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Selected Readarounds in Child and Youth Care

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KSS AND TELL: A Canadian Perspective on the Training of Child and Youth Care Workers

Lee Kiffiak

A Canadian Model

I will briefly describe some of the strategies and key elements used for training child and youth care professionals at the School of Child and Youth Care in Victoria. Each point could use more elaboration and explanation but in this paper we take only a brief look. I will describe five key characteristics of child and youth care, and explain the KSS model for training child and youth care professionals.

I would like to encourage all involved with children and youth to participate in training that is available for child and youth care workers. It is training, and how we put it to use, that will help to professionalize child care in every country.


We look at five key characteristics of child and youth care that identify it as a profession. All helping professions (e.g. nursing, social work, counselling) are guided by models of planned change, and they tailor their educational curricula to emphasize roles, functions, client problems and working contexts. Each course in the School of Child and Youth Care degree program focusses on different dimensions of Knowledge, Skills and Self in relation to the overall process of planned change (hence "KSS"). Child and youth care as a distinct field of professional practice can be defined by a cluster of characteristics that differentiate it from other human service disciplines.

  1. Child and youth care is primarily focussed on the growth and development of children and youth. While families, communities and organizations are important concerns for child and youth care professionals, they are viewed as contexts for the care of children; the development of children and youth is the very heart of the matter.
  2. Child and youth care is concerned with the totality of child development arid functioning. The focus is on the whole person rather than on one facet of functioning — i.e. physiotherapists and physicians are primarily concerned with physical health, psychiatrists and psychologists with mental health, teachers with cognitive development, and so on. The child and youth care profession’s holistic perspective identifies us as specialists.
  3. Child and youth care has developed a model of social competence rather than a pathology-based orientation to child development. This is sometimes referred to as a "developmental perspective". Child and youth care workers believe that children are doing the best they can at any given moment, and that we can best assist the child by working toward "the next step", by building on existing strengths and abilities.
  4. Child and youth care is based on (but not restricted to) direct, day to day work with children and youth in their environment. Unlike many other professionals, child and youth care workers do not operate in a single setting or on an interview or sessional basis. We go to where the child is, as determined by the needs of the child. For example, in Canada we work in residential centres, community schools, hospitals, family homes, day programs, youth detention centres and on the streets.
  5. Child and youth care involves the development of therapeutic relationships with children, their families, and other informal and formal helpers. Such therapeutic relationships lie at the very centre of our work, and they combine the freshness and intimacy of the "personal" with the rigour and goal-directedness of the "professional". The development of such therapeutic relationships requires an integration of a complex constellation of knowledge, skills, and elements of self. In short, it requires a high level of personal/professional development on the part of the worker.

Child and youth care work in schools

Our school system recognizes the need for child and youth care professionals. School counsellors receive only minimal training in counselling skills. Child and youth care professionals are hired to work with children and youth who are at risk, are emotionally disturbed, who are dealing with grief and loss issues or are not functioning at their optimum level.

As youth and family counsellors we look beyond the students’ behaviour to the ecological environment in which the child functions. We contact the family, realising that troubled children usually come from troubled homes. Child and youth care workers plan programs that become part of the school curriculum, i.e. life skills or social skills. In recent years, programs have been established for young girls who became pregnant while still in high school. Tasks included

to enable these girls to complete their education while preparing them for their role as a mother.

Child life worker in the hospital setting

Most major hospitals in the west employ a Child Life Worker. Tasks include —

The statistics regarding HIV/AIDS indicate a great need for child care workers to work in hospitals in Africa. They supplement the work of doctors and nurses and add a dimension of care not provided by other professionals. We understand children and families.


The School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria is committed to a general philosophical stance concerning the development of child and youth care workers: professional development involves more than just "book learning". It requires on-going personal growth in three key areas. Consequently, the faculty at the School has developed a simple graphic model that illustrates the relationship of our key elements — Knowledge, Skills, Self and Performance (see Figure 1).



The focus of training at the School is on effective performance in the tasks of child and youth care, i.e., on doing high quality work. The triangle in the diagram represents the need for balance across areas of knowledge, skills and self In child and youth care training, personal development and professional development cannot be separated, so the term "personal/ professional" is used.


Knowledge is to understand, describe, explain and justify the actions of the child and worker alike in the therapeutic experience. Knowledge areas covered in the curriculum at the School of Child and Youth Care include the following:

Knowledge in these areas provides a basis for therapeutic intervention by a child and youth care professional.


Skill is the ability to use one’s knowledge readily and effectively in child and youth care practice situations. The level of skill of a child and youth care worker increases in direct relationship to the amount of experience the worker has accumulated. For example a 3rd year practicum student may be tentative and less assured in decision-making during a therapeutic intervention than a 4th year student or an experienced child and youth care professional. Experience results in awareness and confidence that informs the decision making process.


Self-awareness and development of self are central to the educational process for child and youth care workers. Frances Ricks, a professor at the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, has developed a model for addressing self awareness in a systematic fashion which has proved effective with students. The components are seen in Figure 2.



On the left side of the figure are beliefs, values and ethics. These together constitute the inner "life position", or "worldview" of the worker/person.

A belief is defined as a tenet, or set of tenets, that one holds as true. Whether or not such beliefs are in fact true, they are important, as one will act as if one’s beliefs are true.

A value, is what one holds as important and good. A value reflects an assessment of worth, which implies implicit beliefs about the world.

Ethics are standards and rules that guide one’s life, and which govern one’s expectations about how others ought to behave. Ethics are also tied to values and beliefs.

In brief, our functioning as human beings/workers is guided by our particular beliefs, values and ethics.

On the right hand side of Figure 2 are thoughts, feelings and actions, which together constitute our individual "styles" of presentation, or "postures", in the world. Our thoughts are the cognitive elements, our feelings are the emotional aspects, and our actions are our actual behaviours, or what we do. At any point in time, all three aspects are present. The model is systematic. What you think, feel and do, and what you believe, value, and follow as rules, occur and are present at the same time.

This model can be used to examine and uncover aspects of one’s self by providing a kind of map to assist in exploration. For example, if one becomes aware of a personal behaviour that one does not like or does not understand, one can trace back through the related thoughts and feelings, to the underlying beliefs, values and ethics, thereby enhancing one’s self awareness.

The Self Awareness Model was explained in several courses. I found it useful for examining some of my beliefs and behaviours. For example, in our Family Systems Therapy course we were asked to write a paper that described our family of origin. This was a difficult task for me as I struggled to identify the idiosyncratic stage of my family: My father died when I was three years old. In those days there were few support systems for a single mother with three children, consequently we all left school after grade 11 and went to work. I was nearly thirty before I received my High School diploma.

I was particularly affected by my mother’s remarriage when I was 17 years old. It was an unhappy marriage which impacted on my emotional development. At one point a friend and I rescued my mother from the farm where she and John lived. We had no money, no car and nowhere to go. I have always felt high levels of anxiety about moving. I know that moving is stressful for everyone, but my experience was more trauma than stress.

I used the Self Awareness Model to determine how my belief which I hold about moving has influenced my behaviour. Understanding my behaviour has helped me identify areas for change. The last few months have been hectic: My mother died on May 1, convocation was May 31, packing to move house (and everything else that entails) by June 30, preparing my address, Jordash’s graduation on June 25, preparation for a month-long international trip, renovations at the shop I own ... Regardless, I was able to keep my equilibrium. I understand the origin of my anxious behaviour at move time, and so I was able to differentiate between this move and the move I experienced many years ago as a teenager. Yes, I felt stress and pressure, but not the levels of anxiety that have accompanied other moves.

In the field of child care, knowledge and skills are essential for effective work with children. So why bother with self awareness? I can think of four reasons:

  1. It is important to know where I stand, to distinguish between myself and others.
  2. A sense of my own belief system helps me to relate to others, my colleagues and the families, children/youth with whom I work.
  3. It is important to know how my belief system affects my perception.
  4. My belief system is the foundation of everything I do, therefore I want to be aware of what my beliefs, values and ethics are.

We have briefly looked at five characteristics that set the field of Child and Youth Care apart from other helping professions. Together, we have examined the KSS model for training child and youth care professionals and the role it plays in preparing them for effective service with children, youth, and their families.

I commend to all child and youth care workers a commitment to help raise the standard of living for the children of the world.


(a) Direct Service to Clients

  1. Individual intervention, counselling or therapy.
  2. Group intervention, counselling or therapy.
  3. In-home family intervention, counselling or therapy.
  4. Office-based family intervention, counselling or therapy.
  5. Assessment of child.
  6. Assessment of family.
  7. Child management.
  8. Child abuse.
  9. Employment counselling or assistance.
  10. Life skills training.
  11. Health management.
  12. Education remediation.
  13. Recreational leadership.
  14. Arts and crafts leadership.
  15. Counselling on death ~nd dying.
  16. Therapeutic play.
  17. Parenting skill training.
  18. Sexuality counselling.
  19. Marriage counselling.
  20. Stress management.
  21. Lifestyle modification.

(b) Organizational Activities

  1. Case management.
  2. Client contracting.
  3. Report writing and formal recording.
  4. Court appearances/legal documentation.
  5. Program planning and development.
  6. Use and interpretation of policy.
  7. Individual consultation with other professionals.
  8. Participation in professional teams.
  9. Co-ordination of professional teams.
  10. Contracting for services.
  11. Supervision of staff, students or volunteers.
  12. Staff training arid development.
  13. Public relations/community education.
  14. Organizational analysis and development.
  15. Policy analysis and development.
  16. Financial analysis/budgeting.
  17. Case or program evaluation.
  18. Research.


From: Kiffiak, L. (1994) Kiss and tell: A Canadian perspective on the training of child and youth care workers. In Gannon, B. (ed.) Child and Youth at Risk, HIV/AIDS, Residential and Community Perspectives. NACCW.

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