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Relational Child and Youth Care Practice


ISSN 0840-982X  /  VOLUME 23 NUMBER 4, WINTER 2010

Table of Contents and Article Abstracts

3 / Editorial: Case studies, stories and ethics / Grant Charles

I have been thinking a great deal about ethics lately. I’m involved in a review of an intervention that has been used with young people for a number of years. I won’t go into details about the review other than to say that it has me thinking about how we define right and wrong in our interactions with other people. We often like to think that the line between right and wrong is clear although it isn’t often as straightforward as we would like it to be.

Sometimes it is clear cut. A certain action by a person towards another would hurt them and we would all say it would be wrong. Sometimes though, as the great American poet Tom Watts says, “you got two dead ends and you still got to choose”. We run into this type of situation more often than we would think. This is the type of situation where you have to make choices that will hurt people no matter what you do. One person may be hurt more and another less but both will still suffer by your actions. Even this type of dilemma can come up in our discussions in our professional training when we talk about ethics. Both this kind of ‘grey’ ethics and the more clear-cut ones are easy for us to get our heads around in discussions with others.

The ethical issues that are the more difficult to deal with are when a person is convinced that they are right and that what they are doing is ethical even though it involves hurting another person. They may not think it is hurting the other person but they are nonetheless. This can happen because we haven’t been challenged to think about our behavior as anything other than being right. I think this happens quite often in child and youth care and in the human services. We do things because we have been taught to do them or we have seen them being done. We are not intentionally doing wrong. In fact our motivation may be to quite honestly to do right. The thing is that because we think what we are doing is helpful and because we are well meaning we don’t even question our actions. We don’t think about the consequences of our actions.

So where am I leading with all of this? Well, it has really made me think about what we do with the stories we ‘collect’ from the young people and families we work with on a daily basis. All of these stories are unique to the people involved and some are absolutely fascinating. We share these stories or at least parts of them with our colleagues. Sometimes they are written up in articles as ‘case studies’. I know because I have done this myself. It is a component part of child and youth practice. It is, in part, through these stories that we teach each others to be better practitioners. This is a good thing. And yet, how often do we think about what the telling of these stories mean to the people involved in them? I think this is often the missing component of the ‘ethics’ of storytelling. Do we have permission to share these stories? Do we think about what it would mean to someone if they heard their story being told? Most importantly are we breaking a spoken or unspoken trust by telling the story? Are we thinking about the unintended consequences of our action?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t tell stories. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use case studies as a teaching method. What I am saying is that I think we need always to be thinking about the potential consequences of our actions. Stories are powerful and with all things powerful they could be used for both good and evil ends. Maybe we all need to be clear before we tell a story to colleagues or to a larger audience why we are telling it. I think we should always keep in mind that it is not just words we are sharing but also in some way we are talking about the essence of the person we are talking about at the time. This always demands thoughtfulness on our part.

5 / La Vida en el Norte: Stories from the Shadows / Sara A. Radoff & María del Rosario Corona Horta, with Yolanda

 In this article we examine three U.S. policies that shape the educational experiences of students who reside in the U.S., but who do not possess authorized immigration status. We relate these policies to personal stories in order to illustrate the opportunities and limitations students face throughout their education. Throughout the article we attend to the necessary respect for the risks and fears accompanying one’s status, which should permeate the relations between youth care workers, students and their families.

14 / Engaging Young People and Staff in a Program Evaluation Process Through Appreciative Inquiry
Elizabeth Jones, Maria Lyrintzis, and Ingrid Kastens

17 / Systemic/Social Issues Aboriginal Child Welfare / Melanie Jones

The child welfare system within Canada has an inordinate number of Aboriginal children being taken into care, which stems from a number of ongoing systemic and social issues. These matters of contention include extreme levels of poverty, resulting in parental risk factors, high rates of suicide and substance abuse; a history of colonization and assimilative practices on part of the Canadian government and; ongoing jurisdictional conflicts, all which affect the fundamental rights of the child as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This paper will illustrate and review literature and research that has highlighted many of these issues and explore where Canada is at in terms of self-governed Aboriginal child welfare.

31 / Wild Epiphany: Turning Child and Youth Care Inside Out  /  Christopher Gee

This paper reveals the unique power of a moment in the wilderness. This qualitative study has been conducted in collaboration with seven wilderness based youth care workers employed by Caribou Action Training Society’s Camp Trapping.
The commentaries of the participants resonate with implications for therapeutic intervention. Characterizations of wilderness, conceptualizations of dependency, and suggestions of improved mental well-being amongst youth figure prominently in the recollections of the participants.

43 / Leaving the Line / Garth Goodwin

46 / Beyond Residential and Community Based Services: A Conceptual Model for an Integrated Youth and Family Service Delivery System in Canada / Grant Charles and Thom Garfat

We believe that to be effective any system of care giving must be founded on a common set of values and beliefs. It is the commitment to these common values and beliefs which provide the foundations for program and system development. In times of stress or conflict these values and beliefs serve as a communal arbitrator for decision-making. When developing programs they serve as a reference for what is desirable and acceptable. They guide all individuals involved in the process in negotiating individual intervention plans with young people and families.

53 / A Neighbourhood Based Youth Engagement Practice Story / Sarah Gillett

This article describes my experience as an intern working on a community youth engagement project. I begin by providing an overview of current literature on youth engagement and community capacity building. I then describe the project drawing attention to how the project started and why certain approaches were taken. The outcomes of the project itself and the process are discussed and in looking ahead to next steps, challenges and opportunities are considered. Finally, I consider how the outcomes of this project relate back to some of the current literature on youth engagement and community capacity building.

64 / Community Outreach Projects Raise $8,657.87 / Lorie Hadley

65 / An Overview of the Demographics Profiles and Initial Results from the British Columbia Young Carers Study 
Grant Charles, Sheila Marshall & Tim Stainton

69 / Why I didn’t work with ‘the little ones’  / Thom Garfat


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