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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Characteristics/knowledge people bring into Child and Youth Care work?

Hi Everyone,

I read all these posts with great interest. I am in Australia and currently undertaking my doctorate studies.
The research title is "Searching for artistry in youth residential workers" or "what are the characteristics residential workers with high risk young people bring to the field of residential work?"

So often you watch someone at work who demonstrates artistry in engagement and sharing the group life-space and you see their ability to walk alongside young people building great relationships. Is it a characteristic, values, ethics or what? Is it emotional intelligence learned from a life journey mentor?

Then you see people with lots of knowledge or formal learning who will have difficulty gaining these skills/knowledge. What are the differences?

What are the types of knowledge people bring into the work? Where did we learn them? This is before we undertake formal training or mentoring. I think everyone reading this will know what I am talking about. The essence of a great worker.

I would love and welcome comments and ideas.

Looking forward to hearing from you all
Glenys Bristow

Hello Glenys,

This is a complicated and very interesting idea to research and write about. It could potentially be quite challenging because so many times it seem that the "magic" or "chemistry" that some really good frontline workers have seems difficult to define, but in my experience, and from what I have observed, I think that the most important quality that seems to underpin really great workers successfully working with young people is authenticity and a really strong desire to make a difference. Great workers always very sincerely and authentically "love" young people and they understand and tune into their vulnerability. I think that a sense of humour is also one of the touchstones.

Good luck with a great topic!

All the best,
Delphine Amer

I don’t know how to train people to have great relationships with young people, but I did eventually learn how to hire those who could. I learned that those who could only talk in the interview about how much they wanted to help kids were often a problem. When kids didn’t listen to their wisdom and sage advice, they became discouraged and frustrated. They tended to blame the kids and became angry with them. Or the blamed the administration for failing o make the kids behave.

On the other hand, people who could talk in the interview about how much they liked and enjoyed kids, how much they enjoyed being with kids, they tended to do pretty well, having strong and beneficial relationships with the kids.

OK. It’s a matter of degree. It’s a continuum. Every applicant liked kids and wanted to help them. But it’s a matter of degree. The more they could talk about how much they enjoyed being with kids, the better they were likely to succeed. If their interview was too focused on their desire (need, obsession) to help kids, the more likely they were to become frustrated.

The other thing I learned was to let the kids interview the finalists (after I checked credentials and references) and make the final decision on whom to hire. It starts the relationship in the interview rather than on the first day. The kids help ‘their’ staff to get off to a good start, rather than having to test them to find out what was wrong with the candidate I had selected for them. (In four residential programs where I used this approach, the kids never made a bad choice. I have seen plenty of bad choices when others did the hiring.)

John Stein

Good Day!

I think, it's a little of everything you mentioned: characteristic, values, ethics, emotional intelligence learned from a life journey mentor.

I also believe, that the great workers are the ones who genuinely like and care about children and youth – not just the ones who they know personally, but the ones regardless of life situations bring out natural genuine caring.

I also think people who have the ability to learn from others, be a big kid at heart at times, and have passion for what they do are great workers in the field. And the ability to know not every client is going to like you and that's ok.
Formal training (school and mentorship) just helps one grow more in the field and be a even better worker for being able to know and understand the clinical aspect of what's happening in a child's life/ behaviours.

Melissa Hare

Hey Glenys,

I know exactly what your talking about. However I think a good CYC, residential childcare worker is born with a natural ability to make and build trusting relationships with people and this is to do with their individual characteristics. They naturally show warmth compassion and empathy, they process a fantastic sense of humour but can equally sternly challenge negative behaviours when needed. They genuinely love the career they have chosen through good times and the bad. I honestly don't think it's a skill you can learn. You either have it naturally or not at all. I have witnessed it so many times over my years of working in residential childcare and the workers who do not have a natural talent really struggle to (no matter how much they might care) make good effective meaningful relationships with young people. However they can be fantastic at other areas of our work.

This is only my belief, I look forward to reading your other replies I find your subject very interesting.

Good luck with it.

Jane Dalgleish

Hi Glenys

Here is the link to an article I wrote titled 'Conceiving good practice in the caring professions' that might have some relevant and useful ideas.;dn=964918232746091;res=IELHSS

Best wishes with the PhD.

Michael Emslie


I think you summed it up beautifully; engagement, sharing the group life-space, walking alongside, building great relationships. They exemplify the characteristics we as Residential Child and Youth Care Practitioners want to see, I feel, in ourselves.

You portray a great image in your words. I love the questions, they are powerful.

Charlene Pickrem

Hi Glenys,

I think this is a question that arises in many front line professions. Personally, what I've noticed is a person-first, challenge second mentality. To elaborate, instead of going into a situation prepared to fix the situation and fix the child it's a matter of hanging in and getting to know the child or youth first. Many people go into this field because they want to change the big picture, which is great, but we also have to pay attention to the small pieces that make up that big picture. Young people are great at picking up on genuineness and can pick up really quickly when a worker has an agenda beyond forming a relationship. Great workers are able to look past the challenges and form a loving and dedicated relationship and to encourage the positive in their clients rather than fix what is wrong. Overall, it's similar to the idea of doctors and bedside manner. Many doctors can figure out what's wrong with us and fix the physical but less are able to form those relationships that give us comfort and assurance. To be a great Child and Youth Care worker you need to be able to form a positive, trust based relationship as well as fix the challenges.

Best of luck with your topic!

Bethany Mitchell

Hi Glenys,

I enjoyed the title "Searching for artistry in youth residential workers." This title captured me and even though I work with preschoolers this subject applies to all areas of children, youth and families. This subject has always interested me as a Child and Youth care worker. I currently work in the field of Early Childhood Education and I am finishing my Bachelor degree in Child and Youth Care. I have been practicing in the field since 1996 and have discovered many valuable characteristics that seem to form an individual who has "what it takes" in our field. I agree with Delphine's post and I wanted to share some observations from my experience. Currently we have numerous students that do practicums at our center and through observation I believe that successful people show a commitment to the children and growth in practice and knowledge. There needs to be a strong desire and enjoyment to meet the needs of children, youth and their families. From my experience I feel the individuals that focus on the child's strengths have greater success in maintaining practice in this field. It can be a difficult field to not burn out with high risk children and youth. It is extremely important to take care of yourself and practice strategies that work for you. For myself I exercise but for others it may be meditation or breathing exercises.

I look forward to hearing how your research goes and I hope that my perspective from an Early Childhood Educator can be valuable.

Good luck
Emma Bilinski

Hi Everyone,

I think that some people may start life out being more social so they are driving to learn how to get along with everyone and build healthy relationships with others quickly. It is part of their character. As they get older and experienced difference situation they also build on these skills. Another part is that hopefully the Child and Youth Care program they take includes lots of time to practice and refine the skills we bring so that if we are open to learning we can improve even more.

I would say Bethany stated the important characteristics very well but I would also add having clear boundaries so that when we enter a new relationship we can be confident about what we will and will not do in order to build the relationship and not worrying about causing damage to the relationship. Boundaries also help us stay away from situations that maybe inappropriate or misconstrued so they appear inappropriate.

Dennis McGregor

Thank you everyone so much for taking the time to help with my research. Your thoughts and comments have been thoughtful and fantastic and so in line with my interviews. I look forward to sharing it with you. I believe in our field and what we do. If anyone thinks of anything else please let me know. It's great to be able to share our experience and views Thanks heaps.

Glenys Bristow

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