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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.

ListenListen to this

What is professional love and personal love?

Hi everyone,

My name is Christine I'm a 3rd year level 7 social care student from Ireland. At the moment we are in the middle of writing a debate for class on love within a social care setting, although it is one which we find very difficult. We are on the against team.

But what I am asking is: how would you explain to a student what the benefits of having love is as a professional social care worker, what are the reasons we need to have love and what are the benefits to the client when this type of love is projected out? Thank you. Looking forward to hearing your responses.


Hello Christine,

I wrote an article on love in Child and Youth Care practice several years ago that is available on CYC-Online magazine that may still be relevant to your debate/discussion. See also writings by Mark Smith, and a recent MA thesis from Jennifer Vincent at University of Victoria.

Patti Ranahan

You can find Patti’s article here: /cycol-0204-loving.html —(Eds.)

Some relevant writings by Mark Smith:

Letting go in love /cycol-0407-smith.html

Love tenderly /cycol-0612-smith.html


I believe when we start from a place/space/ stance/foundation of unconditional love our decisions are directed by care for the self determining independence of the other/ person/client. I have to love them as the best they are and the best we both collectively can imagine them to be. A vision co constructed or constructed by them is the path. Not my vision. I reflect what could be, but my love is a net or a support.

I have a tattoo of a green heart on my right forearm. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Peter Delong

Hi Christine,

My name is Desiree and I am currently in my second year of Child Studies majoring in Child and Youth Care Counselling at Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. In response to your question I would explain that the benefits of having love as a social care worker or a counsellor is the ultimate feeling you receive. Having the ability to show that you care for a client, young child or adolescent is extremely important and very rewarding. Many young children and adolescents or other individuals that we will encounter within this field are often denied love and so it is crucial that we are able to care and love them to show that they are worthy of being loved and supported as many of them unfortunately feel incapable of being loved or showing love. The benefits for a client when they feel love projected on them is that they feel as if they have the potential to be more than what they thought themselves to be. Perhaps it motivates them , gives them strength, courage, confidence and so forth; the benefits of love are endless.

I hope this helped you with your debate.


Hello Christine,

You have a complex and much debated topic for debate in relation to the field of child and youth work.

Sometimes I think it is more important to focus on what type of person we need to be instead of whether we "love" or do not "love" the children and young people we work with. Writings about "praxis" in the field of Child and Youth Care can be found by authors Jennifer White and T. Schwandt (amongst others). Praxis in the field of Child and Youth Care is the philosophy that creativity, a strong moral compass, self knowledge/awareness and an unswerving desire to do what is right and good for a child or youth is what will mobilize change and growth. Additionally, as we move through life and grow in self awareness, our ability to view all of humanity compassionately enables us to "love" all we encounter during our daily lives.

I imagine that some of what you will need to consider when debating this topic is the issue of professional boundaries. Other areas would be self-care and self-awareness.

Good luck with a tricky topic!

Delphine Amer

Hi Christine,

I 'm not sure I can begin to answer your questions around the benefits or otherwise of showing love to those we work with – I suspect it is not a topic that lends itself readily to for or against responses. I would come at it slightly differently (which may not be of much help to your task in hand!) and just say that I am glad that colleges are at least prepared to open up debate on such topics – it would likely have been seen as off bounds ten years ago.

Part of the problem is what we mean by love and our tendency to be drawn to sloppy and sentimental, even romantic notions. We should not shy away from these aspects – strong feelings of all sorts are inevitable in any arena where people come together, but there are other dimensions too, such as religious ideas of agape or selfless love, or Freire's idea of armed love ...

I will end with a plug. I am in the process of editing a special joint issue of the Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care/International Journal of Social Pedagogy on a theme of love. Without giving too much away it is going to be a 'belter', as we might say in Scotland. It will really take debate on this subject to a new and much-needed level – look out for it in the run-up to Christmas – both journals available free online.

Sorry, it will be too late for your assignment Christine! But I suspect others will be sufficiently engaged with your topic to chip in their ideas. It's a topic that isn't going to go away.


Hi Christine,

We have done a bit of thinking about this – the following may be of interest:

Skott-Myhre K.S.G. and Skott-Myhre H.A. (2015). Revolutionary Love: Child and Youth Care and the Importance of Reclaiming Our Desire. International Journal of Child Youth and Family Studies. Vol. 6 No 4. 581-594.

Skott-Myhre, H.A. and Skott-Myhre, K.S.G. (2008). Radical youth work: Love and community. Relational Child and Youth Care Practice. Vol. 20 No. 3, 48-57.

On CYC-net:

Skott-Myhre, H.A. (2016). Love and Anger: Composting the Garden. January: /jan2016.pdf#page=8

Skott-Myhre, H.A. (2013). What’s Love Got to Do with It. December: /dec2013.pdf#page=15


Hans Skott-Myhre

Hi Christine,

I definitely agree with Mark – and do check out the upcoming Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care.

Love is a characteristic of relational care (Garfat & Fulcher, 2012) and an anchor in our way of being with others (Freeman & Garfat, 2014). Love is expressed to the children we care for when we:

1. Appreciate them for who they are (without imposing our view of who we think they should be)
2. Cherish them (including protecting them from harm and oppression)
3. Delighting them (showing up to be with them, finding their strengths, arranging experiences where they find joy, and much more)

The caregiver benefits from love because it becomes something expressed and given to another. The child benefits from love because it is, in many cases perhaps, a different experience than they are used to.

Love keeps us centered in what is important in our work. It keeps us balanced in caring for ourselves so we’re at our best for others. It keeps us engaged for the long haul rather than falling out in the short term.

Good luck in your debates!

James Freeman

Garfat, T. & Fulcher, L. (2012). Characteristics of a relational Child and Youth Care approach. In T. Garfat & L.C. Fulcher (Eds.) Child and Youth Care in Practice, pp. 5 – 24. Cape Town: Pretext.

Freeman, J. & Garfat, T. (2014). Being, interpreting, doing: A framework for organizing the characteristics of a relational Child and Youth Care approach. Child and Youth Care Online, 179, 23-27. Retrieved from /jan2014.pdf

Hello Christine,

My name is Ali, and I am a student in my second year of a Child and Youth Care Counselling degree in Canada. In addition to the fieldwork and practicum opportunities provided by my education to develop skills in the field, I also have the honor of having worked professionally in residential treatment centers that cater to the varying needs of vulnerable youth in our city.

The benefits of projecting love to youth who have been traumatized, either through abuse, exploitation, neglect, or other negative and dangerous experiences are numerous. First, it is completely possible that these young people do not have adults in their lives who can meet that basic need. Without this influence, I have observed that the potential for youth to develop problematic or unsafe behaviors may increase. Additionally, it is much more likely that you will be able to form an effective working relationship with the young person if they feel that you care for them, which gives you an avenue to offer much needed guidance and support. I have observed that without the foundation such a relationship can provide, youth may be less receptive to more positive influences. In my experience, once that trust is established you have a much better chance of engaging in meaningful conversation with youth, which may in turn lead to opportunities for learning and growth, on both sides.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Please let me know if you would like to discuss this matter further.

All the best,


Hi Christine,

Firstly, it is encouraging to know that we are now able to discuss this topic in a professional forum, it's hopefully a sign of changing times and I am delighted to hear such debates are going on.

I believe it is possible to demonstrate love to children and young people in care. Without using this word to describe my actions I demonstrate it in my everyday actions. Interventions that show we care, activities that put us out of our comfort zone, continuing to provide unconditional care and accepting children for who they are, understanding their behaviours and believing in their potential. I believe we can show children what it feels like to be loved when we demonstrate that we are adults who genuinely care, that we are actively listening and want to know their views, that we value their opinions and respect their perspective. Seeking their views on what they want, how they feel and what they need and helping others to understand them demonstrates love, without necessarily mentioning this four letter taboo word. I also believe it is important to promote a positive view of residential care in general. I believe I am privileged to have a unique opportunity to potentially improve young people's lives and I have seen it happen in group care. Often there is a perception that residential care is a last resort when no other options are available; it is rarely recognised as a positive choice for some young people who need this. Why? Because those working in this profession don't talk about the way they transform young people's lives, the difference made to children who have been let down by multiple placements in the past. I am part of a team that makes a positive difference to the lives of young people, helping them to recover from their past. I am part of a professional team who work together helping children to overcome adversity, providing a safe nurturing environment and supporting young people to build and maintain positive relationships and connections. It's a challenging but rewarding job, one that I love and I believe it's important to share my perspective with everyone who is listening – especially those who may wonder if my work is just a job that I do for money.


Tracey Jarvis

I’ve been sitting this one out for a while because, frankly, I can’t believe it’s a “debate”.

Whatever motivation would we have for our work other than love?

Maslow told us that Love is one of six basic needs for ALL humans. How can we debate the merits of providing this basic need to our clients?

People who work in Animal rescue shelters “love” animals. And we’re going to debate the merits of love for our clients?!

The idea that it’s a debate makes me queasy. Just saying.


Brilliantly said Lorraine.


Hi Lorraine,

Please don't feel 'queasy' at the thought of the debate. I am the one who set the task for the social are students. I regularly ask them to debate issues related to care practice, because it enables them to develop their understanding of alternative points of view. It also enables them to argue/advocate from positions that they don't necessarily hold themselves, which (in theory) should help them to advocate on behalf of their clients. It was an academic exercise, I don't think anyone honestly believed that there was no place for love in care, but I made them argue it anyway.

John Byrne

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