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irish ideas — niall mcelwee

On herding cats or co-operating in Child and Youth Care

Much has been happening in Ireland over the past couple of years in relation to the advancement of child and youth care. More recently, a national Committee has been deliberating what direction we might take. Key recommendations from this Joint Committee on Social Care Professionals (2002) include:

This shopping list may not, on the face of it, appear overly difficult. Nonetheless, realising these six points will take co-operation of a nature not yet experienced in the Irish system. Developing professional standards in social care will return us to the old debate on whether or not we see child and youth care over here as a ‘craft’ or as a ‘profession’. In a volume of the Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies I argued that this journey to achieve professional status amongst one’s peers was the Holy Grail of child and youth care in Ireland.

The second point has partly been answered by the increased dialogue between the Irish Association of Social Care Educators and the Resident Managers Association where we are invited to attend each other’s meetings and present at each other’s conferences. We are beginning to listen.

The third point is some way off in the future. There are already several accreditation agencies involved in child and youth care here – including some based in the UK and Europe. We have the National Council for Vocational Awards, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council and the National University of Ireland to name but three Institutions awarding at different status (i.e. some at Certificate level, some at Diploma level and some up to Doctorate). All have something very significant to lose should only one agency or Institute be recognised.

The fourth point has long ago been achieved and appears, I fear, because the authors of the report have not read up-to-date college syllabi. Had they done so, they would see that both generic and specialist streams have been realised in the documentation at the various progression levels of Diploma and Degree. What I have consistently argued is that we need a literature, methodology and focus of instruction that is specific to the child and youth care experience.

The fifth point will be the focus of my next column. Suffice it to say at this point that I am attempting to design an intergalactic child and youth care programme that has been tested with 50 educationalists/instructors/agency managers in Canada last October that is grounded in competencies.

The last point interests me greatly. Why choose the intellectual disability sector over, say, community? Why choose child care over working with older populations? What is the philosophy behind this?

Things for me to mull over in my mind over the coming month whilst the rain pours down outside and the nights are dark and cold. But, Spring is coming …