I am currently a 2nd year Child and Youth Care student at
UFV. I am also a late bloomer finally returning to school after a 30
year absence. My goal is to work with at risk youth and families. I was
wondering if you all see the age gap as a help or hindrance.
Do you feel that it's better than the workers are closer in age to the youth they work with, or is there a benefit to age?
I am a graduate of five years now and continue to enjoy every minute of my new career as a child protection worker. I too was a student such as you, a late bloomer and do not regret for one minute my choice to rejoin the work force as a CYC. It was always a dream of mine and here I am fulfilling that dream.
As far as the age gap I do see my life experiences in addition to my schooling as an asset when imparting wisdom with the children, youth and families that I work with. I am also fortunate to receive the foresight and intelligence of those families I work with as I continue to grow in my practice. However as far as the age gap being larger and perhaps better I have had the privilege of working with some very talented younger students and workers who seem to have the capacity already of a great worker at such a young age.
Finally I believe that in any age gap large or small being a worker of integrity, compassion and empathy along with the drive and passion to be the best you can be at what you do is simply the best place to start in order for any connections to begin in a working relationship. For me this is the true essence of being in any age gap.
Susan E. Scherbak
You will be happy to hear that you are not the only late bloomer. I stayed at home with my children for years because I immigrated to the USA and my visa was an H1B visa which means that I was not able to work because I accompanied my spouse who was on a working contract. Anyway, prior to immigrating, I worked in many different industries including advertising agencies and two large national newspapers as an advertising sales exec doing sales, copywriting, layout (the entire process). Once I was able to eventually work (we got our green cards), I tried to get back into the advertising world and was shocked to realize that there was so much ageism out there. I had grown too old for that world; advertising is a young and vibrant world, and my Marketing Management diploma was not regarded as valuable in the states.
We then immigrated to Canada, and I decided to apply to programmes in college since someone told me that doing a college programme would be a good way to get a job. I decided against going into an advertising programme since it had become apparent that being "older" would definitely not be too my advantage in that field. So, I decided to enter the field of child and youth, and I haven't looked back since. Granted, the jobs I am doing now certainly aren't glamorous or even as well paid, but the work I do is fulfilling in a different way; I feel that I am doing something very important and I get a lot of emotional satisfaction as I grow and learn through my experiences working with children and youth.
I think that for most people, a certain level of patience and wisdom does come with age (not always, but generally this is the trend). This patience and wisdom will serve you well in the field. In addition, having already parented does help too. The disadvantage (for me anyway), is that after doing the programme (and even though I read a lot of parenting books whilst my kids were growing up), is that some of the practical information I gained through doing the programme and working in the field is a reminder that I probably could have been a much better parent to my own children if I had used some of the techniques I currently use with children/youth I work with!
As far as not being closer to clients' ages, you are as young as you feel, and you can always learn what is current or important to the kids you work with, but you have the advantage of not taking life too seriously (we tend to do this when we are younger), so enjoy being a youth worker – it is a wonderful vocation.
All the best,
Age is only one of a number of many visible
characteristics. We all thin slice and see those things first. But
relationships develop over time and the thin slices are replaced by what
is real and authentic. I believe that if you use what is yours that
serves the needs of others and that you are there for them at critical
times. This is the true test.
Now that being said get ready for some age related comments. I get them all the time.
It is most definitely a help not a hindrance. Young people – perhaps especially those in challenging circumstances – need caring adults of all ages connecting and engaging with them.
Good luck with your studies!
I started when I was 19 and I am now 40. I have (I think!) done good work throughout my career at all ages and I have done things that I look back on and go “why did I do that???” through all ages (even a few weeks ago!). I think it is less about your age and more about your abilities to be empathetic, set boundaries, listen, take responsibility for yourself, etc. I have and have had staff working for me that were young and “older” that were great or not so great. It is skill level, willingness to learn, etc. that matters.
I am 42 years old and just wrapping up the last 2 courses of my degree program via distance learning at UVIC. I returned to school 4 years ago after 22 years and at first I was a bit intimidated by the online world of navigating through the online classroom systems (Wiki, Moodle, Course Spaces) but quickly learned how to make my way through everything. I have found that my years of experience in the field, as a parent and previously as a student have really contributed to my successes within the BCYC program. At my age I was also very open and willing to learn from other people, I find myself thirsty for challenge and I love entering processes of enquiry that my fellow students (regardless of age) and instructors pose.
I believe that if you work within another person’s life space in a mutual, respectful relationship it doesn’t matter what age you are or aren’t .
I feel that age of the practitioner is not of any importance. A 'young' child and youth care worker may have a more challenging time interacting or working with children or youth then an older practitioner who is up to date on current trends and interests of their clients. I think child and youth care workers, regardless of their age, need to continually familiarize themselves with currents trends and interests of children and youth as this is something that changes often and is an important part of working in the child and youth care field. More important than the age of the child and youth care worker is the ability of a child and youth care worker to build rapport with their clients, while understanding their personal interests and needs.
I would not think it wise to be prescriptive about age.
I have often encountered a tendency in older workers who have been parents to want to treat the children and young people they look after in the way they reared their own offspring. Among younger workers the opposite side of the coin is to try to replicate what their parents did with them when they were being brought up. Either way, the resulting practice overlooks the fact that children and young people who use these services have different life experiences to most workers and their families so will not benefit from being treated in this way. It is not age that is the determining factor in the quality of the service provided but rather a willingness to engage in a person centred way, committed to working toward outcomes that are relevant to the circumstances of each individual child or young person.
Learn well, work professionally and you should do OK, Lisa.