Below you will find a brief summary of some of the topics raised, or discussed, on CYC-NET during September.
As always, if you want to pick up on a previous discussion, or re-visit a topic, you should feel free to raise it again in the discussion group. After all, it is your discussion group. We realize that his summary is only that, a summary. We are only trying to give you an idea of the discussion of the past month, not to reproduce it. And we have kept any editorial opinions to a minimum.
One member, representing a team, asked CYC-Net members for input in to the question of whether or not the workers should wear jackets, marked Outreach, when they were on the street. Responses varied from suggesting that youth may not like the identification if they want to talk to an out reach worker, to the fact that someone else could easily imitate the jacket and thereby take advantage of youth through deception. Someone else suggested that we ask the youth their preference. This seemed to be one of those issues where the pros- and the cons- were equally balanced, requiring the exercise of sound judgement, and ultimately, personal values.
A reader, concerned about the possible impact or influence of chat-rooms on youth wrote expressing her interested in investigating this possibility and asking for readers inputs. As one reader responded, "As caregivers it is up to us to ensure that they use the web constructively and that we provide supervision as well as options for non computer based social interaction, teach them about life away from the screen." Another reader suggested a site which deals with the issue of internet-related personal problems, including addiction (www.netaddiction.com). It was also noted that there is some interesting material on Internet safety, a European perspective, from a conference held by the Centre for Europe's Children on 9/9/98. It is at http://Eurochild.gla.ac.uk/
CYC-Net mentor class
On Sept 06, 1999, the first Mentor Class exercise was introduced to CYC-Net, with Penny Parry as the responding mentor. Due to the number of new members joining in September, the response time was extended by one week.
A book - lost and found
A subscriber wrote asking for copies of the classic book by Fritz Redl and David Wineman: Controls From Within (ISBN 0-202-36033-4). If anyone has copies I am sure he’s still looking.
From the comments of others it seems that he is not the only one looking for this classic. The Ohio Association for Child and Youth Care Professionals, Inc. (http://www.helpingohiokids.org) training foundation, TRAIN, Inc. has over two cases of this fine text, Redl and Wineman's Controls from Within, for sale. Cost is $20.00US plus shipping. If you are interested, please contact OACYCP at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
While this book may be hard to find another was recommended which draws on the works of Redl and Wineman Residential treatment of adolescents and children : Issues, principles, and techniques by Stein, J.A. (1995), published by Nelson Hall. ISBN: 0830413782
Youths’ swearing. Does it bother you? It did one youth care worker so she wrote looking for other peoples reaction to what she experienced as excessive swearing in her program. Someone responded that this might be related to the culture which has developed in the program suggesting that perhaps it is 'just the tip of the iceberg’. Someone else suggested that when we work with kids in group care we enter in to their space and this is a part of the reality of that space. Some others suggested that the swearing is perhaps a reflection of the world from which they come and in to which they will return. In keeping with this a number of writers suggested that the swearing is the least of our concerns and should not be a primary focus of our interventions. One suggested that focussing on respectful ways of living in community and not being abusive towards each other, gives meaning to the attitude behind some forms of swearing. As well, it was suggested that we need to help young people understand how they will be perceived by others.
Not all writers agreed that there should be a limited focus on the swearing — for some it was seen as very inappropriate. As one writer put it, to ignore the swearing is to encourage the youth to have difficulties in other areas of their life, especially if such swearing is habitual. As he said, ignoring tends to work when the swearing is for reaction and not a part of the acceptable norm of the place or habitual on the part of the user. Another writer suggested that it is our responsibility to set boundaries with youth and we need to be careful that we do not allow the temptation of "being with them" to cause us to throw out the value of good values. There are many other ways to "be with them" and still set reasonable limits.
And finally, one reader suggested that it is a matter of moderation and context as with any behaviour. There is a difference between the group setting and one to one conversations — swearing may not be permissable in general group living, but may be totally ok when having a candid one to one conversation with a child ... which stimulated the original writer to end the month with a comment that she was still confused and she was requesting help in deciding when one should focus on something and when one should let it go.
The discussion continued ...
The discussion on swearing prompted on reader to ask how programs deal with negative symbols representing such things as racism, sexism, etc. in their work with youth. Someone responded suggesting that this all has to do with the creation of a 'safe’ program for youth and staff. A further comment noted that we can only put limitations on the things we as a team or residents in our program find offensive, negative or degrading; we certainly cannot control or have limits on what the adolescents do or see outside of our presence.
One subscriber connected the issue of youth swearing to the types of music they listen to, raising as well the question of the images and stereotypes about other issues such as sexism and racism which might be conveyed in some music. In her program they restrict such music because of these reasons.
One subscriber put out a request for information on models of physical intervention used in programs. Information was sought on a number of issues, including restraint and the use of isolation rooms? One response highlighted the Safe Physical Management Technology training and interested readers were invited to connect with the author directly.
Because of the current relevance of this topic, we
asked Nick Smiar of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Clair to respond.
His full response to the initial question is reproduced in a separate
chapter of this month's issue:
Physical Assault Response Training.
Where are the men?
A reader wrote sharing his perception that there are very few males teaching pre-school and he wondered if others might shed some light on this phenomenon. One subscriber suggested that it is the fact that the pay is next to nothing and society doesn't value working with children, which caused another writer to ask if he was suggesting that the reason why there are so many females in the field is because they like lower-paid, lower-status jobs? The original writer explained that what he meant was that most men do not value youth today or see that care-giving is a high priority. Someone else asked for a clarification of why the original writer thought that men did not value children.
One writer commented that there is a belief that is being fostered in western societies that men are not nurturing and do not care about children and families, I think. This belief takes many forms and it is being actively promoted for various political and social reasons by different individuals and groups.
Another said that if we look back over history, you will see that women have had many doors completely closed to them, and when women opened various professional doors, "we were met with hostility, wariness, and occassionally abuse". The writer was also prompted to ask of the initial writer if he feels "discriminated against because you are a man because there are mostly women in this field? Do you feel your pay is on a lesser scale than a woman with the same abilities?"
The final comment for this month comes from Heather
who reminded us that this is just one of the many areas in which women
and men act differently. Areas of work often have a lot more of one
gender than another, but it affects almost every area of life. It's all
about how we socialize children in society ... none of this will change
until we all look at this issue and change the way we do things.
Models of practice
A subscriber wrote asking about models of practice. Like many of us he finds that his education tends to focus on models of practice from the traditional counselling field and he is frustrated by his lack of exposure to models for youth care practice. He was looking for input to help connect himself to more appropriate models.
A writer from Zambia wrote looking for addresses of colleges/universities which offer courses related to social work by correspondence. Four replies suggested the writer consider the following programs: School of Social Work at the University of Victoria in BC Canada, www.hsd.uvic.ca/sw/sw.htm; The University of South Africa; Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, http://www.ryerson.ca and the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada http://dce.uwaterloo.ca/
Cameras in our work
Someone wrote in sharing a thought he had about picture-taking as a shared activity with youth and wondered if anyone had any experience with this as an activity. It seems that cameras are not foreign to youth care work and a number of writers indicated how they had used them, including taking pictures of each youth who came to a program and creating a 'wall of fame’; recording and sharing pictures of special events or moments, taking many pictures throughout a youths stay and giving each departing youth a picture album of her/his stay as a memory book.
Below are two of the responses received, posted here in greater detail, because of how they emphasize the manner in which the use of photographs might help to establish a sense of history for a person.
One of the uses of photography not mentioned was the creation of life books for persons who come into the care system and who will never know their families as they will be permanent wards or adopted children.
In Alberta, the Social Services Dept. creates lifebooks for as many of these children as possible. The books contain not only any photos that the worker may be able to collect of the child and of the family of origin but also letters and notes to the child from care providers who provided care during the child's upbringing. The book is given to the child at 18 yrs.
Often the book contains medical and historical
information that the child would otherwise lose.
For the men that I care for we have created photo albums that contain pictures of significant events in their lives. These are their albums and contain their pictures. Events include special olympics participation, friends met at camp, trips, etc. We also have a small supply of disposable cameras that we give to them for their use. The pictures that they take are all included in their albums and the ones that they select are enlarged for their rooms.
I think that photos help to anchor us in place and time. They assist us to establish an identity and provide some benefits to the possessor of such images that help create resiliency in people. An interesting project currently on the table in BC matches a cyc student with a child in care. The task is to track down and/or create a photo history for the youth. The pictures might consist of parents, siblings, families, foster homes, workers, friends etc. Too often in the past a child would be moved from one home to another with little remaining of the relationships and connections built in the previous home. Even clothes and favorite toys were often left behind. Now each child will possess an album of their own which will move with them. It seems only a natural next step that the youth begin to take some photos for themselves.
Writers were sensitive to two particular issues which might arise in the use of cameras: there are issues of confidentiality and consent which might be involved and some youth may react in a non-positive manner to having their pictures taken and this could be pursued in terms of what it means about their previous experiences, or their experience of themselves.
Child and youth care work with families
In one program the team is having a discussion about the role of youth care workers in working with families: should they be uninvolved? Should they only do certain tasks under the direction of a social worker, or should they have a more complete role in interventions with families?
Several responses indicated that the role of youth care work with families is as varied as could be, ranging from dealing from behavior management, parenting techniques, to trauma counseling, wife/ child assault, etc. More than one writer commented that the role of the youth care worker is different, but equal to, that of the social worker and that we need to remember that the youth care worker’s role is focused on the youth as the entry point for family work. The work is not about territory but about a philosophy and an approach to the care of children and youth. As one writer said ... the bottom line is that often our "professional roles" get in the way of the humanness or human dynamics of "normal" co-creative connection devoid of position and status power.
A reader wrote in with a question regarding adolescents refusing to go to school. She noted that in their program school attendance is considered mandatory and that while they have begun to implement an incentive program, it appears that those with school avoidance issues have shown no inclination to respond. It was suggested, by a reader that we need to assess whether or not a youth’s emotional needs are being met within the school program. It may be important to understand what is motivating the students' behavior (avoidance of bullying by other students at school? a critical or punitive teacher/administrator? boring and irrelevant education?), rather than responding only to the behavior (truancy and school refusal). One worker, situated in a special education program commented that incentive programs are very important as is meeting the clients special learning needs. Perhaps meetings with teachers, and clear program support would help. There needs to be very clear communication with each school, and the program needs to be ready to back up school expectations. Whether that includes consequences and/or rewards, the child needs to see the staff team and educators as a consistent team.
One reader was prompted to comment that "kids no doubt come into your programme because they are not managing their lives too well. Attending school regularly, on the other hand, is a sign of a healthily functioning kid. Maybe there is a mismatch in making regular school attendance a non-negotiable of the programme? Like admitting a kid with a broken leg to an orthopaedic ward but insisting that he take part in sports and gymnastics?"
Some children, a reader suggested, are not
school-ready regardless of their age and perhaps we need to focus on
school readiness, rather than school attendance. Finally, one reader
disagreed with the idea that programs should follow the lead of the
school staff with regard to this issue. He commented that "all too often
we try to take an educational philosophy and try to work with children
who need a treatment philosophy"
Other comments or requests
In this section we mention some of the requests, questions, etc. which were posted on CYC-NET this past month but which were not responded to, or had a limited response. We post them here in the hopes that if you have something to say about one of them, your will post your response on CYC-NET.
A subscriber repeated her request for information
about the American Youth Work Center.
Another requested information about the possibilities of working as a cyc in Texas, and how one would go about it. Yet another wants information on possibly working in New Zealand.
Varda Mann made a request for cyc professionals who
might be interested in making a presentation at the pre-conference
session at the Together 2000 International Child and Youth Care
Conference. The Conference website address is. http://
cyc2000.html You can contact Varda at firstname.lastname@example.org
One reader wanted to know if August Aichorn himself was ever analyzed? Or was he (as I seem to recall) a person who studied Freud's ideas but never got on the couch himself?
A subscriber wants to know if there is anything published on case management and adolescents. The book Accountability Case Management by Frances Ricks,Ph.D was recommended by a couple of readers. Frances can be reached at Fricks@uvic.ca
An organization was wanting a classification system for youth care workers according to a common scale and asked cyc-net members for input.
One reader would like information concerning international volunteer opportunities: I am interested in Africa, AIDS research, and at risk youth.
There were a few questions raised right at the end of the month. Because the discussion of them will fall in to October, we have held the summary of the discussion for then. So, jump in.
Brian and Thom