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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.

ListenListen to this

Hiring past clients

You know you are getting on in years when this dilemma arises ... The other day we had an interesting discussion (without resolution) and therefore thought it a worth topic for the CYC-NET experts. Here it is ... Should an organization hire past clients who meet all the hiring criteria, however received direct service delivery from the same organization? Yes/No

What would be some of the obstacles? – if any? What would be the reality of an experienced cyc-worker now working next to a past client they provided services with and who is now a colleague? What would it be like to be a supervisor of such a relationship?

Is it discrimination? As a result of knowing “secrets” of a past client's history should that stop them from getting work with the same organization that provided services with them? Aren’t there workers presently working right now in organizations that have received “services” and colleagues don’ t know of their past? Aren’t there people in this field who probably needed and still need therapy and are still working?

I am sure this is not a new phenomenon for many out there, so the feedback would be put to good use.

Ernie Hilton
Nova Scotia

I rarely reply on the net but I've heard this one before and I just had to. We have such a situation in our organization. Four of us have worked with one of our colleages in the past. I feel it is appropriate for a young person in our facilities to aspire to want to be like the people he/she respects and admires. I have heard that some have an issue with working beside a past client. What are we telling them? No you will never be my equal. I'm truly not sure what is the dilemna is. Are you threatened by them crossing the barriers. What if your own children wanted to work with you would you say no? I'm feeling this looks like a we /they division. Is it? Our person had to grow just the same as any other staff when they begin. There was some dependancy on us as parents but that was worked through. This person is one of our most loyal employees and has great empathy with the youth because they were there. The youth respect that. They can see a future. We all have pasts. This person is strong enough and willing enough to work in an environment where co-workers know theirs. Are the rest of us that brave? If I am off track here let me know but it upsets me that there may be an indication here that youth care workers have a we /they perspective.

Wendy Rhindress

Great question Ernie,
CLIENT CENTRED…STRENGHTS PERSPECTIVE…SOLUTION FOCUSED…ANTI OPRESSIVE…Are these core beliefs forgotten when the youth in our care leave our facilities?

Perhaps my short time in this field still allows me to be quite naïve, but as a Child and Youth Care worker this is the lens which I try to view all of life’s situations from. This question fits very well with a popular query of last week dealing with education vs. life experience and their coexistence in this field. The education required for this field demands an incredible amount of reflective processing coupled with a great deal of academic study. To parallel this education, the life experiences these people possess allow them to view situations from different perspectives which in my opinion can only help to broaden and strengthen a staff team.

This question comes with great timing personally. Just two days ago a youth which I work with asked me this very same thing. Each program can be viewed as different and unique which allows one to identify the exact program which they wish to be a part of. As Child and Youth Care workers, do we allow autonomy and the ability for the youth to thrive by limiting them due to our personal boundary issues?

If the youth in question can engage and persevere in this process they certainly, once again in my opinion, deserve the chance to walk the floor. No preference should be given in regards to their past history nor should it be used as a negative deterrent. Also the facet of professionalism comes into play. If experienced Child and Youth Care workers have a problem with this it can quite possibly be viewed as just that; their problem. Our journey as Child and Youth Care workers is never ending, especially towards engaging in our own self process. By this I try to pose the question of whose dilemma would it be. If we as workers feel the need to limit their right to thrive within this field, than why is that? The onus is definitely on us to justify that decision without prejudice and with fact. The phrase “because I say so” just isn’t good enough.

Is it not preferred in addictions counseling to have had a former addiction of some type? The journey and knowledge gained along the way is the most important thing towards the destination. Again, perhaps my short time in this field is the reason but seeing a former resident prosper should equate positive progress to me. Each person deserves the chance to be considered if qualified. Interviewing and even an orientation process can help make the final judgment more concrete towards the person’s position in a particular program. Not allowing these former youth in care to be in the field contradicts our Child and Youth Care lens and quite possibly robs us of having some incredible workers in the future.

Fred Molyneaux
Nova Scotia

I was recently offered a position which I accepted as a casual person at a crisis facility, several years ago, I was in a very violent situation where my life was in in extreme danger where a knife was held at my stomache and my back up against a wall, so I contacted this same crisis place at that time (wow, I accessed a support system)... I was hired here and was surprised to see that there was file on me as a resident despite never accessing the residential program. I felt embarassed at first, but then I thought about what why should I run from it, what do I have to be embarassed about, where is there hope for me if I can not use my experiences to help support others, why is this stigma still attached to me because I was in a violent situation and did not let it kill my spirit or my body? Even though I am sure my employer is aware, it is still my responsibility to be most aware of myself and my ability to assist others so I am transitioning cautiously into the position.

I will have more to add on this in a bit to further address your concerns.

Thank you.
Mark and Tracey Robinson

Hey Ernie,
For me the question has less to do with what the staff want and perhaps more about what the clientele want. Many people look for someone who can relate to their experiences when they talk to a service provider. For example, many immigrants and refugees coming to Canada find it more comforting to talk with someone who has settled in and is now able to give back, so to speak (Ie. buddy/host programs). Many people who have substance use issues like to speak to a "recovered" user, or someone who has first hand knowledge of the effects of d&a use/abuse, rather than someone who is book smart (Ie. needle-exchanges and residential treatment facilities). Many Aboriginal people will refuse Euro-Western treatment and welcome community-based treatment where each person can move from a client role to counsellor role.
I believe that each potential employee should be considered based on their skills and assets, and I believe personal experience to be an asset. On CYC-Net we have been contributing to an ongoing thread which asks about personal experience as it relates to Child and Youth Care practice. (Would I be overstepping the boundaries to suggest that the majority of people in this field have "a past" that has made us want to "help" others?)

Mark brought up the issue of staff knowing a client's past far too intimately for there to be a level playing field. I think that there should be a conversation between staff and the potential employee as far as comfort zones and boundaries go. Still, I think that life experience on the service team's side is far more beneficial than not.

Allow people to support other members of their community in order to build a stronger community. Those are my thoughts.


Just wondering!
Do we not believe in what we do? To not hire a past resident is saying we do not believe in change or growth of the individual. We say all these great things such as strength perspective – but then would say use your strengths somewhere else because you swore at me once ... who is this about? Since I have started in this field I have been told to not take what the youth do personally and to look past their behaviors and see the "true them" (And struggle with it every day). I feel it would be an honor to work next to someone who got to experience the type of relationship between a worker (myself) and a youth (them) and them could challenge me to grow as a worker and person (same thing?) Think of the learning that could be done. I do feel that the past client would need to display they are ready to experience the new relationship and that their beliefs and values are separate their experience and done in the best interest of the youth. I wonder if people’s reservations may be about losing the power balance inherent with the work we do!

Luke Millman,
Truro NS

Hey Ernie,
You are not a person to not raise a question that will not have a big response. I have had my conversations with you in the past and I always enjoyed them.

So back to the question ...
The thing that I question in this is what is the reason for the previous youth in care wanting to work in the field? Is the reason to try and get rid of issues that they still have with their past or is it that they want to help the youth that are now in care. I think if the person is wanting to be a youth care worker for their own personal reasons that they shouldn't be entering the field, but if the person truly wants to help and provide the support to the youth that they have had provided to them then that is enough.

Being a youth in care and going through the child and youth diploma has been really challenging for me. It has opened my eyes to other problems that the staff will face in the field that I wouldn't have known about also. In the course their is alot of learning that challenges me to look past my own personal experiences and look at more serious cases then my own. I cannot say that doing my diploma has been easy and that is why for me I am not ready to complete the course yet and will wait until I know that I am ready before I finish it.

The other part to is I realized that I do not work where I lived. I recieved alot of mixed feelings about me working in the field. Some staff thought it would be great but others felt that it was wrong and that I shouldn't be allowed. I feel there is alot of contversory about this issue and it wont be a topic that everyone will agree on.

So Ernie, I couldn't leave your question unanswered, I loved our conversations in the past when you were my supervisor and I will always remember, "Once a Sully kid, Always a Sully a kid."

Take care,
Melissa Picard

Hi Ernie!
My name is Amber! I think hiring someone who used to receive services from a particular organization could be beneficial or it could become a problem! In my opinion, you never really know unless you know what kind of person they are now, and whether or not you think they would have great things to offer the organization. I think its about taking a chance on someone if it feels right. The person doing the hiring should at least offer an interview to the ex-client if he or she meets all of the qualifications, because if not, I agree with what you said ... wouldn't it be discrimination? I think after the interview the employer should know whether it could be beneficial to hire this person or not!

Amber McRae

I would like to share with you all my website as i am a former group home- child welfare client who works in the field... i find very much that former clients are discriminated agianst in the field even tho most times the circumstances to us being in care have nothing to do with ourselves.. after all most were children in care were just that.. children...
here's my site... Opinions are always welcomed.

Ziggy Stardust

I think hiring a person into the facility in which they once resided in not healthy, particularly for the person hired. It is simply not fair that team members know so much about a fellow team member, intimate details of their life and past. It could create huge problems for both the team and the person. I can imagine that whenever an opinon is put forth by the person which is not agreed upon, the mind of the other youth care workers could not help but drift to facts of this person's history and it would be difficult not to connect the past to the future, if not impossible.

To me it is a question of confidentiality, and boundaries. Even if the person is ok with this, I think they should not be. I would encourage former youth who have lived in the program I supervise to apply to other facilities, and I would support through being a reference if I could. I would question someone who is ok with team members knowing so much about them and their ability to maintain clear boundaries not only with team mates, but with youth.

We all get up in the morning and go to work making decisions on what we share about our past, the night before, what we watched on tv etc., etc. We answer questions deciding on if a past divorce, a lost love, an abuse experience needs to be shared. The person who lived in the facility is at a huge disadvantage since their life is an open book to some of those they work with.

I would avoid this situation as it has so many factors which could get really messy for all involved. Again, I 100% support a youth in care becoming a youth care worker, how great is that to those who worked with this youth! But not in the facility in which they worked if people who worked with them still work there.

This issue is too complex.

Hi Ernie I believe that employment is based on competencies, skills and knowledge. Should it happen that the particular client does not meet the criteria, then do not employ them. Whether or not they were ex-clients to me it is immaterial, unless they would pose grave danger to society. E.g. employing a paedophile to work with young children, this is questionable. If this person is employed rather they work with more mature clients, for their self-protection. Anyway I bet that all of us have skeletons, and we are currently in employment. Furthermore, why should we be the ones discriminating against peope who have received our services? Are these services sub-standard that we are ashamed of allowing the world to see their effectiveness? Well it is the employed who will make the decision.


My only concern would be some of the tranference issues/bounday issues that might arise. I would rather support the client in working at a different workplace and be proud that they have chosen to be CYCW's. I have a co-worker whom grew up in care and she is able to effectively separate her past from her work. She is one of the sucess stories, she went on from fsoter care and supported independant living to get a degree in psychology and is now working with intensive level clients.

Neil Hosler

Replying to Luke Millman ...
I once worked with a Registered Nurse who told me that everyone in psychiatry or behaviour management endeavours was on a power trip. His statement was very annoying (ergo I've rememebered it all these years), but it has stayed with me as a kind of self monitor to make sure that whatever I was doing was indeed in the best interest of the child or youth, and not for my own edification. That said, I must agree with you that the ex-patient patient would themself have to be ready, would have to have resolved their issues, but that would be their responsibility, not mine.

After all, bratty kids have become teachers, and I know one of them who has returned to teach at a school he once tried to burn down!!! Does that mean the teachers who knew him then should not respect him as a qualified peer today?

Maxine Kelly,
Lakeland, Florida

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