THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK
            Issue 42  •  July 2002

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STUDENTS

Child and Youth Care Education: My Journey

Audrey Coolen, Nova Scotia


This journey began with my own life experiences, education in the child and youth care program and my work experience placement at Sullivan House. When I think of where I am in my child and youth care education, I think of the self-awareness, knowledge and context that was discussed in class prior to entering my work experience placement.

This placement began with forming a relationship with my advisor, receiving information and observing interactions between the staff team and the youth. Each time I recognized an approach, theory, model or framework being used I became excited to put my knowledge and skill into practice. I asked questions, received feedback, guidance and encouragement. I accepted the challenge to look inside myself to discover my own answers.

Knowledge
The knowledge I acquired gave me the confidence to know that there are proven, practical theories, models and frameworks to guide us during the process of our interventions with the youth. This knowledge is what will hold me accountable. The intervention plan is based on the needs, goals and actions of the client. Control theory helps me understand behavior and to understand that we are all doing the best that we can do in this moment. Reality therapy helps me to see if what we are doing is getting us what we want. This combination of environment and procedures is what will help me take control of my own learning and help lead the way for others.

The crisis theory tells me that we all have resilience. It is our belief in all of this knowledge and our own resilience, passion, desire, commitment and determination that brings this knowledge to life. Evaluation of this knowledge takes place and we must meet the expectations of others based on their perceptions — but true knowing can only come from within.

Context
To put this knowledge into context means that we must first understand where the youth is coming from, the attachment and separation issues and coping skills. It is individual perceptions that determine whether or not a crisis is a crisis.

I will use my knowledge and skill but it is the youth’s meaning making that will tell me what is; they have the answers, and the power within themselves and their own unique strengths and abilities to gain effective control over their own lives. I now have some tools that I can use that may help them do this. I do not know their meaning making. I do not have the answer. I only know that there is no one right answer.

We must notice that there is an opportunity in what is happening now, and connect their behavior to the context of their situation. My focus, intentions and interactions must be based on their needs not mine. I must, of course, be aware of my needs to know whose needs I am trying to meet. I must be clear on what my intentions are and communicate these intentions. Only to the extent that we are aware, can we apply this knowledge.

Awareness
It is our awareness that allows this knowledge to become a part of who we are. Putting this knowledge into context, applying this knowledge, means that we bring who and what we are into our interaction with the youth. The child and youth care approach, our working with and together, and utilizing ourselves and everyday life events can only occur when we know what it is that we are bringing with us into our relationships with the youth.

Living in the experience, knowing what our own needs are and where these needs are coming from is what allows us to be truly present, to engage, connect and form relationships with the youth.

Through self-exploration one part of me that I brought with me into my interactions with the youth based on my own life experiences was the knowing that no matter how "good" our intentions are, no matter how much we love, care and do, if we are not aware of our own needs we cannot be present or help others meet their needs. We can have a powerful impact or a devastating effect on the children and youth in our care. We can rob them of their sense of freedom, love, belonging, fun, power and survival or we can be proactive and facilitate growth, change and empowerment. This is where I am at in my child and youth care education.

Where I am at
We are always beginning, never ending. My goal for my next placement is to develop strategies to generate and enhance my awareness, to practice programming, to develop intervention plans, to recognize the needs of the youth through observing their behavior, to form relationships and trust by being present, making connections and recognizing the unique strengths and talents of each individual youth.

Through the process of self-exploration I will take control of my own learning and help foster the growth, change and empowerment of others. Through following frameworks, approaches and models – the child and youth care approach, effective programs and interventions and doing youth care will become part of who and what I am. Through the guidance and expertise of supervisors, advisors and other team members I will have the opportunity to become an effective child and youth care worker.

My goal is to develop the courage, confidence in self and my own style of doing and being that will increase my ability to lead others toward growth, change and empowerment. To love when it may be difficult to do but when it is needed most. As Thom Garfat says, "the rest is Four Parts Magic".

The Significance of Self-discovery
The significance of self-discovery from the perspective of child and youth care practice is the core of our being. Child and youth care education is a journey that begins with our own life experiences. Knowledge and skill cannot be put into practice without this continuous awareness of self. I hope to share my experience with others entering this field. For the benefit of the youth that we will be with I hope that our being here is a choice that we will make from the core of our own being.

I thank all of the leaders, authors, instructors, advisors and team members in this field who have offered their guidance and expertise with those like myself who are entering this field. I would especially like to thank the youth for sharing themselves and their own expertise. I have found that my experiences have brought my knowledge to life and created a thirst to develop a confidence in self, and my own style of doing and being. It is my experiences along with the guidance of others that will enable me to take a risk and challenge my abilities so that I can put myself into the position to help lead others toward growth, change and success. What is most significant about all of this is that self- discovery provides an opportunity to create empowerment within ourselves and to live in experiences that we can share with others. Sharing these experiences along with our knowledge and skill is what we can do to help others empower themselves.

 

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