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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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CYC work: Is it only passion required?

Dear Colleagues,

I have often heard Child and Youth Care Workers complaining about generally earning low salaries. The argument is that there is a quick “defensive rationale” to say that CYCW’s need passion for children and their families more than anything else. As much as this may be true, I however think that online Child and Youth Care workers in particular need to be rewarded what they are worth. These are colleagues who are, in most cases, in the frontline, in young people’s living environment. Many of these Child and Youth Care professionals have spent many years studying towards their National Higher Certificates, National Diplomas and Professional Degrees. That is commitment. That is passion as this ultimately benefits young people and families in the long run.

The question that many Child and Youth Care colleagues ask is “why do we earn so little and yet we do so much?” I think we need not continue treating the subject of salary as a “holy cow” as this, like it or not, has direct or indirect impact on service delivery to young people and families. It is a known fact that hundreds of thousands of CYCW’s around the world struggle to get ends meet and this is a fact to be reckoned with. Thank you letters, a card of recognition, worker of the year award and days off are some of the things that keep Child and Youth Care Workers motivated and in my opinion, salaries for CYCW’s should also fall within this category. I believe that what keeps CYCW’s focused, committed and dedicated to their work is a combination of many of factors of which salaries form part. One would assume that the organizational business determines one’s salary. Does this therefore logically mean that young people and families are not important? As much as the Child and Youth Care sector advocates for the professionalization of the field, we need to take cognizance of the important role that many CYCW’s play and the positive impact they have on many children and youth at risk and their families.

Vincent Hlabangana
SOS Children’s Villages South Africa

Hi Vincent,

I can only wholeheartedly agree with you on this matter. I feel strongly that the "passion and commitment" "for the sake of the child" is a convenient position for many NGO's and Government alike, providing them with an excuse to pay poor salaries. I would imagine that you need passion for your career – no matter what it is. We cannot advocate for the professionalisation of child care work, and at the same time say "oh but you have to do it for the love of the job". Are doctors, lawyers, architects, psychologists etc not also passionate about their work, and do they not find strong personal meaning in what they do? Would those professions settle for a low salary because they love the job? I doubt it.

It can be taken for granted that many (probably most) child care workers operate in the non-profit sector where salaries cannot quite compete, but salaries should still reflect the degree of training and expertise required from the practitioner.

I am sure most child care workers enter the profession because they have a passion for what they do, and we will probably all agree that a worker with a passion for what she does is a good practitioner and an asset, but when workers cannot make their own ends meet, we should be sure that this will eventually get them down.

We cannot ignore the salary issue, we have to engage with it and open dialogue with practitioners in the field to find solutions. And it is not just a matter of organisations forking out more money – NGO's face real budget constraints – but collectively looking for solutions.

Werner van der Westhuizen
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

I think that a very good book on this subject is:

Ward, Adrian & McMahon, Linnet: Intuition is not enough: matching learning with practice in therapeutic child care. London, Routlege, 1998.

Alan MacQuarrie

Workers who don't get paid enough, eventually quit. This does not benefit clients. I agree we should put on some gloves and fight for what is due to us.

Bryce and Becky

Hi Vincent

Some of us have been asking this question for DECADES! And yet it never seems to change. After almost 50 years I cannot help but think that unfortunately, you are correct. OUR families, our children/youth, are NOT seen as important. Most are poor. Many are disenfranchised. And we get treated in accordance with the value they are seen to have to societies. I wish it was different, but I don't think the salary levels have changed for direct care staff since I started in the early 60's. Live with it. Change it. Or leave it.

Lorraine Fox

In the USA there is no standardization. For a doctor, lawyer and I forgot what other professions were mentioned there is specific criteria and SCHOOLING that is needed for the LICENCE to practice.

I know that some of you are certified under a University or have taken classes at a University, but most of the people in the USA are not and have not and don't want. Since the new HFS 52 qualifications in Wisconsin have come out and called for some criteria they still don't have a standardized USA 'take this class and have this certification and you are licensed to work any where in the USA'. NO instead they say you can have one of four. See below for some, or look it up for yourself. HFS 52.12.

Now lets talk about standardizing the certification. Let's talk about going to school at all. Let's talk about the direct care staff not needing much then let's talk about a pay increase.

I'm not saying that I wouldn't like more pay (especially when my bills are due) but even lifeguards
need a certification to save a life and that certification is good around the world. Where are our certifications! Where are the youth care workers yelling, "Give me standardized certifications!" "I want more and I should get it!" "I deserve better treatment than this."

AND why are some youth care workers NOT willing to GET certified? I'm one of a few that I know ARE certified! Before you start crying about your pay and feel there needs to be a walk out............start by taking responsibility for your field and demand standardization of ALL our certifications! Start becoming certified and recommending more to do the same. Stand up and be counted. Stand up and be heard. Join a local group and voice your opinions. Get involved in your field and get into an organization that can make a difference where it counts..... with YOUR pay check.

If you are in Wisconsin join

Where else? List the organizations that others should join to be heard and where we can make a difference. Spread the word and let all know where to join. What Youth Care Organization do you belong to? Which one should I be part of next? Which ones should we connect together? Do the organizations all talk together? They should!

Step up...... Now is YOUR time.

Thank you for that time and thank you for reading my entire message,

Donna Wilson

Below is part of Wisconsin's qualifications HFS 52.12

(e) A resident care worker under sub. (1)(a)5.
shall be an employee of the center, have a high school diploma or equivalent and be at least 18 years old and at least 2 years older than the oldest resident. The resident care worker shall also meet one of the following qualifications:
1. Have a bachelor's or associate degree from a college or university with a focus on Child and Youth Care work or in a social or behavioral science field.
2. Have at least one year of successful experience working in a recognized child welfare residential setting for the type of resident population served by the center.
3. Be certified as a Child and Youth Care worker under the standards of the national organization of Child and Youth Care workers association or other department-recognized certifying authority.
4. Have completed a supervised traineeship program under sub. (5)(g).

(i) A center that hires or contracts for staff not identified under sub. (1)(a)having direct care or service involvement with residents shall, for those staff, also meet the requirements for employment applications under(3), job descriptions and standards and confidentiality notification under sub. (4), staff training under sub. (5), staff supervision under sub. (6), child abuse and neglect reporting under sub. (9) and personnel records under sub. (10)

I do agree – passion alone and small salary makes people burn out or quit.

But slowly child care is becoming a profession in many countries. I myself made to support professional identity and status, and organizations like are also signs that a professional approach is forming globally.

Niels Rygaard

Hi Donna,

You touch on a different side of the same issue, namely the personal responsibility of each practitioner to ensure that they are qualified, and if not, to take steps in that direction. I guess that is quite a problem actually, that not everyone is willing to take the steps necessary. I suspect one of the problems we are having in South Africa is that generally child care workers are looking at their employers to pick up the bill for their education, since registration will soon become mandated. On the other hand, with the salaries that child care workers receive, I can't see how they could possibly afford the training. Even university education is cheaper than some of the courses! It is a vicious circle.

My personal experience is that many child care workers are very eager to get qualified, but sadly, many are not, and just waiting to see what their employers are going to do, and waiting for the employer to pay for the training. Then there are the few exceptions to the norm who actually enrolled themselves to ensure that they are ahead of the game – I hope they get rewarded accordingly.

There are also a lot of people in this profession who should not be there (and I'm sure I'm stepping on someones toes again). Because (up to now) there are no qualifications or registrations required, when position are advertised, anyone can apply, and with the unemployment rate in South Africa, many applicants did not have an interest in the profession, but was just looking for any job they can find. I guess it is up to the employer to make the distinction between those with real interest and passion and those who are just looking for a job – but as with many other things, it does not always work out that way. I think that may be why so many people are not taking personal responsibility in getting themselves educated or qualified – it was not their passion to begin with. But I guess I could be wrong – this is just my view.

So what is the way forward? Perhaps linking to Donna's view, one sure place to start is with the personal responsibility of each practitioner to do their part, as little as it may be, to move towards qualifications and certification. There is always something that can be done, not everything cost money, and my obervation is that for those who really want to – they find a way somehow.

Thanks Donna for reminding us that we each have a responsibility for ourselves – we cannot just wait on others to make the magic happen for our profession, we have to make it happen – starting with ourselves.

Werner van der Westhuizen
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

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