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122 APRIL 2009
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THE PROFESSION

A response to Ted Dunlop’s article about a new and expanded vision for the future of Child and Youth Care work

(You can read Ted Dunlop’s article here)

Jack Phelan

I found myself strongly reacting to this article from the March CYC-Online , and feel compelled to write a response to it. I was actually in the audience in 2003 when this address was delivered to Child and Youth Care educators at an International Child and Youth Care Conference. I think that it might reflect the state of Child and Youth Care education and professional status in 1985, but hardly in the 21st century. I would like to outline my objections to the stated thoughts, with the understanding that this was delivered five years ago, and may not reflect the author’s current beliefs.

There are several specific statements and points of view described in the speech which I need to challenge, which are quoted from the text.

The author states, “I have reached the conclusion that Child and Youth Care does not qualify as a profession”. He then recommends that Child and Youth Care work “can be embedded in traditionally recognized professions such as social work, nursing and teaching” and further along he comments that “Child and Youth Care training serves as a springboard into these recognized professions”.

This contradicts all the attempts of the past twenty years to create professional schools of Child and Youth Care and the slow, but I believe inevitable emergence of our field as a fully established unique approach to helping youth and families.

Describing Child and Youth Care educators, he states that “If one examines the variety of people attracted to teaching CYC, it becomes evident that they themselves are drawn from eclectic backgrounds outside the pale of Child and Youth Care practice per se. However, I would also argue that, in order to remain committed to the field, they have taken to heart what the core of Child and Youth Care practice is all about”. Later in the piece, he states that the majority of faculty teaching in Child and Youth Care programmes continue to be drawn from other disciplines.

Canadian Child and Youth Care degree and diploma programs have required new faculty to have significant Child and Youth Care backgrounds and professional identities for over 15 years, and most other countries are similar. The hiring of teachers who have neither Child and Youth Care practical experience or professional identity is a practice long discarded by Child and Youth Care educational programs.

Summarizing his position he states, “this new paradigm must hinge on a core field or framework of practice that can stand on its own but also be embedded in recognized professions of social work, counselling, education, applied psychology and nursing.”

The eventual educational model would entail students desiring a qualification in Child and Youth Care work to get a specialization within one of several professional degree areas by completing “in a relatively short period of time, a graduate certificate and diploma in Youth Work”.

As a Child and Youth Care educator and Child and Youth Care practitioner, who believes that both of these endeavours are part of a distinct and valuable Child and Youth Care profession, I truly believe that this new and expanded vision of the future as proposed in the article is wrong-headed and inaccurate.

______________

Child and Youth Care as a profession: The argument against the proposition

Response from Ted Dunlop

After nearly 40 years of experience moving in and out of Child and Youth Care circles at different intervals, I must confess that I find the debate a bit tedious at this juncture. As we would say in New Zealand, I am getting a bit long in the tooth and it shows from time to time. We continue to spin our wheels to a certain extent when it comes to articulating where we fit into the constellation of professional roles geared to providing service and support for children, youth and families. However, having said that, I cannot resist the temptation to hurl one more salvo into the debate. To put it very simply, there are certain standard criteria that, in my mind, prevent us from putting our stake firmly in the ground as a profession. Here goes:

One of the points that I make with my students is that it is possible to think of oneself as a professional who conducts oneself in a professional manner and be recognized as such while still accepting that we are not a profession in the traditional sense of the word. I hope there is some logic in my garbled way of putting things. Also, I would argue that it is possible to carry with us our core of practice wherever our careers might take us. Having taught many generations of students over the years, I can attest to how nimble and flexible they are in filling many different roles as probation officers, art therapists, police officers, child protection workers, career counselors, psychologists – just to name a few. The Child and Youth Care diaspora is a significant one and I attribute some of this to the fact that we are not hamstrung by rigid professional constraints and carry with us a unique skill set and theoretical orientation that can be applied in so many different contexts. At a time when career mobility is so highly prized and encouraged, this is, I believe, a real strength of our field and one to be celebrated. The criteria I have outlined for arguing my case are admittedly quite traditional and based on historical precedents derived largely from the established professions like medicine, law, engineering, etc. Perhaps what we need to do is steer the debate toward development of a new paradigm of what a profession in the 21st century might look like.

In the meantime, in the Canadian context, I am quite prepared to concede that in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta we have made considerable strides in moving towards recognition as an “emerging profession.” I may be wrong and am quite prepared to stand corrected but I don’t see the same standards applying in any of the other Canadian provinces and territories. I wonder if my concession might placate those of you out there who are poised to spring into action, storm the barricades and challenge the position I have taken here. If the debate gets too heated, I always have the ready option of quickly jumping on a plane and finding refuge back in the South Pacific!

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