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CYC-Online Issue 83 DECEMBER 2005 / BACK
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the profession

Child and Youth Care Worker: What’s in our name?

Louise Bureau, Instructor/Chair, Child and Youth Care Program, Grant MacEwan College

I have been a Child and Youth Care Worker for 26 years and this title expresses my professional identity. Over the years, I have observed Child and Youth Care diploma students and graduates face the challenge of the community’s misunderstanding of our vocation. As I have heard students express their frustration, I have also heard the deeper chord of lack of validation of our discipline. Typically, these experiences surface when we are asked what we do, by a family member, someone we meet socially, or by another professional. Many of us respond, with pride in our role, “I am a Child and Youth Care Worker”. And the response we get has often been disappointing, revealing, for example, that we are mistaken for those who work with very young children in day care centers (an equally valid but unrecognized profession).

As Erikson's theory of psychosocial development suggests, vocational identity is a significant aspect of an individual’s sense of self as an adult making a contribution to the world. Erikson believed that identity achievement involves finding a role that is acceptable both to the individual and to society. There is a lot at stake, then, in our professional title and vocational path, both for our personal and professional development, as well as for the evolution of our discipline.

I have been heartened recently, regarding this issue, by students studying in our Child and Youth Care degree program, in third and fourth year, many of whom are seasoned Child and Youth Care practitioners. I hear a different message from them: that we are evolving beyond feeling frustrated over lack of understanding about who we are and what we do, to a place of empowerment. At the same time, I have discovered a strategy from our social work colleagues that I have found helpful in this regard. Its power lies in its simplicity. Instead of finishing our professional declaration with a period, for example, “I am a Child and Youth Care Worker.” ... which leaves the name open to interpretation, we can say “I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and ...”, completing the sentence with our personal definition of what we actually do, that is unique.

In a recent class in a fourth year course (Child and Youth Care Practice With Families), we explored what is unique about the way Child and Youth Care Workers practice with families, in contrast to the approaches of allied professionals. We began by reflecting on Mark Krueger’s description of “Interactive Youth and Family Work”, from the book A Child and Youth Care Approach to Working With Familes, which highlights the Child and Youth Care Worker’s use of self through personal awareness, empathy, listening, proximity and being present, among other competencies, in the family’s life space situations.

At the completion of this class, to consolidate our role as Child and Youth Care Workers practicing in family support programs, we engaged in the activity of creating a personal completion to the professional identity opener “I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and when I work with families....”.
Following are our responses:

–I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and I work with families by going into their homes to assist them to make changes they–ve identified needing to make, and providing them with support, strategies and resources to effect those changes”.
” Lasina Ironstone

–I am a Child and Youth CareWorker and when I work with families I develop relationships with them and the individuals within the family. I offer support to the families based on their strengths and their needs. I provide opportunities for them to practice new skills and to promote healthy relationships as well as provide help to create a stronger support system through resources.”
” Kelly Hawreliak

–I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and when I work with families I provide supports based on each individual’s and family needs”.
” Aura Magana

–I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and I work with families by working with each individual, finding where they are at, and how their family works as a whole unit. What works for their family and why it works for them. Finding the exceptions and the teachable moments for each individual in the family. Find their strengths.”
” Tanya Tulik-Young

–I am a Child and Youth Care Worker who has had to learn to be a “Jack of all trades”, to adapt to the learning environments with the families I work with.”
” Cheryl Kosy

–I am a Child & Youth Care Worker and when I work with families my role is to facilitate purposeful and meaningful experiences to support the family to make and creat change towards healthy choices while in relationship.”
” Mel Fjell

–I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and I work with families by being purposely involved in the family and supporting their individual unique needs and strengths”.
” Alice Althouse

–I am a Child & Youth Care Worker and I build supportive relationships with families who are challenged in caring for their children, being with them in their homes, activities and daily experiences, empowering them to identify their strengths and make positive change”.
” Louise Bureau

–I am a Child & Youth Care Worker and when I work with families, I engage the family – and the family’s individual members – in their environment. This allows me to be present in their family life as it occurs, and see how it happens. This enables me to empower the family to creat change within the family environment and allow the family opportunities to practice with their environment.”
” Patrick Langlois

–I am a Child & Youth Care Worker and I work with families by creating sincere, genuine relationships that allow me to support them with their needs.”
” Gayle Ring

–I am a Child and Youth CareWorker and I support families to work through obstacles.”
” Candace Levesque

–I am a Child and Youth CareWorker and when I work with families I help them to identify their strengths within their family setting.”
” Tara Falkins

–I am a Child and Youth Care Worker. I work with families by supporting them through their challenges, understanding their uniqueness, listening to them and developing trusting relationships.”
” Sabrina Curtiss


We found this to be an instructive exercise in clarifying and articulating a Child and Youth Care Worker role and identity in family practice, recognizing from these initial responses, the challenges and value inherent in the task.

I invite us all, as Child and Youth Care Workers, to develop a professional identity/role statement that communicates clearly to others who we are and how we work. This activity could be done individually or with colleagues, in relation to our overall, generic role as Child and Youth Care Workers or in connection with specific avenues of our practice: e.g. “I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and I work with young people in group care ... etc.”; “I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and when I work with foster families and foster children, I ... etc.”; “I am a Child and Youth Care Worker and I work with youth in the community.....etc.”

Child and Youth Care Worker “what’s in our name? Our personal and professional development, and the evolution of our discipline!

References

Erikson, E. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: W.W. Norton.

Garfat, T. (Ed.) (2003). A child and youth care approach to working with families. New York: Haworth Press.

THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net)

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