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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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Policies and Procedures

Do policies and procedures cripple front-line workers who are developing meaningful relationships with children and youth? Please Supervisors, Managers, and front line workers, respond.


If you want to see chaos and malpractice try operating without any policy and procedures. Are not policy and procedures intended to give a broad strategy in which to operate? Now, the approach for treatment being used I would advocate for very specific characteristics. Also I think the size (employee numbers)of the organization might dictate the inferred oppression that comes with policy and procedures.

In addition, I would also suggest that without a basic structure offered by policy and procedure for operating any service can be generally reckless. If there is no structure in place we tend to ask for it. If an organization has too much structure there is the risk of dampening the creativity and special skills of us all. Jack Phelan's work on "developmental stages of ycw's" implies an approach rooted in providing structure early on with new practitioners in order for them to achieve during the early learning phases of practice.

Policy and procedures that evolve with the skill set of practitioners and their development as professionals would seem a useful approach for intergrating policy and procedures. Policy and procedures that are born out of reaction to define structure for "troublesome employee practice" to subsequently hold their actions accountable are (in my humble opinion) an indicator of untrained supervisors/managers and weak leadership. Policy and procedures are useful when they help enable effective employees do the job more effectively and keep newer employees safe from risky decision-making and therefore reckless actions. I define "courage" significantly different than "fearlessness".

Ernie Hilton


As a former Supervisor, I feel Policies and Procedures are so important to keep that Therapeutic Relationship in tack between the staff and the youth. We firstly need to remember why the youth is in care (i.e. their core and secondary issues), then we need to remember our job expectations as a Child and Youth Care Worker. We are not the youth's buddy, friend, pal, we are supposed to be a positive adult role model helping guide the youth in making positive decisions and appropriate interactions for themselves. If we start becoming more then that I believe the boundaries start getting blurred and when it comes time to set boundaries or limits on that youth they don't respond well (I have seen it happen time and time again in my 16 years of experience). That's why I think a Child and Youth Care Worker is so wonderful and unique, as you are in the youth's personal living space day in and day out, and you have a chance to demonstrate some healthy relationships with good restrictions to give them that balance that they probably never had in their life before. Hope this helps.

Dave Zimmerman

Dear Lydia,

I think there is something in what you say. Government guidelines to staff in England and Wales can be seen as professionally defensive to the extent that they get in the way of relationships. It has been suggested that covering the agency's back has assumed more significance than the establishment of therapeutic relationships between young people and workers.

While national policy and procedure makers state that residential child care work should be based on a good relationship between a child and a worker, there is no analysis of how this is to be achieved and there seems to be little political commitment to invest financially in training a body of highly skilled people to carry out this complex task. The life experience of most of the young people who are placed in residential child care has left them (not surprisingly rather suspicious of, and resistant to, adults who offer them enduring trusting relationships. To overcome this resistance requires a very special and well-trained care worker. My fear is that there is a tendency for us introduce to residential child care work well-intentioned sincere adults while failing to give them the kind of training which will sustain them and enable them to carry out the task with a realistic hope of achieving success. Perhaps legislators and those who develop the policy and procedures and lead their implementation might reflect might reflect more deeply and critically on their work. There is an assumption that everyone can make a relationship but in the context of our work we should ask to What kind of relationship? and, how do we achieve it?

Best wishes,
Charles Sharpe


In my opinion, policy and procedure do not cripple us as front line workers. Policy helps guide us in creating healthy boundaries with the youth we work with. Procedure holds us accountable in the work we do.

Shayna Doolan CYC

I think policies and procedures are very important. I am a front line worker in a group home for teenaged boys (older). I refuse to give out my home phone or email, nor do I bring in my personal items for the clients to use. Others still do this, even though it is against policy. This also creates an unfair favoritism.

Mister Home Chef
Manitoba Canada

Policies are guidelines are most of the time very useful. They do not and should not hinder anyone's work. Most policies and procedures are for the safety of the staff and residents.


It is not the policy and procedures, it is the programming and the culture that affects the development of relationships. If relationship building is part of your program, it is up to your management and the agency that places the child to ensure that they are capable of handling that relationship and that the workers are capable of establishing those relationships in a meaningful and healthy manner.

Jennifer Foster

Hi guys,

We can't care for people through policies and procedures period. Children and young people in our care so crave dependent relationships they will almost always wish to return to the 'care' of those who have failed them. We have to be up to the challenge of offering stable loving relationships in the hope that what we model may offer hope to the child that other worlds are possible.

I recently read Shattered Lives by Camila Batmanghelidjh 2006. Jessica Kingsley. She models at great personal cost being there and being crazy for the young person. She also evidences the appalling lack of care and interest displayed by the corporate parent in these children's lives. Not for her a preoccupation with paperwork. It begs the question, relevant to a number of the current threads, what would actually happen if we all just spent time doing stuff with the children and young people and they came to all the meetings charged with overseeing their care and talked to their own experience.

I think this model would do more for 'quality assurance' than any paper trail.


Hi there,

I am a first year Child and Youth Care student at University of Victoria. I am literally right in the middle of finishing an assigned reading that I think may be of interest to you and this topic. Ricks, F. & Bellefeuille, G. (2003). Knowing: The Critical Error of Ethics in Family Work. In, T. Garfat (ed.), A Child and Youth Care approach to working with families. Binghampton, HY: The Haworth Press, Inc.

I encourage you to have a look as I think this article directly relates to your e-mail and concerns. I could be wrong, this is all new to me.


Hi all,

I would have to agree with Andy's comments I also practice in Scotland and have the same concerns that Andy has.

I feel that a great deal of work that in the past was carried out in the outdoors on a one to one basis has been devalued by others who have not experienced the elation and sense of achievement in a young person when they realise that they can build a waterproof shelter and set a safe fire with nothing but dry tinder and a striker.

With the damaged young people that I have worked with over the last 30 years this was good grounding for them and led to them having a greater understanding of what they could achieve with patience and determination but sadly you now need to risk assess everything which in turn takes out the real challenge element.

Alexander Denholm

Hi Lydia,

I practice within a specialist residential establishment in Scotland who work with the most troubled, vulnerable and at risk young people in the UK. I am finding as the years go on, policies and procedures are definitely impinging on front line workers' abilities to build meaningful relationships with the young people we work alongside.

The need for organisations to protect themselves from scrutiny through 'evidence based practice' is creating a culture in which young people may not be receiving the 'quality time' they deserve and ultimately need. I am not naive enough to fail to recognise why there is a 'need' for such policies and procedures, however, do feel that a balance must be found.

Paperwork for example; is there any need to duplicate the same information on several documents ?

This is quality time that could be spent with a young person, helping them make their bed, discuss their day, tidy their room etc Another example would be the limitations in place regarding taking young people on activities. Personally, i feel that the need for a 'cycling proficiency certificate' in order to take a young person out on a pedal bike or a 'hillwalking instructors cert' to take young people into the great outdoors is complete overkill!... after all is it not on such 'opportunity led' occasions that these all so meaningful relationships are built ?...

I am, however, extremely interested in what other professionals feel about this crucial area of our work?

If the only things a young person takes from their stay in residential care are good memories/experiences; I have done my job and done it well ...


Yes a thousand times to policy and procedure. But what policy? What procedure? The governmental national minimal standards for practice in Children's Homes in England and Wales has nothing at all to say about the efficacy of group work, never mind the benefits there may be in a group living settings for vulnerable youngsters. As Billy Connolly might say – for what happens in England and Wales at least – I rest my case.

Best wishes,
Charles Sharpe.

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