karen vanderven — from the soapbox
The ‘IF’ of Child & Youth Work Professionalization
In the marvelous semiconscious moments between sleep and awakening recently the following thoughts came to me in a rush and I set them down as fast as I could type. With profound apologies to Rudyard Kipling for borrowing from his famous poem, I share them here. "The work" refers to "Child and Youth Work".
IF you believe the work can be done because you were once a child (rather than realizing how your childhood influences your choice of and way you do the work),
IF you believe there's only one way to do the work, and that you already know it,
IF you think that knowing what you are doing, why, and being able to tell others "stifles your spontaneity",
IF you believe that any attempt to bring systematic definition of the work to public knowledge and recognition means "becoming elitist",
IF you wish to continue receiving inadequate wages and poor even unsafe working conditions,
IF you enjoy being at the bottom of the hierarchy of the human service fields, disciplines and professions,
IF you prefer to whine about how awful it all is rather than try to make things better,
IF you want your voice not to be heard and your suggestions ignored,
IF you like being powerless in a larger system,
IF you feel helpless as you see kids victimized by this "system",
Then resist professionalization. You’ll stay where you are, my friend — and regrettably so will many children and youth.
IF you want to see the kids with whol you work receive the best of relationships, activities, living conditions and related services,
IF you want to be able to continue to learn and grow in your work,
IF you want the excitement of knowing you're working to make things better,
IF you believe we have the ability to create a profession that both addresses needed notions of traditional professions and respects the special aspects of our work,
IF you want to be able to give your "best" to the children and youth with whom you work — or work for,
IF you want to work on an equal playing field with others who serve children and youth,
If you want to speak with an authoritative voice that is attended to by others,
IF you want to affect the "system" that in turn affects children and youth,
IF you want to have a life long career doing this work in many of the role and practice options available —
Mentor a younger worker.
Do lots of reading — "professional" and otherwise.
Let yourself be mentored by a senior worker.
Design and propose a new project for your agency.
Get a group together to address an issue of concern and make a plan. Do it.
Go to a conference and meet new people. Stay in touch with them.
Go back to school (in a relevant subject if there’s no "child and youth work" program available to you.).
Bring the "child and youth work perspective" to your studies and projects.
Design and present a workshop in your agency, community or at a conference.
Write an article reflecting your ideas and concerns ( and use available resources to help get it published).
Work with your agency to get a report of good work being done in the mass media.
Join a professional organization. Bring the "child and youth work perspective" to it.
Stay in the work. Change your role, setting and/or client group if you feel "burnt out".
Help with and support the North American Competency and Certification Project.
Just ... do something. Follow the saying of the late basketball coach Jim Valvano: " Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up".
Then we’ll keep moving forward, my friend. And so will the kids.