, establishing a code of ethics, defining the core competencies in the field, and creating educational programs, professional associations, and a professional literature. Lochhead viewed the incorporation of ethics into practice, the establishment of practical standards for the field, continued development of better training programs, and increased access to the professional literature as the next steps.

The Lochhead article also highlighted the areas of controversy in the field. Some writers have argued strongly, for example, that professionalization, or at least becoming a profession similar to other professions, is not a worthwhile goal at all. Powell (1990), Anglin (1999), and others have argued that the unique identity of child and youth care work demands a very different kind of profession, one that is not elitist, one that does not separate the practitioner from the child, and one that does not price the practitioner out of direct care. Unfortunately, according to Lochhead, this kind of endless academic debate over identity has contributed in significant ways to the profession's slow progress.

Much of the discussion in Lochhead's article stressed the “chicken and egg" nature of many of the problems in the profession. The profession does not have a positive and clear identity, for example, which means that there is no strong public support for funding for the field, which means that the system is underfunded and working conditions are dire, which leads to poor training, low standards for workers, and rapid turnover, which means that the quality of practitioner often is not good, which leads to problems that are played up in the press because of the negative image of the field, which leads to less positive information and a poorly-defined identity for the profession. According to Lochhead, the challenge for the leaders in the field is to take practical steps that will break some of these cycles.

Considerable progress has been made in the decade between the publication of Kelly’s article and the publication of Lochhead's article. During that period, multiple programs to establish state, regional, and national certification systems for child and youth care workers have sprung up throughout North America. Competencies for best practice in the profession have been defined more clearly. The child and youth care literature continued to grow through professional journals, newspapers, books, and Internet publications. Although several longstanding state professional associations of child and youth care workers died, new associations developed across the United States and Canada. Even the terms generally used to refer to practitioners in the field have evolved over these years, from “houseparent" to “child care worker" to “child and youth care worker" or “youth worker." Each of these trends will be discussed at more length in this review.

A number of conceptual or research issues challenge the growth of the profession today, also. An extensive review of the literature revealed a number of relevant research and meta-analysis studies that addressed these issues, which could be divided into three categories. In order to create a profession, practitioners will have to remain in the field, they will have to build and maintain positive attitudes toward the children and youth served, they must avoid burn-out, and they will be required to demonstrate professional skills. The research and theory in the field documents that some combination of factors such as education and training, psychological traits, and situational variables influence the practitioners' selection, education, training, retention, and professional success. Before extending the history of the organization of the profession of child and youth care, this study will review the current literature in each of these categories.

Education and Training
Most current efforts to professionalize the field include a strong education or training component. A review of the literature found only one research study that addressed the question of whether education and training actually made a difference in the skills, knowledge, or attitude of child and youth care workers. The lack of research may result from the researchers' fundamental assumption that education is a prerequisite for professional practice.

A large-scale study (Howes, Whitebook, & Phillips, 1992) of 1,309 teachers in child care centers located in five geographically-dispersed cities found that the level of formal education of day care teachers was predictive of teachers' classroom behaviors such as sensitivity and effectiveness, while other factors such as years of experience and specialized (but not formal) training did not predict these behaviors.

Personality Factors
Research in the field of psychology has shown that “locus of control" is a powerful determinant of individual behavior, beliefs, and attitudes. A person who has an internal locus of control believes that he or she is in control of what happens to the individual, while a person with an external locus of control believes that other persons or factors out of the control of the individual determine what happens to the person. Although locus of control might be perceived as a situational variable, research has demonstrated each individual maintains a perception of external or internal locus of control over considerable periods of times and in many different settings. In one study that correlated scores on a widely-known instrument that measured stress and burn-out with the locus of control of the individual worker, Fuqua & Couture (1986) found that practitioners with an internal locus of control received lower scores on the burn-out scale, specifically on the subscale for a sense of personal accomplishment. This result indicated that individuals with higher levels of stress and burn-out may feel helpless to change their situations. Since this finding was limited to results from the one subscale, it is difficult to generalize further, however.

In an early study, McMullen & Krantz (1988) investigated the relationship between two personality traits (learned helplessness and self-esteem) and burnout. Although the researchers found that there was a statistically significantly relationship between burnout and the personality factors (more learned helplessness correlated with lower self-esteem), the results must be evaluated cautiously because of a high rate of participant dropout.

Mufson (1986) researched the use of the California Psychological Inventory as a tool to help in the selection of child care workers in a specialized group home with adolescents. The author compared the scores of a group of child care workers who had been evaluated to be performing unacceptably by a panel of supervisory staff members to a group of child care workers whose work had been judged to be performing most desirably. While seven of the scales on the CPI predicted success as a child care worker, five of the scales would have predicted the success of the child care worker in 85% of cases. Candidates high in dominance, social presence, self-acceptance, and tolerance, and low on the femininity scale, performed better.

Vincent and Brown (1984) attempted to validate Schaefer’s (1973) study on the Child Care Scale, which was an instrument intended to help in the selection of child care workers. Although they replicated Schaefer’s research and found similar results, they could not find evidence that the answers to the CCS would predict the performance of a child care worker on the job. This study did validate the CCS to a degree, but it also called into question whether the use of an adjective checklist could predict child and youth care worker performance. Vincent and Brown did discover patterns similar to Schaefer’s study when the Adjective Check List decisions of child care workers was compared to the control groups – the child care worker’s responses were significantly different from those of individuals who do not work with children.

In a study of the personality factors, as measured on the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (Institute for Personality & Ability Testing, 1972), that correlated with supervisors' ratings of the desirability of individual child and youth care practitioners, Lee (1994) found that highly-desirable employees might be more emotionally stable, persevering, respectful of rules and procedures, socially bold and astute, confident, and inclined toward teamwork (according to interpretations of the 16 PF developed by Karson and O–Dell, 1976). Child and youth care practitioners who were not valued by their supervisors had the opposite characteristics. However, the author noted that these results could not be generalized to other settings and that, in fact, the personality factors identified by another study (Wasmund & Tate, 1988) as correlated with professional success in another setting were quite different.

In the process of validating a personnel selection instrument, the Personnel Selection Inventory (London House, Inc., 1980) for use in the selection of child care workers, Jones, Joy & Martin (1990) correlated scores on the inventory with other instruments that had been designed to detect propensities for child abuse, child neglect, and child endangerment. However, the researchers did not find that the absence of these negative qualities alone could predict child care workers” positive performance on the job. The authors stated, “alternative selection procedures might be designed to identify individuals who would be expected to display a variety of positive attitudes and behavior in the presence of children (e.g., sensitivity, responsiveness, affection, etc.)" (p. 552).

In summary, a pattern of psychological factors that contribute either to continuation or burn-out and success or failure as a professional child and youth care worker emerges from the research. Propensities for child abuse and child neglect can be detected in some individuals (Jones, Joy & Martin, 1990), while more effective child and youth workers may be more emotionally stable, persevering, respectful of rules and procedures, socially bold and astute, confident, and inclined toward teamwork (Lee, 1994) and high in dominance, social presence, self-acceptance, and tolerance, and low on a femininity scale (Mufson, 1986). Other factors, such as learned helplessness, poor self-esteem, and an external locus of control, may correlate with burn-out (Fuqua & Couture, 1986; McMullen & Krantz, 1988). There is some evidence that psychological tests can help to predict later performance (Fuqua & Couture, 1986; Mufson, 1986; Vincent and Brown, 1984; Lee, 1994; Jones, Joy & Martin, 1990), but as urged by each of the authors the use of such instruments for selection of candidates for child and youth care credentialing should be approached with considerable caution. These studies support the conclusion that it may be easier to identify individuals who score at the extremes on psychological tests as poor candidates for education, training, employment, or certification than it is to identify a specific set of traits that define a competent or outstanding potential practitioner.

Situational Factors
Although only a few empirical studies regarding the impact of situational variables on professional behavior and the impact of professional behavior on the work environment were discovered during a literature review, these studies did generally support the observations and theories of pioneering leaders in the field. Goffman (1961) studied a large mental hospital and concluded that they could become coercive and destructive to a therapeutic relationship and to the behavior of staff members and residents alike. Brendtro & Mitchell (1983) concluded, based on an extensive review of the literature, that a number of factors such as the patterns of authority, the staff relationships, status and role definitions, the size of organizational units, goal clarity, commitment to the organization's mission, and the amount of participation in governance all contribute or detract from the effectiveness of the organization for children and staff.

In a study of the relationship between abusive attitudes and potential for abusive behavior toward adolescents and the residential youth workers' sense of competence, efficacy, and satisfaction with their professional roles, Reyome (1995) found that the participants' sense of job satisfaction was inversely correlated with abusive attitudes and potential for abusive behavior, while their feelings of efficacy and overall sense of competency were not statistically correlated.

Reyome’s findings suggested that it would be possible, while challenging, to assess child and youth care workers' potential for specific work behaviors through the use of attitude scales. Four questions on the modified Parenting Sense of Competence Scale could point to specific attitudes that are correlated with abusive attitudes and potentially abusive behavior toward adolescents. The highest correlations involved a sense of hopelessness with the job ("I go to bed the same way I wake up in the morning, feeling I have not accomplished a whole lot") and boredom with the job ("If being a child care worker were only more interesting, I would be motivated to do a better job"). However, it is not clear conceptually how these four particular items were different from other items on the scale, such as “Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anything done." While suggestive of methods to follow in assessment of professional attitudes of direct care workers, the study also presented new challenges to understanding the relationship of self-concept to job performance. Reyome’s research also indicated the possibility that increasing a youth worker’s job satisfaction could reduce their potential for abusive behavior, although the relationship between a practitioner’s attitudes and the actual work environment were not addressed.

Fuqua & Couture (1986) also found that specific situational factors, including the amount the practitioner believed that he or she had input into key decisions at the center that affected the practitioner’s work, correlated with scores that indicated lower levels of burn-out and stress. Six of the eight demographic variables were related to burn-out (less off-floor time, personal characteristics, younger age of children served, lower education of the child care worker, less input of the child care worker into center policy, less experience in the field). Some results of this study, however, such as the connection between lower levels of experience, single marital status, and the worker having fewer children of her or his own with burn-out, contradicted some previous studies. Fuqua and Couture recommended more study of the factors that contribute to stress and burn-out in the field. The fact that their study contradicted other studies on the same topic may indicate that the interaction among factors such as personality traits, workplace environmental conditions, and professional knowledge and skills is more complex that originally assumed.

It is not clear from these studies whether the characteristics of the individuals employed (experience, job satisfaction, involvement in decision-making within the program) result from the work environment or create the work environment. For example, child and youth care workers might generally have less experience in the field as a result of a high turnover rate, but the lack of experience may force supervisors to involve them less in decision-making. A classic and respected book in the field of management and leadership (Hersey, Blanchard & Johnson, 2001) casts some light on the effective or ineffective cycles that occur within a company and the dynamics that can increase or decrease the effectiveness within the environment. However, both research studies and theories indicate that decreased or increased professional competence and commitment affects the program environment while also being affected by the environment.

Professional Models
Through the last fifty years, as the field of child and youth care has changed and matured, it has produced the profession of child and youth care. As orphanages became residential treatment centers and children's transitional homes in the period from the 1950’s through the 1970’s and then as the professional services of child and family practitioners were extended into communities and schools over the past thirty years, the roles (and the titles) of child and youth care workers changed to fit models that increasingly acknowledged the importance of and need for professionalism in child and youth workers.

Landmark works by the pioneers of the field, such as Fritz Redl and David Wineman (1951, 1952) and Bruno Bettleheim (1950), focused on development of residential centers and emphasized the importance of direct care work while giving little attention to the role of the child and youth care worker, which Redl referred to as the “housemother" (Redl, 1951, p. 49). By 1963, however, leaders in the field such as Morris Fritz Mayer (1963) and Henry Maier (1963) were writing extensively about the types of individuals who were entering the profession of “child care work" and making observations about their training and the development of the profession. As a new generation of nationally-recognized authors began to describe the methods and theory of the field in the late 1960’s and early 1970's, “child care workers" became central to the writings of Albert E. Trieschman, James K. Whittaker, and Larry K. Brendtro (1969) and the development of a profession of child and youth care was seen as inevitable and necessary.

For example, the indices to three of Redl’s landmark books listed one page reference to “housemother" in total (and Redl mentions the housemother only that one time) while the index for The Other 23 Hours, authored by Trieschman, et al. (1969) lists six page references for “child care workers" and uses the term throughout the book. The index for Whittaker and Trieschman's book Children Away from Home (1972) lists 27 separate page references for “counselor," the title they preferred to use for child and youth care workers, along with another page reference for “Counselor, European." By the 1980's, Frank Ainsworth (1981), Karen VanderVen (1980), and Jerome Beker (1979) observed that the profession of “child care work" or “group care practice" had emerged, although they believed that many steps toward professionalization were still needed. Beginning in the 1970's, however, the definition of the role of professional child care work adapted to the recognition that youth is a life stage separate and distinct from childhood and to the emphasis on working as a support for the child's family in order to return the child to the family as soon as possible. By 2001, Thom Garfat and C. Niall McElwee (2001) wrote about the changing role of the family in child and youth care practice and changes in the settings in which the profession is practiced as “child and youth care workers" acted as facilitators in the relationship between the child/youth and their families, often in the community or in the families' homes.

Current Views on the Profession
By most appearances, there was widespread agreement on most of the elements of a profession of child and youth care, but there were also unresolved issues. An interesting recent event sheds considerable light on the conflicts and differences of opinion about the professional role of child and youth care workers. Shealy (1996) proposed a new model of child and youth care practice based on the premise that the competencies and personal characteristics of child and youth care practitioners are similar to those of therapists and parents. His study of child and youth care workers in Alabama resulted in a list of personal traits and behaviors judged to be characteristic of the best and the worst child and youth care workers, as well as a list of 16 child and youth care worker competencies in rank order of importance. Shealy based his research on job analysis procedures.

In his response to Shealy (1996), Arieli (1996) questioned whether the nature of child care work could be subjected to empirical study using job analysis methods. Arieli viewed the work of child and youth care workers as inherently situational and interactive, evolving as the relationship with the child or youth and the environment changes.

Christiansen (1996) advocated for creation of a profession of “direct care" that would serve individuals of all ages in a wide variety of settings, supporting the recommendations of VanderVen (1992) and others. Christiansen's criticisms of Shealy (1992) primarily centered on the fact that Shealy limited his proposed new profession to serving children and youth and Shealy’s implicit adoption of a “sickness" model of practice for the field. Christiansen did praise Shealy’s attempt to ask the workers themselves about what a child and youth care worker does and needs to be.

Goocher (1996) applauded Shealy’s (1996) work on developing an empirically-based model for the child and youth care work profession while cautioning that the model would need considerable research and modification in order to be useful in other settings and in other geographical locales. Goocher also grounded the discussion of professionalization in the reality that the great majority of child and youth care workers, even those that Shealy designated as “subject matter experts" are grossly underpaid and relatively poorly educated when compared to other professionals. He also viewed Shealy’s list of the knowledge, skills, and personal attributes required of child and youth care workers to be so ambitious as to be unachievable, at least at that time.

In response to Shealy, VanderVen (1996) challenged his model of the “therapeutic parent" as the template for the profession of child and youth care work. In addition to concerns about a lack of adequate research into the existing literature, VanderVen expressed a view that job analysis methods could lock the profession into establishing standards of practice that are based in what the norm is today in one area of practice, which would limit the profession in the future and preclude the development of better practices. VanderVen responded in what she termed a “paradoxical" way: she embraced Shealy’s use of qualitative research methods to explore the identity and competencies of child and youth care work, but she rejected many of his most basic assumptions and conclusions, including the analogy between child and youth care and the therapist/parent.

While the (primarily) qualitative research presented in this article does contribute to the knowledge in the field, Shealy fails to make a strong case for his hypothesis and he is not convincing in his assertions that the profession needs a new model and that the “therapeutic parent" is that model. From his own language usage in the article, it is clear that “child and youth care" already had an identity as a separate and distinct field of practice, one that did not rely on a comparison to other models such as “therapist" or “parent." Given the movement of the leading theorists and researchers in child and youth care away from a “therapy" and “parent" model and toward a positive youth development model for the field, the burden of proof would seem to be on Shealy to justify a new model that relies on a comparison to what many would consider outdated models for child and youth care work.

The controversy that surrounded Shealy’s proposed model provided a rare glimpse through the professional literature into current issues that challenge practitioners in the profession of child and youth care. There are still individual leaders who question the need for a profession of child and youth care, at least if it is similar to other professions, and who seem to believe that attempts to describe the child and youth care worker’s work and to establish standards for practice may very well harm it, although this is not the belief of the majority. A struggle is raging between those who advocate mental health or juvenile correctional models of practice and those who strongly insist on “strength-based" models of care. Some theorists conceptualize the profession of child and youth care as being similar to, or different from, traditional professions such as psychotherapy, while others specifically reject such analogies as meaningless and misdirected. Some see child and youth care as part of a larger, life-span profession of direct care, while others see it as separate. Among individuals working to set standards for the profession, some are using a “job analysis" approach based on classic competency-based assessment, while others insist that such an approach will limit the profession to repeating what is being done now rather than preparing it for a broader, unknown future. While many leaders reject traditional paper-and-pen assessment methods to identify competent practitioners, others express concern about observation-based assessment methods.

Issues in Assessment and Testing
Certification and licensure programs for professionals generally employ some form of assessment to determine how an individual candidate measures up to the minimum standard for practice in the field. The standard to be applied to the assessment is determined by the application of one or more methods that may or may not enhance the credibility of the credentialing process. Since the protection of the public from practice by below-standard practitioners and the future career of the individual candidate are at stake, these decisions about how to set the standards are often subject to controversy and challenge. Although most professions employ some type of clinical supervision or structured observation to assess the candidate’s competence, most also employ some form of objective examination.

A survey of methods used by existing certification and licensure programs (Plake, 1998) across a wide range of fields that included professions from the fields of business, computer technology, professional education, insurance, and allied health, determined that most assessments of candidates' competence were based on multiple-choice questions. However, Plake reported that a growing number of credentialing programs are employing open-ended questions that are based on methods such as essays, oral examinations, and simulated patient exercises. Standards for assessments using multiple-choice questions generally were based on a modified Angoff (1971) approach, according to Plake, while there were many and diverse methods used to establish the cutoff standard for minimum competence on assessments that used open-ended questions. Plake stated that assessments used to evaluate the competence of candidates for certification or licensure “should be developed to provide evidence of the candidate’s relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities appropriate to being a licensed or certified professional in the field" (Plake, 1998, p. 65) through some type of systematic standard-setting procedure.

Outtz (1998) reviewed more than 25 empirical research studies to determine whether employment test design factors such as the way a question was asked or the way an answer was scored increased or decreased the test’s validity. His meta-analysis also studied whether some testing methods decreased or increased the variance between protected subgroups (ethnic or racial minorities, in particular) and other test-takers without changing the validity of the test. The study’s author concluded that certain changes in the design or implementation of a test or assessment method could, indeed, affect its validity. For example, simply changing a multiple-choice item to a different way of asking the same question (to a multiple true/false item) affected the scores of participants and the validity of the test. He also found that research showed that the type of assessment used and the way test items were designed could decrease the differences between minority group test scores and other test-takers” scores without reducing the validity of the test under certain specific conditions.

Outtz' study points to evidence that the way an employment test is designed and the way it is implemented can affect how individuals perform on the test. For example, Cronback (1941) found that changing items on a test from multiple-choice to multiple true/false affected the scores on the tests. He also found that an effect he labelled “acquiescence" (subjects tended to mark an item “true" on a true/false test when they are not sure of the answer) affected the validity of tests when this tendency was not taken into account during the design of the test. Other effects on the variance between the group’s performance and specific subgroups' performance resulted from design elements.

Norcini and Shea (1997) addressed the issues of credibility and comparability in setting professional standards through certification and licensing procedures. They pointed out that, while it is impossible to validate certification/licensing examinations because of the nature of setting professional standards, standard-setters can amass evidence that the examination distinguishes between professionals with adequate and professionals with inadequate knowledge and skills. Norcini and Shea also reviewed issues in the composition of the group that will set the standards, methods to organize the work of the group, and the information needed to set the standards in order to establish the credibility of the standards. They stressed that the standards must be based on an absolute, rather than a relative, standard, and that the standards must be supported by research. Norcini and Shea discussed methods of evaluating the comparability of different versions of the examination and recommended a common-item design for equating different forms of the examination. Generally, however, Norcini and Shea recommended a common-sense approach to setting professional standards. If the standard does not seem to differentiate between less-competent and more-competent practitioners or if it is not accepted by the field or by the public, the standard should be revised.

Crocker’s overview of methods for evaluating the content validity (or content representativeness) of authentic assessment exercises used in professional certification/licensure assessments (Crocker, 1997) delved into great detail about the complications inherent in demonstrating the fairness, representativeness, and relevancy of those exercises. The author made several recommendations about methods to conduct assessments of the validity of performance assessment exercises. Although the author presented a detailed explanation of the issues and problems in conducting content validity studies of authentic assessment items, Crocker gave few indications that researchers have conducted these studies. This is a specialized area (validation of performance assessment exercises) in a specialized field (professional certification examination construction and validation).

The Future of Professionalization
Within the past ten years, new professional associations of child and youth care workers have been established in Texas and Wyoming, which joined associations in Oregon, Virginia, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Texas, Wyoming, Alberta, and Manitoba have established new professional certification systems for (and by) child and youth care workers. Groups in Maryland, Rhode Island, Maine, and Pennsylvania are currently working to establish new state professional associations and certification systems. At least two new national certification systems for child and youth care workers (the National Resource Center for Youth Studies and the National Center for Professional Certification), have been established (in both cases, however, by organizations other than professional associations of child and youth care practitioners) to join the certification systems already established by Child Life Specialists, the Teaching Family Association, and the Child Development Associates, among others.

In addition, a number of professional journals are active today, including the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, the Child & Youth Care Forum, and the Journal of Relational Child and Youth Care. An international online publication and listserv, CYC-Net, regularly publishes new works for professionals and offers opportunities for practitioners to discuss topics relevant to their work. For many years, a national newspaper, Youth Work Today, has covered events and issues in the field. Other publications in related fields, such as Child Welfare, published by the Child Welfare League of America, also publish articles relevant to professional child and youth care.

A coalition of all of the state professional associations of child and youth care practitioners, the umbrella group International Coalition for Professional Child and Youth Care, the national association (the Association for Child and Youth Care Practice), and many other college and university programs in child and youth care or agencies in the field was formed three years ago to create a unified national credential for child and youth care work. The coalition, the North American Certification Project, set about the task by assembling a large committee (numbering more than 75 individuals at one point), under the leadership of Dr. Martha Mattingly, to define the core competencies of the profession. After extensive research and analysis, the core competencies document were published in the fall of 2002 in the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, a publication of the Association for Child and Youth Care Practice and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee (Mattingly, 2002).

A Code of Ethics was developed under Dr. Mattingly’s leadership years ago, and the Code has been adopted by ACYCP and other national organizations in the field as the profession's Code of Ethics. This year, several NACP committees are working actively to establish methods for assessment of professional competence, to develop a certification examination, to select test sites around the country, and to implement and research the assessment procedures in preparation for offering national certification late in 2003. Meanwhile, the national association continues to encourage the development of state-level certification programs that will support national certification in the future.

The question that must be asked, and the question that has been asked frequently in the literature, is whether professionalization is a desirable goal for child and youth care practitioners. There are those critics who argue that it will not make a difference for individual professional practitioners and that other, more direct action is necessary. Others fear the loss of the important intangibles in child and youth care if it becomes more quantified and researched. Some critics fear that professionalization will exclude individuals who are talented and committed but who lack formal education.

Although many of these questions ultimately are value questions and, consequently, are not subject to research, there is one study from another industry that suggests that professionalization might make a difference. Damitio and Schmidgall (2001) studied the effect that one professional credential had on the compensation and professional satisfaction of the individuals who earned the credential. Hospitality industry financial experts who held the CHAE ("certified hospitality accountant executive") certification were surveyed by Damitio and Schmidgall, who concluded that certified professionals are more satisfied with their positions and careers as well as their compensation than professionals who have not earned the certification.

So many of the questions about professionalization of child and youth care work will be answered only by time or by individuals who judge the effects themselves. What is clear from the evidence is that there are compelling reasons why standards of practice will be established for child and youth care. Methods of assessment will be implemented and individuals will be included or excluded from practice based on those assessments. Child and youth care research and theory will be developed rapidly in the future. The only question is whether these activities will be conducted by and will serve, the child and youth care practitioners themselves or whether others will impose them on the practitioners. The challenge to child and youth care workers is to shape their own profession in order to ensure that the profession will preserve what is best in child and youth care and to make sure that it always serves the practitioners and the children first.

References & Recommended Readings

Ainsworth, F. (1981). The training of personnel for group care with children. In F. Ainsworth & L.C. Fulcher (Eds.), Group care for children: Concept and issues (pp. 225-244). London: Tavistock Publications.

Anglin, J. (1999). The uniqueness of child and youth care: A personal perspective. Child and Youth Care Forum, 28(2), 143-150.

Arieli, M. (1996). Do Alabama and New-Moab belong to the same child care universe?: A response to Shealy. Child & Youth Care Forum, 25(5), 289-291.

Beker, J. (1979). Training and professional development in child care. In J.K. Whittaker (Ed.), Caring for troubled children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bettleheim, B. (1950). Love is not enough. Glencoe, Ill: The Free Press.

Brendtro, L. K., & Mitchell, M. L. (1983). The organizational ethos: From tension to teamwork. In L. K. Brendtro & A. E. Ness (Eds.), Re-educating troubled youth: Environments for teaching and treatment (pp. 93-122). New York: Aldine de Gruyter

Christiansen, M. (1996). We need a new profession–not just an upgraded direct care worker!: A response to Shealy. Child & Youth Care Forumn, 25(5), 305-309.

Crocker, L. (1997). Assessing content representativeness of performance assessment exercises. Applied Measurement in Education, 10(1), 83-94.

Damitio, J.W., & Schmidgall, R.S. (2001). The value of professional certifications for hospitality financial experts. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 42(1), 66-70.

Fuqua, R., & Couture, K. (1986). Burnout and locus of control in child day care staff. Child Care Quarterly, 15(2), 98-109.

Garfat, T. & McElwee, C.N. (2001). The changing role of family in child and youth care practice. Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, 16, 236-248.

Goffman, E. (1961). Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. New York: Anchor Books.

Goocher, B. (1996). Where do we go from here?: Building on Shealy’s work. Child & Youth Care Forum, 25(5), 281-283.

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