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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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Fears about direct practice

Hi Everyone,

I'm going to be a new graduate of the child and youth work course Bay and I have a really big fear of working in the field (although I have done placement at a group home, I found it kind of uncomfortable), mainly at a group home because I'm afraid that I won't be able to handle the pressure of being in the youth's face all the time – I find it very intrusive and I was just wondering if anyone had an suggestions/strategies on what I could do to work on my fear? Is it as bad I think it is?

Thank you

Is it as bad as you think it is? I guess that depends on just how bad you think it is... Maybe if you're thinking that it's bad at all you should ask yourself why you would want to do it? But yes, pressure in residential care is substantial, and it is certainly not for everyone. The attitude that you approach it with will play a big part in how you experience it. "The mind is a place of itself, and can create a heaven out of hell, and a hell out of heaven" – not sure who said it, but it is a quote you often hear from practitioners who favour a cognitive-behavioural approach, because it emphasises the fact that you create your own reality. If you think that residential care is "bad" in terms of the pressure, you have already create half of the "reality" you will experience. And it certainly has its rewards as well, otherwise no-one would be in this business. My advice – give it an honest go, and if it does not work out for you, you would have gained a lot of experience and lost nothing.

Werner van der Westhuizen

Hey there,

My name is Jim and I have been a Youth Care Worker for almost nine years now and at no time did I ever consider part of my job to be "in the kid's faces". Yes, there are times when we have to challenge kids behaviors and break up fights and those skills will be developed over time.

Our job as a YCW is to be a support for kids in care, to bring the best out of them as they prepare for life after care.



I found I had to respond to your post. Any new experience can be a bit "frightening", particularly one where we are working with other people as we cannot predict "what may happen next".

My need to reply, however, came out of your concern about the "pressure of being in the youth's face all the time". I believe effective youth work is built on building a rapport with youth which then leads to a professional relationship within which to work. We can't accomplish this if we are in someone's face.

Please do not think I would advocate working within a setting without being clear to the youth about the settings rules and my expectations for youth behaviour. One can be clear about the foregoing without being in anyone's face.

I am wondering if you have been trained in non-violent crisis intervention? One of the principles of this training is to actively avoid making the individual who is in crisis avoid feeling threatened. Another key priniciple is to note the potential for a crisis developing and defuse the "incident" before it can develop or becomes a crisis. None of this can be accomplished when we are in someone's face.

When we believe we are working with and supporting individuals as they create change in their lives and our role is to guide and support the individual it is difficult to be scared because we are on a journey. When we know we have had a sound educational base upon which to build our practical experience we enter the field of youth work aware there is still much to learn, but we have the basics to bring to the profession.

You may feel more comfortable if you volunteer within a program where you feel you may be interested in working or alternatively seek a summer internship. In this way you will be able to investigate if youth work is the right fit for you.

You may be wondering if I've ever been afraid when I worked on the floor with youth. The answer is yes, but I could count the number of times on one hand (and I have worked, and continue to work with, youth who were considered extremely challenging). Fear can be a very healthy emotion. It can keep us safe. Unfortunately, it can also paralyse us. We can all sense fear, much as we can all sense anger through observing body language. Just as we observe the body language of the youth with whom we work, they observe ours. If they sense/know we are afraid we are in for a challenging experience.

I wish you the best of luck as you develop your future plans. Youth work may not be the field of choice for you, or you may find that given time and experience you thrive. Remember, however, self awareness is critical and if your sense is this is not the right fit for you at this time, listen to your heart. Volunteer in a setting which appeals to you and let the volunteer coordinator know you are interested in working in the field, ask for feedback and insights from staff. Think baby steps...


Just be yourself. Put your self in their shoes.They are as nervous as you are. As Child and Youth Care workers it is our job to let them know we care. Try and gain their trust and be there or as they say in the field "in the moment". Deal with things as they happen. You can ask for advice from others that work with you. In this field of work "baptism by fire"can be part of the process.

There's a reason why you choose this line of work. Everyone is nervous at first and this can work in your favor. Just remember we all in the field remember when we hit the floor for the first time. This is not all about the education,its about what brought you here.

Good Luck and go get 'em.

Kevin Martin


I think it's totally healthy to have a fear and I think it's important to feel nervous about entering the youth's space/home/environment and all of a sudden taking over as the adult in their lives when they don't even know you. You should feel supported enough from the team to take it at your own pace allowing the young people to feel comfortable with you at their pace. I felt it took me a good year to feel totally on top of things and still 10 years on I'm learning, the day you stop learning is probably the day you wrongly believe you know it all!

Use your team and your manager and with good supervision in no time you'll be flying, enjoy the experience!

Niamh Loughnane

I'd be a little concerned if you view it as 'being in a youth's face all the time' – perhaps if that was your experience at your placement, you would be best advised to give it another chance and consider trying somewhere else, because there are much better experiences than what it sounds like you have had.

Best of luck!

Bailey Kerrivan

Just tackle your fears. You would have not taken the course if it did not interest you. Most importantly, be yourself and do not try to be a super-hero. The youth will pick up on this if you try too hard.

Mister Home Chef

Hello and welcome to the world of placing your heart on the outside of your body. Here is my insight – it is the relationship we choose to have that gives us influence as we connot control another. Every breath we take we role model behaviors so the better care you take of the self, the better care those around take care of them. Here is one for burn out, never work harder than your client. This is a great field, it takes good people to involve themselves in the lives of others.

Good luck -
Wes and Marie Larson

I shared the same reservations upon my graduation. I found that working a relief or casual position while I developed confidence in my skills and abilities was helpful in transitioning into the workforce. I found that working a relief position allowed me the comfort of not being a leading staff, but allowed me to take on what I felt comfortable with and that gradually expanded until I felt prepared for a full time position. If you are able to take a similar path, it may be helpful in assisting you to feel more confident in your abilities.


Meghan Lederman

I agree with some of those who've shared insights.

It has been very helpful to me to know that I am part of a team working in the lifespace of the youth & experience our team as 'being Present Together' in the lifespace of the youth. A good Team leader/supervisor also makes a big difference. We worked with very troubled teen boys and girls. At all times being surrounded by young people [and sharing their living space with one's own family] is a positive communal experience like none other. Yes, there are very hard times which can only be experienced as positively challenging if you are working alongside experienced and competent team members who together with you have an approach which focuses on Relationship first, effective behaviour management, a sense of inner control, being intuitive, and restoring and building community.

Appropriate developmental activities, professional relationships, clear boundaries and respect go a long way to assist both youth and staff to experience the joys, challenges and learnings of residential life together.

Keep asking yourself: 'What is it that I fear?'. As the anwer changes, seek support for the different ways of overcoming those fears.

I wish you lots of strength on your journey ... wherever it takes you.

Ruth Bruintjies

Dear Student,

Firstly I wanted to challenge you by asking what were the reasons why you decided to enrol in the Child and Youth Care Program. Probally to help make a difference in the life of children and Youth and I believe you can, however you need to find you own niche and have your own style when you are working with youth. Don't let one group home make the pathway for how you may preceive the C&Y field. You may need to see a different perspective on things, maybe volunteer at a Child and Youth treatment centre or a Boy's & Girls Club, just to show you that many facilities have different approaches.

It sounds like to me that your approach is more of a nuturer/support person and that is great, you would be a good balance for a staff team that has limit setters on it. You see you own individual skills will make the true difference not how other people's preception of what type of C&Y care worker you should be. Have you read Brendtro's "The Other 23 hours", I truly recommend it for you to read before you start in this field, read the part on relationship building with youth. Good luck and remember the reason why you became a Child and Youth Care worker, don't let anyone take that away from you.

Dave Zimmerman

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