Brian Gannon talks with
What route did you travel to get where
you are in the field right now?
I started to do Child and Youth Care work in 1967 in New York City, and I
have known right from the start that this is the work which I should be doing. I
was very fortunate to work in a group home program where most of the Child and
Youth Care staff had Master’s degrees and saw the need for a sophisticated
approach to Child and Youth Care practice. Several of my original colleagues are
still in the Child and Youth Care field today. My first agency also supported me
to attend graduate school.
I have worked as a Child and Youth Care community worker, a group home and
residential treatment practitioner, a Child and Youth Care supervisor (where I
was told that I didn’t need a degree), and a program director. I also worked in
juvenile justice for a few years.
I became a Child and Youth Care faculty member at Grant MacEwan College in 1983,
and I am still there. My goal is to help my students and others in the field to
be more articulate about what we do to help youth and families. This isn’t an
easy task; the complexity of Child and Youth Care work is masked by the simple
tools and everyday events that we use to support change.
My mentors in Child and Youth Care practice include three colleagues who are
still available and doing Child and Youth Care work since the 60’s, as well as
authors Fritz Redl, Albert Treischman and Jerry Beker. I have many professional
links and supports around the world, Child and Youth Care practitioners have
always been open and generous with each other. I hope to continue to nurture and
strengthen these links and expand the network.
Teaching at college or university level seems
from the actual work “on the floor” so to speak. How do
we manage to bridge the “theory-practice” gap?
Teaching Child and Youth Care practice is a complicated process, I have been
getting smarter about it over many years, and have come to these conclusions;
you can’t teach Child and Youth Care practice effectively if you haven’t done it
yourself for at least a few years; the theory has to be Child and Youth Care
based, not adapted from another professional discipline; relationship is central
both to the learning and the doing of Child and Youth Care work; and most of
what one learns in school isn’t useful until the practitioner has been out in
the work for at least a year.
I have often recognized in myself the proximal
of gravitating toward the learning I seemed to want/need at the
time. How can we “cover all the bases” as we teach?
I have learned things in my practice which didn’t seem helpful at the time,
but years later I rediscovered and grew into them. I believe that skilled Child
and Youth Care practitioners regularly experience this learning process. I hope
to start this “lifelong learning” habit for students while they are in the
college program, since most of the elaborate strategies they are learning won’t
resonate or even seem sensible until they have become safe and confident in
their own skin as a Child and Youth Care practitioner, which occurs about a year
What do think is the role of the professional
The development of Child and Youth Care professional associations has been a
major goal for me, and I believe that Child and Youth Care education is
essentially connected to strong professional associations.
Canada has several strong provincial associations, and the Ontario association
recently articulated the need for them to monitor the development of new Child
and Youth Care educational programs to ensure quality and legitimacy. I visited
Wisconsin to attend their Child and Youth Care conference in March and
experienced the way these groups support good practice and personal development.
The International Child and Youth Care Conference in Quebec in October is
another important event.
Do you always find new things to move on to?
Child and Youth Care learning never stops for me, I am now working with the
concepts of simplicity and complexity and the need to move away from common
sense/logical explanations for motivation. The youth and families we encounter
don’t respond to these analyses and that is why they come to us. Yet I need to
hang onto this logic until I can be safe letting go of it, basically by creating
a safe relationship for myself. This is where good Child and Youth Care practice