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Musings on the art and science of professionalizing Child and Youth Care

Carol Stuart

Efforts to professionalize child and youth care have followed the hallmarks of a profession developed by social scientists who study ‘the professions’. Thus far, progress has been limited and I believe that we need to make use of additional strategies. The progress review presented here and my suggestions for new strategies are my current reflections based on many years of participating in the field. I have contributed to the professional development of the field through membership on the executive boards of associations and developing materials for certification (Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta, [C.Y.C.A.A.], 2000; Mattingly, Stuart, & Vanderven, 2001); reviewed the literature (Stuart, 2001); and participated in extensive discussions in classes, workshops, and on-line about issues of professionalization. I draw on the formal discussion of professionalization in the literature to briefly review our efforts and contrast this to the informal discussions. Informal discussion forums are becoming increasingly public through the use of web pages and internet discussion groups such as CYC-Net. These forums highlight the traps we have fallen into as we have tried to follow the scientific route to professionalization. I introduce the idea of a more artistic approach, expanding the art of practice with children and youth to the ‘art’ of professionalizing our field. I believe that we must develop a method of limiting who has the authority to care for children and youth in a professional capacity if we are to further enhance the quality of care and safety that children deserve. In Child and Youth Care we have focused our attention on the science of professionalization. Little thought has been given to how our art, the creative and artistic aspects of child and youth care, might contribute to enhancing the field and our lives as practitioners within the field. “We are delving into the philosophical, developmental, artistic and scientific questions that are at the core of our practice and illuminating our findings in ways that enlighten, invite and arouse curiosity. We are also exploring our identity and increasingly becoming an effective force for young people” (Krueger, 2000). It is time to take our focus on our work, our artistic talents and apply them to ourselves, to achieving professional status. This is not a new idea. Eisikovits and Beker (1983/2001) describe child and youth care as a craft, something that creates a unique product. The authors offer a detailed argument that rings true to the practice of child and youth care. They argue that “reorientation of practice in that direction, can provide a more potent and sophisticated identity for the field, … lead[ing to] not only greater progress in achieving professional recognition, but also to the development of more effective services to clientele and the emergence of more viable roles for practitioners” (p. 431). Unfortunately, the discussion does not go much further since Maier (1983) characterizes the craft approach as one end of the continuum, leading us to focus on the professional end again as the ultimate goal. I believe, like Maier, that there is a continuum of craft to professionalization, but rather than being a developmental continuum it is a continuum representative of the balance of life; one that by necessity incorporates art and science. In our attempts to professionalize we have failed to bring our artistic talents to play on the goal of professional status.

Stuart, Carol (2003). Musings on the Art and Science of Professionalizing Child and Youth Care.
Relational Child and Youth Care Practice. Vol.16 No.1 pp15-16

References
Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta. (2000). Certification Manual (Professional Manual). Edmonton, AB: Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta
Eisikovits, Z. & Beker, J. (2001). Beyond professionalism: The child and youth care worker as craftsman. [Electronic Version] Child and Youth Care Forum, 30(6), 415-434. (Reprinted from Child Care Quarterly, 12(3), 93-112. Originally published in 1983)
Krueger, M. (2000). Hearing it deep. [Electronic Version]. Child and Youth Care Forum, 29(3), 193-197
Maier, H. (1983) Should Child and youth care go the craft or the professional route? A comment on the preceding article by Zvi Eisikovits and Jerome Beker. Child Care Quarterly, 12(2), 113-118
Mattingly, M.; Stuart, C; & VanderVen, K. (2001). Proposed competencies for professional child and youth care personnel. Unpublished manuscript.
Stuart, C. (2001). Professionalizing child and youth care: Continuing the Canadian journey. Journal of Child and Youth Work, 16 , 264-282. 

 

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