CYC-Online 123 MAY 2009
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Working in the life space for the emerging professional Child and Youth Care practitioner (Part 4)

(You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here)

Jack Phelan

Building on the previously described steps, the worker now has a clear picture of the potential of language, interaction, and activity to create developmental growth. What starts to happen is the worker at this stage realizes how useful every small event can be to create learning. Simultaneously, the worker is becoming clearer about missed opportunities and interactions that actually impede progress. The worker now, usually after 18 months of Child and Youth Care practice, begins to recognize bad practice advice that used to seem comforting and helpful.

Two changes occur in the worker:

Another analogous awareness is how destructive and ineffective punishment can be in the helping process. Suddenly, the need to worry about justice, treating all youths “fairly”, and relying on being consistent in meting out punishments and handling rule infractions looks foolish. As the dimensions of the complex dynamics present in the life space expand in the worker’s point of view, the need for discarding punishment and “logical consequences” grows more important.

The most straightforward example is when a youth who is impulsive and has little self control acts impulsively and gets into trouble, the up until now common sense response of punishing him suddenly becomes foolish and cruel. The life space actually becomes a learning opportunity rather than an arena where good behavior is the focus.

Workers who reach this level of awareness are beginning to think like a skilled Child and Youth Care practitioner, yet often get chastised by managers and less skilled peers for being inconsistent or too soft.

The first week of May has traditionally been Child and Youth Care Awareness week around the world. We can expand our life space to include the rest of the world, public, allied professionals, politicians and peers. Our need to be articulate and sophisticated is especially true this week, and I hope that we can both support each other to be better practitioners, and support others to understand what we do that is especially helpful.

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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