What exactly is child and youth care work?
We listen this month to James Anglin's (1992) view of self, skills and knowledge in child and youth care worker development
The personal development and professional development of the child and youth care cannot be separated. The focus of all our work is on high quality in the tasks of our work, but there is an essential need for balance across the three areas of knowledge, skills, and self.
Central to the educational process for child and youth care is self-awareness, sense of self, and development of self. Frances Ricks (1989) developed a model for addressing self-awareness in a systematic fashion. On one side are beliefs, values and ethics. These, together, constitute the inner "life position", or "world view" of the worker/person. On the other side are thoughts, feelings and actions, which constitute our "styles" of presentation, or "postures", in the world. Our thoughts are the cognitive elements, our feelings are the emotional aspects, and our actions are our actual behaviours, or what we do. At any time, all three aspects are present.
This model can be used to examine and explain aspects of one's self by providing a kind of map to assist in exploration. For example, if one becomes aware of a personal behaviour that one does not like, or does not understand, one can trace back through the related thoughts and feelings to the underlying beliefs, values and ethics, thereby enhancing one's self-awareness. Usually, the involvement of another person trained in the use of this model who is supportive, yet challenging, provides the optimal context for self-discovery and, thus, the opportunity for personal growth and change.
The concept of skill is often used quite casually, and even carelessly, in the literature on child and youth care practice. As with the notion of self-awareness, it deserves in-depth consideration. A skill is a complex phenomenon which has been analysed by Marcia Hills (1989) into four essential elements.
Contextual awareness: Every situation is bound by its context, and at any given moment, child and youth care workers experience a situation with all of its nuances. Some of these nuances are more salient than others because of the context within which they occur. The ability to recognize the salient features in a given situation is termed "contextual awareness".
Discretionary decision-making: In any situation there are a multitude of possible responses. Child and youth care workers need to choose one response from all these possibilities. The response they select is based on their judgement about what would be most effective in the situation. The ability to make decisions with discretion is what constitutes an intelligent action.
Performance: The behavioural component of skillfulness, referred to here as "performance", is often the prime focus of professional training programs. This critical component involves the ability of child and youth care workers to offer specific behaviour or actions.
Confidence: Workers must have faith and confidence in their own abilities and interventions. Professionals must trust in their ability to make sound judgements and decisions, and perform effectively.
In summary, the terms skill, skilful and skillfulness imply the presence of these four interdependent elements. How skillful a child and youth care worker is depends on the degree to which these four interconnected elements are present. The question now arises, how is skill developed across these four areas?
For education and training in skill development, experience is the key. "Experience" as used here, refers not simply to "putting in time", but rather refers to the process of deriving new learning from participation in practical situations. Anglin suggests the following stages of growth of a child care worker: Beginner, Novice, competent worker, proficient worker and expert. These compare with Phelan's three stages of
Year 1. The initial stage;
Year 2. Beginning professionalism; and
Year 3. Competent professional
A rather typical list of required knowledge elements would include the following:
Theoretical approaches to behaviour change
Human growth and development
Assessment principles and methods
Case planning and management frameworks
Principles and models of intervention
Research and case/program evaluation principles and processes
Professional ethics and issues in current practice
Legislation and policies
Atypical development and behaviour.
These knowledge areas need to introduced not just through teaching, but in conjunction with the exploration of self and the development of skills; that is, as part of an integrated process of staff (or student) development.
What workers do
Anglin divides this into two categories:
A. Direct Service to Clients
These include: 1. Individual intervention, counselling or therapy; 2. Group intervention, counselling or therapy; 3. In home family intervention, counselling or therapy; 4. Office-based family intervention, counselling or therapy; 5. Assessment of child; 6. Assessment of family; 7. Child management; 8. Child abuse interventions; 9. Employment counselling or assistance; 10. Life skills training; ii. Health management; 12. Education remediation; 13. Recreational leader ship; 14. Arts and crafts leadership; 15. Counselling on death, dying; 16. Therapeutic play; 17. Parenting skill training; 18. Sexuality counselling; 19. Marriage counselling; 20. Stress management; 21. Lifestyle modification.
B. Organizational Activities
These include: 1. Case management; 2. Client contracting; 3. Report writing and formal recording; 4. Court appearances/legal documentation; 5. Program planning and development; 6. Use and interpretation of policy; 7. Individual consultation with other professionals; 8. Participation in professional teams; 9. Go-ordination of professional teams; 10. Contracting for services; Il. Supervision of staff, students or volunteers; 12. Staff training and development; 13. Public relations/community education; 14. Organizational analysis and development; 15. Policy analysis and development; 16. Financial analysis/budgeting.
Anglin concludes: Sensitive supervision, based upon an understanding of the process of staff development, can significantly enhance the quality of a staff member's working life.
Anglin, J. (1992) How Staff Develop. FICE Bulletin No.6 18-24
Phelan,J .(1990) Child Care Supervision: The Neglected Skill of Evaluation, in Anglin,J. et al. Perspectives in Professional Child and Youth Care. New York, Haworth Press
Ricks, E (1989) Self-Awareness Model for Training and Application in Child and Youth Care. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 4 (1) 33-41