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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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Dating a co-worker

Hi there, my name is Sharon Mayson and I am currently enrolled in the Child and Youth Care diploma program. I am currently doing a project involving issues faced in the Child and Youth Care field. I am inquiring to find out people's opinions in regards to whether is it is okay to date a fellow co-worker or not in a residential setting. Your opinions would be greatly appreciated and I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!


A good question. I believe a lot of factors come into play with regards to this issue. The first is obvious to me and I believe the most important, maturation. Depending on the individuals and the work environment, they should be able to separate a work relationship from a colleague relationship, from an intimate one. The rationale for why I believe this can work is due to my partner in life becoming my co-worker, who later left for a similar and challenging position. We both continue to work directly with children as well as teach at the community college level. My partner is a very well respected and supportive colleague in the community, as well as an amazing resource to yours truly. After 24 years we continue to be able to manage a respectful working relationship which is separate from our intimate one. So I do believe that it is appropriate to date a colleague, however be sure that you can be respectful of one another, are aware of the boundaries and have the maturity to recognize the limitations while at work.


This is an interesting question and one that is often covered within agency policy. My general feeling is that it is not good practice to date a colleague, although the nature of the work often leads to strong bonds between workmates which may lead to dating. It is unethical however for someone in a position of power to date a person they supervise. This should be policy if it is not already. In a climate of fear around workplace sexual harassment and in understanding the nature of power and it's impact on others, it should be clearly communicated that this is not acceptable.


Dating at work happens in all fields, Child and Youth Care is no different. People are attracted to others with similar values and interests. Problems arise with break-ups, etc. In a residential setting if two co-workers choose to date. I think they need to make adjustments at the work place for the residents best interests. Example- work in separate program areas, cottages or locations.

A. Hachkowski

I hope that there's nothing wrong with dating someone you work with. I just got married to a person that I work with. I dated her for almost two years (before marriage) while both of us were working at the same place. There were probably more problems with the adults we work with than with the kids. I don't believe that we shared immediately with the clients that we were dating and kept it pretty separate from work, but over time they figured it out. I work at a RTC and strongly feel that the kids won't get hurt to bad by people who role model good/positive relationships for them. I've been in field for 12 years now and have known of others who have followed similar paths.

We heard nothing but positives from all the kids we work with. I suppose that every case might be a bit different.
Hope this helps,

Jeff & Jennifer

O.K., you asked for opinions... NO, I do not think co-workers should date. I do understand that working in residential treatment, many of the staff work 2nd shift, 40 or more hours per week and develop attractions for the people they spend a great deal of stressful time with. Early in my career I dated co-workers.

1. it rarely works out. eventually you break up and it may be difficult to work together.

2. THE CLIENTS KNOW. you think you are being discreet, but our clients spend much of their time watching us...more than we watch us, more than we think they are watching.

3. It is a boundary issue...Being a manager now, i have had the opportunity to see how relationships effect the team, program and shifts. Even if the attitudes are positive those attitudes/feelings, whatever affect EVERYONE. More often than not, something negative has come of 2 staff dating. No, it does not sabotague anyone therapuetic progress, but it draws attention away from the kids, away from the job.

I have seen men become protective of the female co-workers they are dating and their response to the clients change.

Consequences become more punitive, physical interventions become a little more forceful... Jealousy becomes a factor between co-workers, (and usually that jealousy is based on misperceptions).

In general it is bad practice and, in my opinion, it is unprofessional to bring your personal life into the workplace (to that extent). It is too close...the rest of us do not bring our romantic relationships to work, we don't bring our personal issues to work. Dating a co-worker, having that kind of romantic, personal relationship with a co-worker brings a lot of personal stuff to the workplace. And as much as people think they hide it or do not show their affections, it is noticed.

Hope this helps

In my opinion, I think it would be OK as long as it is done in a professional manner. The rules need to be the same for youth as they are for adults. The relationship needs to stay away from work therefore, not effecting the youth and staff. If there are policies regarding staff not allowed to date other staff, this should be respected, or even discussed with a supervisor. Like almost everything, voice feelings with respect and honesty. It could even be good for the youth to see what a proper relationship looks like. I guess it all depends on the setting and surroundings involved. I hope I helped a little bit.

Good luck,

Hi Sharon,
I appreciate the theme of putting in rules around how WE! will react to dating. You will not stop "Love" from being present.

Creating rules that attempt to stop it will create people to come together more around resenting the rule. I like what Duane said about understanding why we are in reaction to having love present ...anywhere. I see job performance issues differently than I see dating co-workers. If dating co-workers is a job performance issue, vis a vis a code of conduct for example, then it must be addressed. If "not being present" in a residential setting is an unwelcomed theme and therefore a job performance issue then notwithstanding the reason this must be addressed. There are lots of reasons why two people who work together may not be present and do good work (be effective) other than dating ... how about hating? Are we able to say, "There will be no hating allowed!" "There will be no daydreaming allowed", "There will be no talking on the phone allowed". Is dating in the workplace good or bad??? It just is, and will always be present and if it does go away what kind of environment exits then? Pure professionalism? Perhaps stale and unfeeling, without passion. Having run on like a bad engine I'll finish by saying job performance issues must be noticed and offered back.


I am currently dating someone in the workplace and it does present difficulties. I am willing to pass on information or reply to questions. I have a lot of opinions about this topic. Please contact my e-mail at: My name is Heidi Arnott and I am currently employed at The Children's Home in Tampa FL. Please let me know how I can help you.


It has always seemed to me that there are two issues involved in the 'dating someone at work' discussion. Both are in the area of what we might call boundaries. First is the question of the 'couple's', ability, or lack of it, to make distinctions about 'what belongs where' so that issues of the couple sub-system do not adversely affect the work-place system and work performance. Loyalties, protectionism, conflict of interest, degrees of intimacy, things like that. In this case, it is a question, I think, of knowing and monitoring ones-self.

The second is the 'perception of others' within the workplace. How people perceive the relationship between the couple as it relates to work and work performance. In this case it seems to me that attention to the relationship which we have with others, and the health of the team, is an important variable.

Often the importance and impact of an intimate relationship with those with whom we work seems to be related to the proximity of our working relationship and position. Being a 'couple' working as members of the same team in a residential environment, for example, is more difficult that being a couple who work for the same agency but in different programs. It also would be affected by the positions each member of the couple holds within the organisation.

The real issue seems to me to be one, not of who we are 'in relation with' but how we are 'in relation with'. After all, as Ernie has pointed out, the same issues can arise in other relationships in the work environment – love, hate, presence, alliances, coalitions, etc. These can affect us all whether we are dating or not. The 'dating' parts seems to get us all excited for some reason. Perhaps it is because we bring some sense of our own struggles to the issue. So, here's another spin . . . if two members of a team are dating, and people worry that this is affecting the team, will it be better, then, if they were to separate?


It occurred to me after reading all of the responses to the "dating" question that if dating co-workers is seen as o.k. it MAY open the door to other issues. I am speaking of, for example, nepotism. So many people in this field, it seems, are married or related somehow and it creates incidents of perceived favoritism, untrustworthiness.

Example: a senior manager has a daughter working as line staff...what happens when that daughter is faced with disciplinary action or termination. Do the workers perceive that senior manager has some vested interest and can have impact on the outcome of his/her daughter's situation?

A director is hired by the COO. The COO makes it known that he has been friends with this new Director for 20 years and their kids play together. What if there is a complaint about that director? Will it be taken in the same manner as any other complaint or is there a bias? I believe the dating question is similar, in that are we talking dating between 2 co-workers in the same department or different departments? 2 co-workers with the same job, or is one in a supervisory position and one is line staff? If dating in the workplace is permitted, all of these questions (and many more) must be considered.

Tamara Robinson

Dating co-workers in residential care is usually not the greatest idea, however, since many people meet on the job, it is also something that cannot totally be avoided. I feel the bigger picture is relationships in general at work. Youth Care workers who are close friends can be problematic as well, as well as anyone who decides their role is of protector or 'voice of the people'. It comes down to understanding relationship, and having a degree of maturity to keep things outside of work, outside. It also means open discussion in team meetings about the meaning of relationship, and a willingness to be open on the subject.


Not only is dating immediate co-workers questionable, the workplace after breaking up with a co-worker would really be awkward.


Dating a co-worker does not have to be a problem if both parties conduct their behavior in a professional manner. At the facility I work in there have been relationships that interfered with job performance and relationships that did not. Last October I married a co-worker that I dated for two and a half years. When we announced our engagement at work people were shocked because they did not even know we were dating. I feel if you are dedicated to your job and want to do what is best for the children, your focus at work will be on the children, and not your own personal life. Maturity, professionalism, and dedication are the key factors in balancing work and personal life. I also find that if all staff do not have the three key factors, their personal life will intrude on their work performance due to numerous interruptions like phone calls, visits and venting to co-workers. Teaching the importance of job duties and meeting the needs of the children should help staff realize that the example they set at work will have an impact on the children.


Thanks for sharing Mark (yesterday's mail). I like your input. This is an important topic and one that is not discussed enough.

Donna Johnny

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