Child and Youth Care
Niall McElwee, PhD
It is a beautiful day here in Ireland as I write my monthly column. The sun is shining, we have nearly completed examining all our term papers and there is a sense of expectation around the college as students leave for their summer vacation period to the far corners of the world. There was a time when students tended to remain in Ireland for the two months, but now I receive emails from Canada, the US, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Africa on a regular basis. As Dylan sung all those years ago, ‘the times they are a changing’. So too with child and youth care. I’m going to provide a short reflection today relating to our field.
I was on the train from Athenry to Athlone this morning with a colleague, Margaret Sullivan, from NBCC Canada who is undertaking Doctoral research with my Centre (Child & Youth Care Learning) at Athlone in Ireland. To undertake this research, Margaret had to write up and submit a very rigorous template. Her research is grounded in child and youth care and the proposal is replete with references from our field (everyone knows the major names so there is no need to repeat them here). Margaret has undertaken interviews in both Ireland and Canada, with youth, adults and professionals affected by adolescent grief and loss. In personal terms, Margaret has to travel to Ireland twice a year for three years as part of her research brief. There is considerable financial expense to her. But, like many of us, Margaret feels that it is important to try to advance our field.
So, on the train this morning, I met a Professor that I used to work with in a different life when I was a Tutor in Sociology and Political Science at a University in Ireland, and we were all chatting about what we were doing in terms of research. When the Professor heard what Margaret was working on, she innocently asked, “Are you taking a sociological approach?” and we both immediately answered in unison and, truth be told, somewhat loudly, “No. It’s a child and youth care approach.” Needless to say, that stopped the conversation dead.
I suppose it’s ironic in one sense that there
is still not a full acknowledgement amongst related peers (by that I mean
sociology, psychology, et al) that there might be such a thing as
a child and youth care approach in research — despite all the studies going back
to the 1940s in our field.
Change comes slowly.