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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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Hey everyone

I just have a question about what your thoughts are on Favoritism in residential group home facilities. I have experienced it a lot and was just wondering who else has and any suggestions oh why this happens, how to address it and just your general opinions.

Thanks so much!

It is possible and highly likely that members of staff may be more socially attracted to one young person rather than another, but it seems to me that it is self-evident that these feelings should not be acted out by the member staff in the form of 'favouritism', and that everything should be done to prevent the young person and the other young people being aware of it. Such differentiations can cause (amongst many other negative consequences) the young person who is the object of the favouritism to have unrealistic expectations or estimations of themselves, and/or it can give the young person expectations of the staff member which in the long run the member of cannot fulfil. Unless the member of staff broaches what is and is not possible in their relationship honestly and ethically with the young person, it can be unsafe and damaging for the young person and for the member of staff.

Favouritism exercised by a member of staff towards one young person indirectly denies the rights of other young people in the group home and may also have a negative influence on their self-esteem. It may also be a divisive issue for the members of the resident group.

Equally it seems to me important that members of staff are not too influenced by being the favourite or most popular member of staff for a particular young person. This popularity may be engendered by good professional practice but it can also be caused by a young person over-identifying with a member of staff or indeed caused the member of staff over-identifying with the young person and thus regressing and ceasing to be an adult and in a sense becoming a child again. In my view a balanced member of staff taking on a proper adult parenting role will at times be liked and at times be less liked but they will be respected because they are fair and in the long term liked in an appropriate way because they have offered consistent concern and care.

It is a complex issue and easy to simplify in such a few words, but I hope this is helpful to you.

Best wishes,

Charles Sharpe

Hi Josue,
Depends on how you describe "favoritism". I'm sure in many group situations, residents think other's are favored. And perhaps they are in some ways. This perspective of course will depend on how long the resident has resided in their situation since chances are "learning the ropes" can be more difficult for some than others and this may be seen as favoritism when really it's just a learning curve. It can also be used by residents as a form of manipulation which I'm sure experienced CYW's, particularly in group home situations will have experienced a million times. How have you experienced this? If you're discussing other colleagues on your team, make sure you look closely. Are they simply praising for achievement? Some kids make it very easy to do this, while with others you really need to spot the achievement. Is there a hierarchy in the household (in many there are) where residents take on various roles (good kid, difficult kid, slow kid, smart kid, etc.). Perhaps the praise is simply for different things. It's very easy for us to simplify these situations and label them and maybe in some cases this is the reality. If this is so and we have an awareness of what is occurring, then we also have a responsibility to balance out the system. We can make sure acknowledgment is happening through our example and hopefully this will assist if things seem slanted somehow. It's not a perfect system for sure however as long as we stay optimistic we can be of service to the kids we're supposed to be elevating.

Diane Rapkoski

Hi there,

I am a first year mature Child and Youth Care student and have no previous experience in this field. Therefore, please accept my opinion here as just that, however, in what we are learning and in what I know from my own life experience I would hazard a guess that favoritism quite possibly could be happening because of characteristics the particular child may have that is obviously directly impacting the worker. I believe the relationship is serving a purpose more so for the worker at this point than vice versa. Does that make sense? As to how to handle it I suppose there is "code of conduct" that can be reviewed and I believe it depends on your particular group home.

It is wonderful to see that you are noticing and questioning this as I personally don't feel there is a place for favoritism in this type of setting.

Hope that gives you some help.


Everyone has their favorites, but it is the professional worker that shows every child in their care that they are the favorite without telling them. The way around showing favoritism is to find the good in every person. Sometimes it takes a while to find it but if you keep trying to look for it you will eventually find it. Every person has a story to tell just listen.

As far as others having favorites and using it..... That's life. I teach the facts of life but I live on the positive side. Be true to yourself and the staff that has favorites will live theirs. It's up to you to help that staff grow to be fair by example. They will see it just keep doing it.

Sometimes it's a trust issue or something staff see/feel that others don't. Not to sound like a 60's throw back but negative aura is strong.

I'm a female so sometimes the ones that give me the most attention seeking (negative behavior) are the ones that think I'm their favorite. Try looking at it from the other side. They seek your attention to be your favorite.

A lot in short paragraphs if you need an explanation on anything let me know.



This is a never ending problem everywhere in all aspects of life . . . parents; school; employment and in your case, "residential group home facilities".

It also happens in our facility with youth and staff! I believe when an individual is easy to work with, we tend to favor the less challenging. Now to me, there is a very big difference with cooperative and manipulation ("brown nosing")! That's my definition!

I will not take the easy way out with an individual who is manipulating me (with sweet nothings and smiles) as far as I am concerned this person is full of "fear" and needs big time help in confronting those fears so they don't have to lie, cheat and manipulate their way through life! This is why they're a challenge to work with . . . I give them stories to read: Esau and Jacob – how manipulating Jacob stole his brother's birthright; and the mother, Rebecca, who favored her son Jacob over Esau! King Saul and the shepherd boy, David – God saw favor in David and disfavor in Saul due to Saul's rebellion to obey God!

Find stories that relate to the topic/s. Then ask them to write an essay on how the story may apply to their own life!

Hope this was a help to you.
Polly Pete

That is an interesting question. I think the best way to address it would be to pull the staff aside and make them aware of your observations.

Mister Home Chef

I believe we are all attracted to specific personality types when it comes working with people and it tends to show through in our interactions with people young or old, I believe people can feel whether we like them or don't, however it is my belief that this is the part where we need to practice our "professionalism". We are obligated to treat all the young people we work with in a uniform manner which is understanding their individual needs and meeting their individual needs. We are formally trained to build relationships and this is what we are hired to do. Not just any relationships, but therapeutic relationships. We have an obligation to the young people to build therapeutic relationships with all the young people we work with and not just the ones we enjoy working with.

I believe we would be more capable of doing this through the process of regular supervisions and processing our own feelings around how we feel around specific young people. We need to allow ourselves to vent away from the job, so we are capable of doing our job efficiently, Supervisions are critical in assuring that our jobs are done effectively.

Hope this helps!

Manjit Virk
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

As I read these thoughts about favoritism, I wonder about the two quotes that keep running through my head – the first is Bronfenbrenner's thought that "Every kid needs somebody who's crazy about them ..." and the other was Henry Maier's "If everyone is treated the same, nobody is special".

And I am wondering how they fit with the discussions?


Uri Bronfenbrenner's assertion that every child needs at least one adult who is 'crazy' about them kind of supports favoritism? or if in Canada "favouritism".

Being identified as a favorite or not presents an opportunity to discuss that experience. Dr. Henry Maier (1987) writes, "I submit here that it is essential for caring persons to differentiate in the way they respond to various children, even those with similar behaviors. To be consistent is not necessarily a virtuous position"(Maier p. 112*).

Managing the idea of what it means to be a "favorite" or not sounds like an essential topic for youth care teams, in all different types of settings, to explore in team meetings, and retreats. Discussion on how favoritism will manifest in the program and ourseleves as workers and how it will be managed intentionally for treatment purposes could be a worthwhile agenda item..

Ernie Hilton

*Maier, H.W., (1987) Developmental Group Care of Children and Youth: Concepts and Practice Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press, Inc.

Good to see Bronfenbrenner brought into the discussion.

And then add the idea of the "key worker" to ensure that every child is special to someone. – Eds.


Hi guys,

This thread goes to the heart of our practice. It might helpful to connect with the value of 'unconditional positive regard' which is introduced in many social work courses. How do we truly engage with this core value? As I age and perhaps develop some wisdom I am coming to a sense that Rogers and others are talking about a deep love of humanity in all its guises. The acceptance has to be from the heart without artifice. This value is in itself conditional on our personal journey and our sense of an unconditional loving experience in our lives. We need to practice in enviroments that support this insight, we need to educate and train in a manner that promotes reflection and self discovery of this capacity. We need to speak out against the oppressive systems in our lives, workplaces, communities and society in general that distance us from our capacity to love unconditionally.

We are failing those in our duty of care if we allow our workplaces to replicate the hierchical power systems that ration resources based on discriminatory subjective choices and prevailing notions of deserving and undeserving recipients.

One choice is to see ourselves as all being in the same boat striving towards the same goal, one of reaching out to those most unlovable and in so doing bringing humanity closer together. There is a strong political sub text to this approach that involves the capacity to love our oppressors and in so doing bring them to the capacity for unconditional positive regard. I haven't quite worked this one out yet!


I am a first year Child and Youth Care student and am thrilled.

It seems to me in order to teach every child both the same and differently by using the strengths based approach. This way each child will feel special because they may have strengths that the other children do not.


Thank you Jeremy for this thought, it is nice to remind ourselves of why we do the things we do and the hope is they in turn will treat others with the same unconditional positive regard. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND.



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