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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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Outreach work

Hello Everyone,

Well, here I come again with one of my amazingly ignorant questions. This time it has to do with CYC’s and outreach work.

What are the areas, of which you are aware, in which CYCs work in an ‘outreach’ capacity – by this I mean, places where CYCs work, or areas of work, in which they, in some manner, ‘go out there’ to be with kids and/or families?

Thom Garfat


Two areas of Child and Youth Care outreach that I have worked in are street outreach and community development.

The street outreach was a position where I (and a partner) spent our shifts on the streets of downtown interacting with street youth, talking and building relationships, providing them with essential items they needed, offering resources, etc. The agency I worked for offered a drop-in during the day, but the evening/night shift was covered by street outreach workers.

The second type of outreach position I have had was as a youth community developer. This position was funded/employed through a community health centre but my work was done 90% in the community. I worked in local community centres, parks, client homes, and anywhere else the youth wanted to get together. The focus of this position was to bring local youth and adult community members together as community alliances, to help facilitate youth social action projects in their communities, and to build community networks (consisting of children, youth and adults) to address local issues as raised by the community.

Stephanie Griffin

Street Outreach
Outreach connected to community centres and recreational programs to attract those at loose ends
School based outreach in food programs to address latch key kids
Outreach in hospitals to take the "mental health word" to the medical world
Whenever we speak publicly about children and issues for which they are given no voice and recognition

Rick Kelly

Hi Thom,

I know of a few roles that have CYC's out in the community doing outreach like work. When I was a student at Fanshawe College my third year placement I was doing just that. I was going out into the community to work with youth and their families. I did my third year placement with Western Area Youth Services in the Community Programs Division. I had a caseload with various youth with various issues.

Here at the Halton Board of Ed we have Itinerant CYC's who work with up to 5 schools doing consultations with the schools/children/families and community agencies. They have a multi-role which consist of an 'outreach' component.

I'm a BRC Child and Youth Care which means I'm in one school only working in one classroom for the most part, however when I've got other kids on my caseload in the "regular" setting I'll attend meetings in the community with the parents and often meet with them in an "outreach"-like approach. Transitions for Youth is doing this approach with the community programs division as well.

I'm glad to see that there are more agencies attempting the 'outreach' or 'wrap-around' model of working with families. I think an open integrated and communicative approach helps families much more than one agency doing one thing, another doing something else, and not communicating with each other.
It doesn't serve a purpose for the families or the children.

Veronica Clough, CYC
Halton District Board of Education

Hi Thom
We have an outreach program at my agency and the outreach workers (many are
CYW's) essentially go everywhere – home, community centres, schools, malls, parks, streets, other service providers, jail, detention centres, group homes, hospitals, beaches, festivals, smudging, court, and so on.
There is no limit in terms of type of place, though there are limits and restrictions dictated regarding safety issues.

Nancy Russell

Hi Thom and CYC-net subscribers,

I thought I would share my small piece of the outreach puzzle. I have been working with some community members and social service organizations in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver (the poorest postal code in Canada as per the census) to create a new Child and Youth Care model, based on the Roving Leader model described by Bocarro and Witt (2003) currently operating in the States.

This model of outreach incorporates many pan-CYC philosophies and theories such as Object Relations/Attachment theory (it is ongoing and bases all interactions on building healthy and long-term attachments with youth and their families); Family Systems Theory (the children and youth are never seen in a vaccum – family engagement and advocacy is part and parcel); and Recreation (much work is done by engaging youth and families in activities).

As the "Roving Leader" for my neighbourhood, my focus is on youth (any age will do, mostly 12 to 17 years) on the fringe and disconnected youth. If I spot a youth who does not seem to have a peer group, or if I see a youth who seems to have many peers and is engaging in high-risk activities but is not connected to any services, then I go out of my way to target them. I approach full-force: My personal working style is building fast rapport with complete strangers. I will start by inviting them out to the best outings ever (like an amusement park, laser tag or a pig-out session at their favourite food place).

Then I gather as much contact info as I possibly can, like where they live, are they in school, who their family are, who their friends are and more. I try to dazzle and distract the youth as much as possible during that hook day. Then I make sure they know I loved our time together and can't wait for them to come back the next day. I nurture a honeymoon phase as much as possible while slowly connecting with family members and social networks in the youth's life.

In my experience, it is not long before the youth tell me what challenges they are experiencing in their lives, and I am able to work with the youth, family and community to best support everyone. I have worked with youth who were missing from family, ministry and school for months – once we connected, the youth would spend every day with me and I became a point person to reconnect the youth with others. I have had car thieves breaking bail conditions and drinking to black-out stop stealing, meeting their parole officers, and even going back to school. I have had parents come to me for help and advocacy because they saw the work I was doing with their youth and felt they could trust me. I have had a dad blink back tears saying thank you for my work with his daughter, because he had been abandoned as a youth and was so glad his estranged daughter felt that someone cared unconditionally about her. I have had a mother make me a handmade mirror with etching on it because I "make people feel good about themselves".

That sounds a bit like I am tooting my horn ... I suppose it is good to remember that the work I am doing is not fruitless and that I should not yet throw the towel in. To summarize, the outreach I do would be based in Child and Youth Care philosophy. I "perform" outreach to disconnected youth in my community. I work outside the walls of our centre until the youth and families come into the centre because they feel they belong.

I hope that answered some of your questions. I look forward to reading others' responses!

Vancouver, BC

Bocarro, J., & Witt, P.A. (2003). Relationship-based programming: The key to successful youth development in recreation settings. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 21(3), pp.75-96.

Hi Thom

Your questions are always good for some thought, and this time even a reply.

We have several fantastic programs in Nova Scotia doing innovative work in the areas of outreach.

The two programs I am associated with have been doing outreach in the family (including foster family) homes for several years. These programs are also engaging with the youth in semi-independent and independent living arrangements, ensuring adult mentorship for youth during vulnerable transition times.

The program staff have been engaging with the youth while they are detained, in a secure ward in a hospital, a secure care facility, or the youth jail.
Staff are putting themselves in other institutional environments and participating in programming to engage and stay connected to youth for whom there is a commitment to hang in, and bring them back to our envirionment or community.

Most recently the programs are putting staff into the "suspension" school in our area. At this point this is unsupported financially by funders in education or community services. Everyone agrees it is important and necessary, nobody wants to accept responsiblity and fund it.

Jeff Reid

Hey Thom:

I am a second year student at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta doing the Child and Youth Care Counsellor program. I am doing my practicum at the John Howard Society (JH). With the youth team at JH we have a number of outreach programs that I am involved with. In the youth advocacy program we get referrals from all over the city and we will go out and meet the youth and parents at their home or anyplace they would like to meet. It is good to here both sides of the story and then work with the youth and family to support and find resources in the city that they would benefit from. We also go into the Forest Lawn High School once a week to meet with students at the Wellness Center. The Wellness Center is a part of the school where they have rooms set aside for different support organizations to counsel students having difficulties or on the verge of getting into trouble. It is a great program that has turned this school from being the most problematic to one of the least.

Also, we have a Criminal Justice Educator program where we go out to both the elemenatry and high schools in the city and do presentations on the Youth Justice Act and how the justice system works and how it effects people. This a very successful awareness program. I also have the opportunity to work with the Restorative Justice Program doing Community Conferencing where go out to different Community Centers and get both the victims and offenders together to come up with solutions for the crime . We have seen amazing results in this program benefiting all involved with the process. This is just a brief overall look at some of the outreach programs we use at John Howard.

Good question Thom I enjoyed responding to it.

Kim Senger

Child and youth care workers are involved in: Intensive Home-based Services; mobile crisis services; community-based group programs; street programs addressing prostitution, drugs, etc. CYC's can be found anywhere there are children and youth in need ... They are the specialists in developing therapeutic relationships ... connecting with kids!

Nancy Miller

I have been in the field for more than 20 years. Throughout that time I have had several jobs that involved "outreach". This included home support work in the client's home, school based support in the classroom, and street work. In my current position in an outpatient eating disorder program at a community hospital we provide outreach in the form of prevention work at community agencies and schools. We have a "traveling road show" where we speak to kids about healthy body image, self esteem, media literacy and anti-teasing and bullying in the context of prevention of eating disorders.

I think Child and Youth Workers do more outreach than we are acknowledged for doing!

Lynn Lavigne & Dave Rieder

Hello Thom,

I currently live and work in Vancouver BC. I work as street outreach worker with an age mandate of 13-24. My organization also has drop-in centre and our jobs overlapfrom on the street to the drop-in centre. When we are on outreach (which happens 5 days a week) we carry our backpack and have a snack program with granola bars, juice and sometimes sandwiches. We also carry hygiene supplies (socks, razor, underwear) as some of our youth are not able to access such resources. We are out for two hours in the AM and five hours at night.

We are trying to build trust with those who are service resistant. So when they are ready then they will know about us and want to access our resource(drop-in or shelter). Many days we are checking on youth we have not seen for a while in their SRO's (hotel), finding out new squats, or visiting youth in the hospital. We will support youth with getting to D&A detox or help get them from an unsafe home. We are really people of many talents and love every minute of it.

Any more questions feel free to ask me. Good luck

Saskia Schopman

Saskia hi,

Reading your email makes me think a lot about what we do with street children here in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Outreach is a critical part of our intervention with children on the streets as what children and youth engage with at this level often determines how they respond in the future to support and assistance. Our age group goes a lot younger than yours. We engage with kids as young as 7 and 8 years old, girls and boys who have run from home because of poverty, neglect and abuse within the home (part of the challenge of a nation that is in transition out of a horrid system of apartheid). But what we have come to understand, is that children run from home primarily because of lack of emotional attachment with in the home. In our country many children remain in their homes despite the struggles of poverty and suffering, and often the reason that they stay is because they have a primary care giver that knows how to nurture attachment regardless of the hardship.

And so on the streets, our work as outreach workers is to begin to engage with children and youth in a way that allows them to being to experience some form of healthy attachment with an adult that cares.
The majority of the work happens in their live space on the streets, and as these children warm to us they then begin to come to our shelters to bath and wash their clothing. The acceptance of their world and their stories, not pushing them in any way to leave the streets until they are completely sure that this is what they want to do is always essential to our programme...and to establishing the kind of relationships that are inviting and transformational. This takes a long time with many of them....and so requires a deeply compassionate and committed individual or groups of individuals to walk this road with kids.

Robyn Hemmens

Replying to Thom and Saskia Schopman:

Thom's question posed many possibilities, but for me, Saskia's work perfectly describes my impression of what 'outreach' as a Child and Youth Care might involve.

I say that because my concept of 'outreach' implies working outside of what would usually be defined by the environment, treatment approach or the expertise of our profession. There's something missionary-like and unconditional that comes to mind when I think of outreach and essentially of Saskia's work that I guess comes from being prepared to give and ask very little/nothing in return, but hope that the kindness will be a starting point for change. Carrying out outreach is truly is a unique talent and to my thinking, a variation on what our profession has become. Thanks for sharing Saskia.

Maxine Kelly
Nashville, TN

Dear Tom:
My name is Joanne and I am a Child and Youth Care working in Ottawa. I currently work with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. We have a relationship with McHugh Education Centre. What this means is that through a Coordinated Referral process, children throughout the region are referred to our centre because of learning difficulties, psychiatric issues, and behavioural problems. Our school has 6 classrooms that cover kndergarten to grade 6. Generally the length of stay is to be kept to one year. During this time a child would have access to the following services (if deemed appropriate) : Psychiatric, Psychology Assessment, OT assessment, and SLP assessment. Classroom staff work at improving behaviour, work habits, self confidence, learning strategies etc. Staff in the classroom includes teachers, CYCs and EAs. It is a collaborative effort to figure out what makes each child "tick".

The Outreach that I do comes into play as their stay comes near.
Establishing contact with the home school for each child is very important.
Discharges from the Education Centre is usually a time of very high stress for the child, the parents, and the receiving school. As an Outreach worker, my job is to make this transition go as smoothly as possible. That means that the needs and concerns of all the involved parties have to be addressed. This process involves meetings with the school, meetings with parents, school visit for the child, as well as meetings with the child prior to leaving to review their success. Much is done to help the child realize that they are responsible for their success and will be taking it with them when they go. Identifying the differences in their new schools, where to get help, how to wait their turn, how to problem solve in a larger group are some of the areas covered.

As well it is very important that the frontline teacher receive information regarding learning strategies, work habits, triggers, reinforcements etc.
Once the child begins at their new school, Outreach staff are in the school at least one time weekly to meet with the child and to help address any concerns that may be arising. We focus on being very non-confrontative with the child and often act as their own personal cheering section to remind them that they are capable of success. Outreach staff keep in regular contact with the parents and help with the establishing of a positive relationship between school and parent. Generally this service is provided for up to three months but if Outreach visits end and problems occur a few months later Outreach will go back in to try to support and problem solve with the teacher, child and the parent.
I am happy to have been doing this job for over 10 years. It is great to be out in the community, building relationships and alleviating some of the worries that arise when faced with educating this high needs group of children. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any other questions about my role in Outreach.

Joanne Morrow
CHEO Outreach
737-7600 ext 3402

Hey Thom,
I am finishing my diploma in the Child and Youth Care Counselor program at Mount Royal College in Calgary. I think that the thought and the action of outreach work is also extremely important beyond the bounds of in home care and classroom assistance. Calgary has The Mustard Seed, which is a drop-in centre for homeless. They provide meals throughout the day and a number of beds at night. They also offer opportunities for individuals who need assistance in independent living programs in the way that they have housing on top of their building with different levels of help provided depending on the individual. I have worked a lot at The Seed and I think that being able to be able to serve individuals who are just coming for a meal is something that cannot be overlooked. Sometimes it appears that the only time that we're suppose to help children, youth and adults is when they are already in some sort of a program or in a situation where the first step to help them has already been taken. It is vital that we as a profession can help start the process from the streets and drop-in centers. I have found this to be some of the most rewarding times for myself because I am able to start the process for individuals who I have come to know outside of a perceived view of my work. Also being able to build trust and communication to those individuals on the street also provides a link between myself and other's who could also potentially need help.

We need to remember that outreach work is vital to our profession. It is vital to the betterment of society and to the individuals who are being assisted. Programs that offer outreach work is something that needs to be supported and needs to also be taught about in schooling and training as well to help further educate young Child and Youth Care workers. This will in turn help everyone benefit.

Phil Leffelaar

Hi everyone,
I have enjoyed reading and engaging with the feedback to Thom's question. It calls to mind a powerful documentary from BBS Scotland looking at the work of social workers in Edinburgh. The programme followed 2 women who worked with the homeless demonstrated that 'outreach' is about 'reaching out' in an unconditional manner that fundamentally accepts and acknowledges the dignity in all humankind no matter what their present circumstances.

The central character, a father who had lost contact with his grown up family, brought himself back from a state of chronic alcohol dependency to go off on his journey to find them. Sadly there was no happy ending and he was last seen sleeping rough in graveyards before he died at the age of 50. I know that some of the youth I've worked with will follow this sort of life path.

Our intervention with children and youth is vital in that it offers the chance to provide a bridge into nurturing relationships. The challenge is to work with communities and families to develop the resources to maintain the positive experience. I struggle with the rescue practice that offers time limited 'hope' before children are often returned to the neglectful environment that forced them to 'run'. The big answers won't only come from the love of committed individuals and enlightened agencies.

Jeremy Millar

Dear Phil -- through CYC-Net I read your mail to Thom. I work with under privleged women and children. I am in the process of raising funds for education and training. Outreach work is the nerve centre of social work.

God be with you in all your endeavours. I just felt like saying hi. We are in the same field. With twenty years of experience and immense job satisfaction -- in India every day is a challenge.

Good wishes

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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