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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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Inclusion and anti-oppressive practice in CYC

I have been hearing / reading about what are sometimes called 'inclusion' and 'anti-oppressive' practices in Child and Youth Care.

Yet, I am struggling to find, within the field descriptions (definitions?) of these terms / concepts.

So, I would appreciate it is anyone could direct me to literature within the field of Child and Youth Care (social pedagogy, psychoeducation, etc) which speaks directly to these terms – descriptions, definitions, examples.

I appreciate everyone's help.



As a university-based (former CYC-er in British Columbia for 20 years) I teach from this perspective. My first introduction to this kind of thinking was through Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" as a way of thinking about children's rights, and before anyone rolls their eyes at the jargon of 'pedagogy' – this is simply the art and science of teaching and learning as one process aimed at societal change. That is, both instructor and student are equally and integrally engaged in anti-oppressive learning strategies in the classroom that study intersection of sexism, poverty, racism, ableism, hetero-normativity (or anti-gay/lesbian/transgender), and so forth. Think for a minute about the call for everyone to vacate Florida as long as you have a car, can put gas in it, and have somewhere to go, that is...lots of folks left out of how we currently teach and do research in child and youth studies.

For me that also includes an end of pernicious focus in Canada and the US (elsewhere?) on standardized testing and homework which have been proven useless and totally abandoned by Finland altogether. See Ken Robinson's 11 min. youtube (?) clip "Changing Educational Paradigms" as another example.

Authors writing in this Freirean discourse are bell hooks (black feminist), Joe Kincheloe, Henry Giroux, Peter McLaren to name but a few – all educators and great authors though some accuse them of thick jargon. It's good to think about how residential schools and the slaughter and genocide of First Peoples in North and South America have been massaged out of the curricula of most nations along with any sense that poverty is anything but your own problem.

Best with your search into this fascinating way of learning then working with groups of really oppressed kids.

kind regards,

Richard Mitchell

Hi Thom,

I think a lot of the time we talk about social justice and liberation in our field and do not use the term 'anti-oppressive' practice often. Hans Skott-Myhre has written quite a bit on oppression and Kiaras Gharabaghi could also lead you in that direction.

I also found this on a CYC-Net search: /cycol-1203-moore.html

I think it is great that we are starting to bring this lens to our work and I would like to see more written on the topic.

I often grapple with the term 'inclusion' and am not quite sure how I feel about it. In my work with autistic youth, 'inclusion' becomes problematic when we over-emphasize this from a neurotypical perspective- that we need to 'include' them in our world (as if our world is someplace better). We never talk about us joining them – in their world. There is an inherent imbalance of power when we talk about inclusion in this way. Sometimes I wish it were reversed so neurotypical folks could get a feel of what it is like to be so excluded all the time that we now need to have discussions about being 'included'. I think I would feel pretty crappy about that. I remember when I was young and my mom used to tell my brother he needed to include me. When I went to play with him and his friends it was never fun – they included me just because they had to.

I recently heard that at summer camps, the staff now use the term "inclusion campers" instead of "campers with special needs". Is this really a better label? Sorry for the little digression. I really did not answer your question!

Nancy Marshall

Hi Thom,

Might be useful:

Glenys Bristow

Hi Thom,

I have to admit, I still have to become further acquainted with Child and Youth Care and related field literature! (Such is the life of a student.) I suppose many Child and Youth Care practitioners have learned the definitions of anti-oppression and inclusivity outside of Child and Youth Care, and have then applied it to their own theory and practice. This is, at least, my personal experience – I was aware of many principles of social justice before entering college.

Are there certain marginalized groups that you would like a better understanding of how to support? Maybe we can direct you to some resources there. For example, Nancy Marshall and Yvonne Bristow have linked their own work in the previous discussion about autism. Both of their works exemplify anti-oppression and inclusivity quite well! I also wrote a piece with three other folks last year for RCYCP that you may have seen – it explores how simulation/scenario-based Child and Youth Care education breaks down the power structures between instructors and students and institutions. This breakdown then serves as a model for future CYCs to engage with young people on a more equal plane. I suggest (re)reading as it offers four different perspectives!

Perhaps why the field-specific definitions are hard to find is because Child and Youth Care is anti-oppressive in its core values: centring the strengths, knowledge, and experiences of disadvantaged folks. There are, I imagine, some great examples of anti-oppressive practices in Child and Youth Care literature ... but what do these look like? A true socially-just Child and Youth Care approach is able to name the ways young people of specific identities are marginalized. Conversely, CYCs practicing anti-oppression (as we all should) must reflect on how our privileges affect the ways we can support those marginalized identities. How can we use our specific privileges to break through barriers for the young person? How do our privileges affect our perspective? In my few years of doing healing work, for example, I've begun to realize just how much of "the way things are" is actually toxic whiteness at work – a realization that my white privilege has shielded me from. By the way, there is actually a great website called Safety Pin Box that acts as a "privilege unpacker" course for white folks, organized by black women and femmes.

Inclusivity is more than just remembering oppressed people as a "too", an "also", an afterthought. How much of what we know (and how we come to know) about Child and Youth Care is informed by race, culture, religion, class, gender, ability, and other types of privilege? Only when we begin to lovingly question this at every turn can we truly ever be inclusive.

I hope this wasn't redundant and that it at least answers part of your question. I remember on the Child and Youth Care Podcast, you explained that we as practitioners must let ourselves be like students to the youth and families we work with, allowing them to teach us about their experiences. This sentiment has resonated with me deeply since I heard it. It is then important we do our homework, isn't it? So, thank you for opening this discussion. I am happy to have it whenever I can.

Falon Wilton

Hi Thom, You can also look at Social Role Valorisation from Dr Wolf Wolfensberger. He has done some extensive work on this topic.

Eric Douville

Hi Thom,

I might end up being the voice of dissent, but I’ll step into the role of being provocative and say that I don’t think that Child and Youth Care as an overall profession practices inclusion and anti-oppressive practice as a general practice principle. I believe that the vast majority of the time when these words show up in our literature they are borrowed from fields we are closely aligned with such as social work, because they are “buzz words” and the “in” approach to practice, and are applied uncritically, and used because they are the terms that decision-makers want to see on applications for funding, or program descriptions etc.

Anti-oppressive practice is all about understanding the role of power, and the ways that various people are subjugated based on aspects of their identities and their experiences, and doing what is necessary to mitigate that power imbalance. It is substantially different from inclusion which basically means making it so that everyone is able and safe to participate. Sometimes inclusion means being critical about power, but often is more about doing things like having cultural representation or accommodations, which can stop far short of being anti-oppressive.

I believe that there are many CYCs out there who attempt inclusion in their work. I think that we don’t teach it to pre-practice practitioners nearly enough, but I do believe that there are practitioners in the field who see a young person being left out of whatever is going on, be it celebrating a holiday or an activity, that wasn’t well thought-through and they come up with a creative solution on their own. Or the young person does and the Child and Youth Care assists them in implementing it. But, when we look at interventions and the use of daily life events we don’t think enough about who are including and who we are excluding before we attempt to carry something out. We aren’t teaching practitioners to think that way before they carry something out. So, it’s very patchwork and hit or miss.

In terms of anti-oppression, a lot of what exists in the field that is actually anti-oppressive Child and Youth Care practice is labelled “Radical Youth Work” or “Critical Youth Work”. It’s the only place in our literature where we talk about what it means to be aware of power imbalances and what it means to actually join with a young person and recognize the role that power and oppression has had on their lives, and work with them to address this. If we are working from a critically engaged place and truly allowing young people an authentic and not tokenistic voice in how they would like to address what is happening in their lives, then we can work from an anti-oppressive place with that young person. But, in many programs where the role of Child and Youth Care and the nature of intervention is prescribed without critical thought about how it needs to be adapted to a huge variety of circumstances, and the flexibility to see systems and society itself as the client in need of intervention, we can’t practice anti-oppressively. It would be a fundamental shift to the entire field. There’s a fantastic article from 2012 by Cooper called “Imagining ‘radical’ youth work possibilities – challenging the ‘symbolic violence’ within the mainstream tradition in contemporary state-led youth work practice in England” where he writes about his practicum experience, and attempting to engage young people in some pretty basic participant-led critical youth work, and he describes how he was completely shut down, and the system couldn’t even imagine these young people as political beings. I think that until we teach pre-practice practitioners how to be more skilled at addressing these situations we aren’t likely to see a massive proliferation of programs that utilize a true anti-oppressive lens to their practice, but we will keep seeing articles that use this language as a buzz word without truly being aware of how it was intended to be used and understood.

Those are some of my thoughts on the matter, but it’s very much my jam and I could talk about it for forever :-)

Shay Erlich

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