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Experiencing differences: The challenges, opportunities and cautions

Marie Hoskins and Frances Ricks


Collectively, human beings are grappling with profound questions such as these:

These are the kinds of questions that need to be grappled with by individuals, members of local and global communities, and Child and Youth Care practitioners. Whether people are conscious of them or not, the tensions that provoke these questions show up in the various challenges found in every practice setting – between individuals, and when working with families, communities, and institutions.

Understanding the occurrence of differences
We contend that it is crucial for Child and Youth Care practitioners to understand and manage the occurrence of differences within Child and Youth Care practice. Two key aspects of current times demand these qualities: (1) Child and Youth Care practice environments are ever-changing and reflect the on-going changes of global economies and shifting populations, and (2) the cultural nuances of equity, diversity, success and achievement, and family are evolving and emerging around the world. The field and practice of Child and Youth Care need to evolve and respond to these emergent and complex changes.

Many theorists have offered solutions for understanding and managing the occurrence of differences, particularly when dealing with cultural, gendered, and ethnic diversity. Several of these models, frameworks, and strategies tend to locate solutions outside of the self; proposed solutions often includes special programs, the establishment of quotas for those from minority groups, the development of policies to mandate inclusion, and the provision of financial aid, to mention a few. All of these strategies are intended to establish a practice of inclusion and mutual respect (Bomzar, 2007; Cox, 1994; Cushner and Brislin, 1996; Robin, 2007; Smith and Wolf-Wendel, 2005; Vargas and Koss-Chioino, 1992).

Although many of these ideas and strategies have been successfully integrated into workplace and academic settings, the personal aspect of engaging with differences has tended to be minimized. One of the dangers lies in thinking that if certain policies are in place, individuals can carry on as usual without inconveniencing themselves. Equity plans are in place; therefore, reflecting on individual responsibility to change does not need to happen. We argue that without a careful and thoughtful exploration of how one’s self is experienced, implicated, and ultimately held responsible for dealing with differences, these programs will fall short of achieving meaningful change in coming to terms with the conflicts that arise, especially when menacing differences are experienced.

From our perspective, then, the personal experience of engaging with differences needs to be moved to the foreground to understand more fully how to proceed. Coming to terms with differences in Child and Youth Care practice is personal because practice depends on individual perceptions or awareness (Descartes, as cited in Davies, 1990), apperceptions or self-awareness (Leibniz, 1925; Locke, 1959), and self-consciousness or awareness of being aware, (Gennaro, 1995; Lycan, 1996) of differences. Individual perceptions, apperceptions, and self-consciousness are related to self-identity and how people think they are and should be. Coming to terms with differences is about coming to terms with one’s self because differences are experienced with and through others.


Bomzar, D. (2007). Diversity: Does it mix? Retrieved January 2, 2008, from

Cox, T., jr. (1994). Cultural diversity in organizations. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publications.

Cushner, K. & Brislin, R. (1996). Intercultural interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Davies, C. G. (1990). Conscience as consciousness. Oxford: The Voltaire Foundation.

Gennaro, R. (1995). Consciousness and self-consciousness: A defense ofthe higher-order thought theory of consciousness. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Leibniz, G. W (1925). The monadology (R. Lotte, Trans.). London: Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1720).

Locke, J. (1959). An essay on human understanding. New York: Dover. (Original work published 1688).

Lycan, W. (1996). Consciousness and experience. New York: Wiley.

Robin, D. (2007). Part 13: Dealing with differences in a world of diversity: A better workplace.Leadership in Action Series. Retrieved January 2, 2008, from http://www.

Smith, D. G. & Wolf-Wendel, L. E. (2005). The challenge of diversity: Involvement or alienation in the academy? The ASHE Higher Education Report. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Vargus, L. A. and KossChioino, D. (Eds.), (1992). Working with culture: Psychotherapeutic interventions with ethnic minority children and adolescents. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Hoskins, M. & Ricks, F. (2008). Experiencing differences: The challenges, opportunities and cautions. In Bellefeuille, G. and Ricks, F. (Eds.). Standing on the Precipice: Inquiry into the creative potential of Child and Youth Care practice. Edmonton, Alberta. MacEwan Press. pp. 284-285.

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