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Relational Child and Youth Care Practice


ISSN 0840-982X  /  VOLUME 25 NUMBER 3

Table of Contents and Article Abstracts

3  /  Editorial: Diverse Identities Embedded  in Relational Practice  /  Carol Stuart

While this is not a “themed” or “special” issue, it did seem to evolve into a theme surrounding diversity. With the exception of this editorial, that was pretty much an accident. My decision to focus the editorial on a discussion of diverse identities was influenced by a thesis defense that I attended recently. The thesis, entitled “Diversity in Practice: A Critical Exploration of Residential Care Practice with Minoritized Children & Youth” (Dean, 2012), emerged from the lack of literature which identifies how practitioners understand the marginalized young people that they work with. Of particular interest to the researcher was how practitioners understand the factors which influence marginalization and whether practitioners understand (and to what depth) how those same factors have influenced the theoretical orientations which underlie child and youth care practice, and may therefore serve to perpetuate the marginalization of the young people we work with. This can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around in day-to-day practice.

In her thesis defense, Mackenzie told a story which illustrates the practical importance of having a way of conceptualizing marginalization and the influence of dominant society’s values and beliefs on how we think about young people’s behavior. As a residential child and youth care worker in a group home in a large metropolitan city, she was walking home from a recreational outing one afternoon with six young people. A police car pulled up behind them and blipped its siren. Four of the young people dropped to the ground, face down, and folded their hands behind their heads. She was astounded at their action, and being a relatively new practitioner, didn’t know what to do, so she simply let the scene unfold. The police officer checked all of their IDs, including hers; she showed her employee card indicating her role as a child and youth care worker in the group home. The police officer apologized to her for stopping her and indicated that they could all carry on. When Mackenzie tells the story, she indicates at the beginning that all six boys were African Canadian, and that she worked in a young offender group home. Which, by this point in the story, is probably what you were picturing. Knowing that police officers in large metropolitan cities have a reputation for targeting minorities, particularly “black” minorities, you believe that you have an awareness of what influenced the behavior of the young people.

But….What is your awareness of what influenced your interpretation of the story? What is the problem behavior here? The police officers’ action? The young people’s action? Was there anything problematic with Mackenzie’s response? Where might you focus your intervention? With the young people? A discussion about oppression/pride/self-esteem/polite self-advocacy? A complaint to the police officer’s supervisor with a request for an apology to the young people? Something else?

The interpretations that you make of this story and the intervention that you choose is heavily influenced by the theoretical orientations of child and youth care practice; and these in turn are heavily influenced by the dominant values and beliefs in the society within which our profession has grown up, often called the dominant discourse. Our interpretations are also influenced by assumptions about identity and its unilateral nature. Illustrated in the story are vocational identities, racial identities, gender identities, class identities, minority identities, and possibly more. Did you assume that the police officer was male? Caucasian? Missing from this story are identities related to sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, culture, age, ability/disability, and more.
Janet Newbury, in Creating Community: Reconsidering Relational Practice, our lead article in this issue, insists that “we consider ourselves as part of the relational dynamic through which collective change might take place.” This requires that we let go of the notion that we have influence and power over the client and he/she has none over us. In this article Newbury demonstrates through a community “education” project how collectively community members, including the designated facilitator, can learn from each other about the meaning of being a genuine community of difference. She speaks to the importance of recognizing multiple identities and valuing diversity rather than seeking sameness. She quotes Madsen (2007) “The issue is not whether we are interventionist or noninterventionist, but what stance we hold as we intervene (p. 157)”, emphasizing that no matter what, our action is an intervention.

Leif Rasmussen, Kathleen Haggith and Jillian Roberts, in Transition to Adulthood, Moving Needs Into Practice, describe how our current systemic structures and policies related to inclusion, mainstreaming, and being a community of difference (Newbury) within the K to 12 educational system have produced young adults – some with disabilities and some without – who “expect” an education system and an employment sector that is responsive to the individual difference which is associated with disability. The authors go on to describe four programs that meet the expectations of families and young people for an inclusive approach. As we work with young people with developmental, physical, and emotional disabilities we must be aware of the transition to adulthood, and the expectations that we set for a supportive and inclusive environment which may not match the dominant values and attitudes. We are obligated to question those dominant values and attitudes. The example provided by Newberry of a community facilitation talking about diversity, learning about difference, is one form of intervention for learning relationally about how to help others within society adopt an inclusive framework for service provision.

Nicole Land, in Who Wins When Nobody Wins?, addresses the important role of competition in children’s development and the ethical considerations that need to be applied in deciding whether to use a competitive game or to emphasize co-operative or recreational “Sport for Life” approaches. Her ideas provide an important example of questioning the dominant discourse. Just as we want to critically question the foundations of child and youth care, we also want to critically question the approaches that arise from previous questioning of “what’s best” or “what’s right”. The discussion around non-competitive approaches where everybody wins and the play is for fun and recreation is relatively new, but the practice is well established. Land offers a critical analysis of the issues.

I have identified three student reflections in this issue. Tina Marie Palamarchuk, in a delightful reflection called Six New Ways to Read a Map, reflects on her summer holiday as she returns to post-secondary education in child and youth care. Her reflections position her well for a dialectical relational practice which is accepting of diversity. I particularly like her last two rules: It’s not just your world – or it’s not all about you, and, Ask for help – but accept that the person providing the help may do it differently. Sheena Simpson, a first year student, explores the value of family, friendship, and love. These are the foundations of our North American society, and indeed many societies, but not all societies. While we hope that all people experience the strength these values give to Sheena, we also need to ensure that student’s such as Sheena are not unilateral or unquestioning in their exploration. Finally, Renée Charette has a transformational experience through research – not what every child and youth care student expects. As she says, “I have discovered that the child and youth care profession’s focus on mutuality in relationship has actually been complimentary to the research process. Instead of my previously held expectation that the research process was entirely impersonal, I have come to appreciate that this field actually calls for a certain level of reciprocity within research."

Our columnists are, of course, their usual creative and thoughtful selves; ever challenging of the status quo. Collectively they tackle topics as diverse as Sex Ed. (Laidlaw); employment and volunteerism by those most often located on the receiving end (Mr. Owl); interventions with a delayed start time (Garfat); and the changing values of the new generation of practitioners (Goodwin). If you read the columnists with the concepts of diversity, marginalization, and the influence of dominant values and beliefs, you will take away an additional lesson below their surface messages.

To finish, I want to return to the idea of diverse identities and encourage you to consider how you label people’s identities, and how that influences your interaction with people and with “texts” or writings that you encounter in your practice. Please also consider how it influences your assumptions and explanations about your relationship with those people and texts. I said that I had identified three student reflections in this issue. Indeed, all of our lead authors are enrolled in post-secondary education and are therefore students. However, they carry many other identities, including as researchers, faculty members in child and youth care programs, sporting enthusiasts, community activists, family members and more. Please read all our authors with a view to understanding beyond their superficial message, and beyond their intended message. Consider how they question the status quo of child and youth care practice and engage in your own questioning.

Dean, M. (2012). Diversity in Practice: A Critical Exploration of Residential Care Practice with Minoritized Children & Youth. Unpublished Masters Thesis. Victoria, British Columbia: University of Victoria; School of Child and Youth Care.

6 /  Creating Community: Reconsidering Relational Practice / Janet Newbury

22 /  Six New Ways to Read a Map / Tina Marie Palamarchuk

29 /  Transition to Adulthood, Moving Needs Into Practice:  A Canadian Community Partnership Response to New Adult Service Needs for Individuals with Disabilities / Leif Rasmussen, Kathleen Haggith and Jillian Roberts

39 /  It is to Laugh / Mr. Owl 

41 /  Values — second nature?  /  Sheena Simpson

44 /  For the Love of Sex-Ed  / Liz Laidlaw

46 /  Boom or Bust… / Garth Goodwin

49 /  Who Wins When Nobody Wins? Exploring Ethics Surrounding Competition for Children in Recreation / Nicole Land

59 /  The Joy of Grandparenting  /  Donna Jamieson

62 /  Remembering the Self-actualizing Tendency: Lessons from a Child & Youth Care Student’s First Attempt at Independent Research / Renée Charette

71 /  Jim’s ‘Stepping Down My Shoes’ Intervention / Thom Garfat

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