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.
I am a student in a Child and Youth Care program. I know from the readings we are assigned, that there are some people who have worked in our field for a long time and seem to have made a good career (and living) from it. Yet many of the people I talk to, including some of my instructors, say there is no secure or financially enriching future in CYC. I would love to hear how some of the long timers managed to make such good careers – it might give some of us newer workers some hope.
I have been working in the field since 2007 and I am happy with the money I make. I am with a school board that is unionized. I suggest finding jobs that recognize the value of the Child and Youth Care education and training and that are unionized to protect you from being exploited. I would have to disagree with those who say there is no secure future in CYC. There are many great paying jobs!
Great question Greg! I have been involved in a variety of practice environments as a Child and Youth Care practitioner for over 20 years and consider that I have made a career, and good living from that career choice. There are a few things that I think have impacted on my longevity in the field.
1. I have taken responsibility for my own
professional development. There have been trainings that I have chosen
to attend (on average at least one a year) self-funded on top of those
that my employer has provided opportunity for. It has kept me stimulated
as I have developed as a practitioner.
2. I have attended a Child and Youth Care Conference at least once a year – the opportunity to spend a few days with a group of Child and Youth Care practitioners is very stimulating – and quite relaxing. Being surrounded by likeminded folks rejuvenates!! The opportunity for discussion and debate about practice direction and trends with people outside of your own work team is essential and builds practice ideas.
3. Involvement in my professional association. Feeling like I am a part of the profession in a larger sense than my own work environment has also kept me motivated.
Again, thanks for asking – I think that it’s a great piece to begin exploring early in your career!
After 40 years, I would say that the key to my longevity is job diversity. Some of the jobs I had were: Child and Youth Care Worker, Summer Program staff, Camp staff (we were fortunate to have an agency camp), Group Home supervisor, Training Coordinator for groups of First Nation and Métis folks who wanted to be C&YCW's and Senior Supervisor. I presently coordinate an In-service training program for C&YCW's and also recently got onto a relief list as a C&YCW to do a few shifts in a group home at my old agency (to see if I had any 'street cred' left).
I would say that saying "yes" to the many, many different ways of caring for young people will help both with your 'staying power' and with your ability to make yourself more 'valuable' (in every sense of the word) to the children and youth that you serve.
I wished when they were teaching the course for Child and Youth Care that they also had a part of the program that caught you how to find a job within our field. There are many different avenues that one can go within this field. I found it very difficult to find a good job after I received my Child and Youth Care degree. What I finally had to do was move to northern British Columbia where there was less qualified people and more jobs. I have managed to find a good paying job within the school district however I also work a part-time job to make ends meet. If you are looking for a high paying job in this field it may be very difficult. They are out there however but it took me a while within the field to figure out where to go and how to apply for them. There are many other types of rewards within this field and they are not financial. Good luck.
Like any field each one of us has to take an active role in guiding our career path. No one else is going to do it for you. Child and Youth Care is also a lifestyle choice, so remember finances are only one aspect of the decision making process. It is true that in many places Child and Youth Care practitioners are sorely underpaid – and it is something many of the networks and associations across the field are working to remedy. Yet, I think if you look for an organization that values it’s employees there are those that pay appropriately and provide good benefits (e.g. health insurance, family benefits, time off). Be sure to take all of those into consideration. You also likely have supplemental skills that you can engage in order to promote yourself within a good organization – perhaps supervising, training, public policy, management, etc.
Greg I am one of the long timers; 35 years.
I would believe that I created the career I have by never missing an opportunity; be it volunteer or otherwise, for example volunteering on a crisis line for 9 years and being the provincial president of the Child and Youth Care association in my province for a few years. I regularly worked more than one job at a time; in fact this is something I still do and thus I still have no fulltime `job' but a healthy career in which I teach for a university (CYC), run a private practice and clinically supervise for a wide variety of agencies. I have also constantly done upgrading throughout my career, mainly paid for by me, as well as paying for clinical supervision for years. The bottom line to me was that by taking on the responsibility of making my career what I wanted it to be I have slowly and steadily been able to create it.
So life has been very busy, very rich and filled with an extensive amount of different experiences in the field.
So work hard, be patient and consider where you wish to end up in the field and what you can do now to get there.
Hope this helps.
Very often in modern society people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Be careful that you don't fall into that trap.
CYC (social care) work in Ireland was traditionally provided by the religious orders. The desire to help others came from a vocational/spiritual place rather than an individual’s need for personal gain. That said, when you live in a religious community, you don't have to worry about your mortgage or feeding your kids, so I absolutely understand the point you are making.
It is possible to make a lot of money out of Child and Youth Care work, but in order to do so you need to buy into a system that some have argued turns children into commodities. I know a manager of a service in Ireland (in the private for profit sector) that was told a couple of years ago that she could 'have the child for €5,000 per week'. When all was said and done, the child's future boiled down to money and while some people have no difficulty with that. I find it quite shameful.
Most of us come to this job because we want to help people, that is the reward. As I write this, I am looking at a thank you card that a child wrote for me in 1995 because I gave him an experience that he otherwise would not have had. That card is priceless, and when I am taking my last breath, those are the things that I hope will matter most to me.
My advice is that you try to carve out a career for yourself that gives you enough money to pay the bills as they come in, but never lose sight of what is really important!!!
With very best wishes,
Wow! Some advice from instructors and others saying there is no secure or financial enriching future? To me, the enrichment comes from making a difference in a youths life is by far more rewarding then financial enrichment.
Career choices are just that, if your looking to be financial secure maybe you’re in the wrong career? But if you’re willing to "work" your way up (yes, there is a way up) it can take longer. But the rewards are by far worth it!
I have worked in a environment where workers were only there to gain employment insurance, my advice to them was to be there because they wanted to be, not because they had to be... This weeded out the people who truly wanted to make a difference. I can firmly say, as a long time youth worker, the experience(s) and understanding of where the youth come from has totally broadened my knowledge and opened many a doors for employment.
I have to disagree with the information you were told. The beauty of our field is that we have a unique skill set that allows us to work in a myriad of settings. You are not confined to residential or school settings. Wherever there are children and youth, there is a place for us.
Make sure to be the best practitioner you can be by staying in the know. PD, workshops, webinars and sites like this can help you stay focused and informed. There are very good journals around.
Sounds simple to say but you are the master of your own destiny. Good luck!
First, I've appreciated reading everyone's responses.
I too have been in the field for a long time, over 20 years, and in fact, my whole career has been with the same agency. I had an opportunity to do volunteer work with the organization while working on my diploma in Child and Youth Care and knew immediately that I had landed where I could do the work I wanted to do with families. That led to a practicum with the organization, then temporary positions and finally after a couple of years a permanent position. So, like others, I had to supplement my income with other work, but I held strong that I would land a permanent position with this agency. I did front line work as a Family Support Worker for a long time and now supervise a team of Family Support Workers and Access Support Workers. My role is different, but I appreciate the opportunity to use my experience to support my team and connect with the families we collectively support. I feel content that I make a reasonably good wage, but truthfully, I did not get into the field thinking I would make a huge salary, I wanted to work with families. As others have said, I have taken opportunities for professional development and went back to school to finish my BA in Child and Youth Care several years ago. I also recognized that if I want to create more opportunity for myself, I still have a lot of work years left, it was worth considering a Master's degree, which I am currently completing.
Unfortunately it is not in Child and Youth Care as I don't have access to a program in my community, however, my education and experience as a Child and Youth Care Worker has been well accepted as relevant to my current education. My advice to you, look for interesting practicums, be willing to volunteer to seek interesting work and show your stuff to potential employers, and be willing to work hard. Focus on finding work you are going to enjoy.
Thom here. I am a dinosaur.
Like most dinosaurs in our field – and I am not the only one :) – I may hold old fashioned ideas. But just like the original dinosaurs did not know they were extinct till long after they were, I think I may still be relevant – okay, everyone, hold off on that debate :)
I am always shocked when I hear of students being 'discouraged' by their instructors, and maybe I shouldn't be because I have heard these kinds of tales so many times before. I know you said 'some' of your instructors, but to my mind 'some' is 'some to many'! I always fail to understand why someone who's job it is to 'inspire' would discourage instead. Especially when, likely, they are in privileged positions themselves. And it has always been so – I remember going to university in the '70's and being encouraged to 'slash the white underbelly of capitalism', reject the university system and live counter-culture by people who had nice secure tenured positions where they, themselves, 'sucked at the white underbelly of capitalism'. But, that rant aside :) ...
I know many people who have had, and currently do have, rewarding lives and careers in our field. And not just folks who have 'been around a long time' – some of the people I know with satisfying careers in our field are, at most, middle aged – many are younger. (certainly, 'pre-dinosaur). They own homes, raise families, enjoy a decent life, and find value in what they do. It took them time, they had struggles, but they got there and feel good about it.
How did they get there – well, much of what I might say has already been said by others who express it better than I. Take responsibility for your own growth, be a part of the field, connect, engage, give, love and enjoy, etc..
But, from an old guy, I think there is something else. If you want a successful career in this field, in personal, financial, etc., terms, you must believe believe that what you are doing is important, believe you are making a difference, allow the work that you do to give meaning to your life. Let it be your passion. If you make this commitment, as many have, then it does seem to me – from what I have seen – that the rest follows – will you ever be rich – well, some managed; will you do alright – many, many do; will your life have meaning – oh, yes.
There are many things we could talk about – like the immense sense of value-in-the-world one experiences when somehow they have been a significant part of helping someone live with less pain. Or how it is nice to sit in the evening and reflect on how you might have been of help to someone, and how you have benefited and grown yourself.
As for those people who would discourage you (to
come back to my rant for a minute) well, they should not be in the field – and, actually, probably never have been.
So, enjoy, believe in what we do, and, likely, the rest will follow.
Hello Greg and Thom,
This is from Lesley, an almost dinosaur. All I can do is say Thom that was a wonderful rant and Amen to everything you said!!! I continue to learn from and be inspired by you, regardless of the fact that you are so very old:) To you Greg and to others who have the same questions on a career in CYC, dream, have passion for the work, stay committed, work hard, trust yourself, and enjoy each step of the journey. I can’t think of any other field of work or professional discipline that is more satisfying and gives you enough (if not more than enough) to live on as you build a career.
Lesley du Toit
Pete here. I am (a dinosaur also) 49 years old :)
I am also a Child and Youth Care student and working in the field. I had to find a different career because of a permanent work injury. I decided that a career as a CYCC was the best direction for me because I was raised in an abusive environment and I have always liked helping others that are in need of assistance.
Greg I have also heard many times that the pay in this field is ''not enough". However that is not been my focus, helping those who are struggling has always been my first priority. Many of the staff I work with have a second job to help them get by. I decided that if financially working as a CYCC becomes too much of a strain, I will do whatever it takes to survive and still help the Children and Youth that are struggling.
Thom for a dinosaur you say it well :)
It is what sustains me and nourishes me; that I love what I do. That to do what I do is my passion and the money is because it is what makes the rest of life work.
From: Niels Peter Rygaard
I was moved by your words! Here’s some encouragement attached, from one dinosaur to another :)
Cheer up! Don’t let instructors who fall into the pits of self-pity and cynicism get to you, that’s not fitting for the great Tyrannosaurus Rex of Youth care. People look to you for reassurance.
Some links to what we do now also. Look at these kids and caregivers, I can certainly recommend training instructors in Bali for health purposes and as treatment for the SWAD diagnosis (Social Worker’s Age-related Depression).
Best from Niels, Denmark (Jeez, I still seem remember my name!!? – sometimes)
Video: Rygaard describes the situation of kids without parental care, research network, and project mission:
E-book about Asian versions tested in pilot project in Indonesia:
Examples: Local partners describe our cooperation FairstartGlobal:
A. Randolph Oudemans, Singapore CEO, founder of NGO REACTIndonesia:
B. CEO of foster care Estonia, Jane Snaith:
Thom,a real dinasour indeed, I am always encouraged and inspired by dinosaurs like him. To share our experiences in our country, and besides the inspirations I always receive from our icons in the field, our CYCWs in SA are seeing the field, after a long struggle, being professionalised. WOW! an addition to fulfilment. This indicates a brighter future for what we do....
Like Thom, I too have been around a long time. Made a living while raising a family – lots of kids and grand kids.
As a faculty I do encourage students to appreciate
the rewards of our work. I agree entirely that having a successful
career includes feeling good about making a difference in someone’s life
and I have been lucky to being doing this work for about 40 years.
I want to add another perspective however. I have always believed that we need to advocate for better funding not only for the many dedicated staff but for the young people we care for. An interesting story is that if a Child and Youth Worker started working in the year ZERO (0) as a youth worker, at $40.000 per year, he/she would have made about $80.000.000 in the past 2,015 years. However, the top 100 baseball player's salaries range from the lowest of $85.000.000 dollars to a high of over $356.000.000 dollars in a period of about 10 years.
Now, I am aware that all these ball players have a
better batting average than the average Child and Youth Worker, but
perhaps we need to prioritize and encourage funders to provide funding
to staffing and the young people in need of our caring.
I believe that this too should be taught in our classes – policy, advocacy and politics along with passion and caring.
Couldn't agree more – I'm also a dinosaur and my work is what gets me up every day – a belief in what we do and a passion for making a difference in lives of young people.
On the career side I have been involved in YC and FSW for the past 23yrs and many things already said ring very true. You have to believe in what you do – first and foremost – be grounded in understanding what you control and what you don’t and be satisfied with what the sum total of that creates. You will discover much about yourself in authentically engaging with hurting/angry youth/parents/families and trying to assist them with helping themselves towards healing and navigating their lives differently. It is often complex with many variables in play but never forget that we were built – as people – for relationships with others and just as those relationships with those around us – closest to us – can hurt us emotionally/spiritually/physically they also offer the same in the ability to impart love, support, happiness and healing. Become a person who truly listens to others-to do that you will need to understand yourself very well and why you are invested in their hurt/betterment. True listening is not silence while another speaks it is something very spiritual that they will feel from you and may often retreat from as it provides a deep human connection. This is not a program you learn and apply – it is something you become through the process yourself and you will be better at it on some days more than others. Some days you will be the one who needs it – we all do time to time.
As far as the ‘living’ part you mentioned – in the civil service in NS a YWer is paid in the 40k to 65k range depending on the facility and the role you are in. Some bare bone facts for you. The private organizations I am aware of make quite a bit less as I understand.
Geoffrey R. Levy
Greetings from another dinosaur! This month I began my 50th year in Child and Youth Care and related human service work. I cannot imagine a more satisfying career. Am I rich? No. Am I comfortable? Yes. Two clues if you want to make a life in our field. Education. Competence. Unhappily, people will not listen to you based only on your “experience”. Get some degrees. Build yourself a reputation based on heart and head and you will be sought after to help those who come along and struggle with the complexities of our work. If you love our kids, love our work, and figure out how to be helpful others will need you for as long as you are willing to stay engaged. Look at Grandpa Garfat (and many others) and Grandma Fox (and many others). I published an article many years ago titled “Moving Around vs. Moving On”. It has proved to be true. Do not let anyone talk you out of imagining a productive life’s work in CYC. Enough. I’ve got to go take a nap so I can be ready for my next adventure in Child and Youth Care.
As another in the twilight of a long career, it was possible for me to have a long and satisfying life journey in this field. I’ve been a bus driver, teacher, “live in” Child and Youth Care worker, social worker, group leader, foster care worker, public sector supervisor and, at the pinnacle, a Child Welfare CEO. The CEO job came along when I needed to send my 3 daughters to college and, then, pay for their weddings – perfect timing! Management does pay better, but the headaches are also plentiful.
In addition to the excellent advice you’ve received about “following your passion,” which really is paramount, I was also so very lucky to have Sally as my boon companion every step of the way. So, don’t forget to find someone you love to take along to do what you love!
I am just old fashioned enough to dislike the notion of referring to myself as a dinosaur. Is the discussion heading toward an ageist position that equates length of service with wisdom or special status of some sort? Many of the recently qualified social care workers I met in Ireland are an inspiration. I wonder what happened to make the college teacher act in a discouraging way? What exactly is a dinosaur in this context?
I am a fellow student in the Child and Youth Care field. I understand what you mean when you talk about a financially fulfilling career, as I have heard many times through my practicum placement supervisors that it does not pay very well and majority of the Child and Youth Care workers require a second job on the weekends.
As I do agree that everybody needs money, and
student loans are stressful to pay back, I truly do believe that it does
not matter how much money you make, if you are miserable and unhappy
doing that particular job.
I went to school in order to give back to the adolescent population who needs us, as I was once one of those adolescents. I think that as long as you love what you do, and it's rewarding and fulfilling and leaves you feeling like you made a difference that day. Then that is all that matters. Money will come and go, but a rewarding career that you can say you genuinely love, will last a life time.
Mount Royal University