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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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I am new to this group. My name is Georgina and I am a CYW in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I work in a boys' group home (ages 13-18) and I was wondering if anyone has any ideas to pass on about incentive programs, token economies (or something that can help teenage boys to focus on the positive) that may have worked for you.

We already have After School Programs and Rewards in place, however I am looking for something that can be ongoing throughout the day. Something that the boys can work towards, such as a later curfew or extra hour of free time for a particular day.

Please note that the boys that I work with are teenagers and have various behaviours. If anyone has any ideas that would be wonderful.

Georgina, CYW
Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Hi Georgina,

I work in a large Residential Education and Care Centre in Scotland, I recently moved on to day services, which is primarily for education purposes. I immediately noticed that there was an incentive scheme in place, however it was based purely on monetary rewards. The scheme was designed on how young people behaved throughout the day both in education and across the centre in general. I felt this was sending out the wrong message, namely, positive behaviour was rewarded by a cash incentive.

Therefore I changed this scheme, now young people identify a set of achievable targets/goals, e.g. doing homework, positive peer relations, respect to others to name a few.. Fundamentally the young people then have ownership and responsibility for their behaviour. These goals should be in conjunction with the young persons care plan. What I have found is that there is always some modification of the behaviors they present, key workers and staff then reinforce the positives through some type of reward, such as an activity, CD etc. You could adapt this to meet your own resources like staying up for an extra a period of time at night. I could e-mail you an example of a positive behaviour reward plan if you wish. All the best.

James Lochrie
Service Manager McKechnie unit

I will sometimes ask a youth that has been misbehaving the day before, what he did wrong yesterday and how he feels about what he did. If he has a satisfactory answer, I will usually thank him for his efforts and tell him that he may have an extra 1/2 hour before bed if he clears the table or something. This has to be used very sparingly though as you don't want to lead the kid into thinking you are rewarding negativity.

Mister Home Chef

I have worked in several agencies with incentive programs. The best version I know of involves selecting personal goals and incentives for each client and providing the opportunity for a "fresh" start each day. The number of goals they work on equals the number of incentives they are able to choose. If the client works on 3 of their goals, they can choose 3 incentives from their customized list. You have a standard selection time, say 3pm, and keep track of progress on goals until 3pm the next day when the clients are able to select their new incentives.

This system allows staff members to select individual goals and incentives for each client while having everyone involved in, essentially, the same program. Staff can also adjust goals and incentives as the client progresses or goals change. Agencies are also able to provide documentation that Plan of Care goals are being worked on and are directly reflected in day to day planning, programming, etc.

Steve Crema
Professor of Child and Youth Work
Northern College

The critical thing to consider is when the absence of an incentive becomes a consequence.

This is easier understood if we stop substituting the words "incentive" and "consequence" for "reward" and "punishment" respectively. With that in mind it is possible to reflect critically on whatever you develop to ensure that it facilitates progress without undermining the professional agendas.

Ni Holmes

One of the best discussions I know of on this topic is a book by Alfie Kohn (1993). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes. I highly recommend it!

Rick Clements, B.S.W.
Child and Youth Caseworker
Whitehorse, Yukon


A note to Rick Clements ...

Also Alfie Kohn's subsequent work is Beyond Punishment. It makes one seriously rethink all such incentive and deterrent programs.

Rick Kelly

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