Some Aspects of a Child and Youth Care Approach in my Work
Child and Youth Care is much more than working with children and adolescents; it encompasses a need and a passion for understanding different people who are at difficult places in their lives. This work is about being and meeting people where they’re at so that they can be empowered to make better choices, and even make life changing realizations.
When I sit back and think about what being a Child and
Youth Care Worker means to me, I can’t think of any simple definition,
because it encompasses so much. The work that we do each day is so unique,
partially due to the complex nature of the different systems that exist in
this field of work.
When I think about systems, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory comes to mind … how one system is continuously affected by other systems, and how changes or conflicts in one layer can have ripple effects into other layers causing changes and challenges to the healthy development of a child or adolescent. Each and every day that I am in my job, I learn that every where you turn, the systems are not necessarily working together to benefit any one individual. We are surrounded by gaps which affect how systems work and this consequently places people in situations that further stigmatizes them or renders them “helpless”. I work in the community setting where the majority of my work is amongst the most marginalized groups of our city; the homeless, the young mothers, the sex trade workers, the drug addicts, the oppressed, the “misfits” and the misunderstood. Meeting them where they’re at is in essence the most important component of my work.
Due to their lifestyles, these people are very transient which always makes it challenging to connect with them on a regular basis. To cope, they engage in high-risk behaviour, which in turn marginalizes them further, which then affects their ability to trust and allow me “in”. So meeting them where they’re at in this context is very literal. Whether it be on the streets, in a transition home or halfway house, in a support group, or in jail, whereever they are, I go to them. I have learned that these individuals often have little trust in others. Making myself visible and available regardless of the setting seems to create some sort of consistency in their lives which often results in their trust.
Many of the people I work with are addicted to illicit drugs and are not able to cease using because often they have no one to support them through their recovery. In such a case, meeting them where they’re at might mean using a harm reduction approach. In this approach we establish desirable outcomes and we take small steps to achieve those goals. How the person reaches those goals always depends on that particular person’s needs at that time. It may take months or even years and it requires meeting them where they’re at and really using what works for them. Along the way, helping them recognize their own personal and internal strengths and empowering them to make better choices is a constant focus.
It’s about really being there; being present. Taking the time to really see each person as an individual and doing whatever it takes to make life a little bit easier for them, even if there are disappointments along the way. It’s about not giving up; about hanging in.
I can’t even begin to describe what this field of work means to me. I really enjoy the challenges that come with this career, not only because, like they say, it keeps me on my toes, but also because with every opportunity I get to work with one individual, I learn something new. Being a child and youth care worker means being able to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, really be in tune with yourself and others as well as really making meaning of a client or situation. It takes a real understanding of what is going on to make an effective and successful intervention. For me this means always meeting them where they’re at; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My first question to everyone who comes to me is, “what can I do to help?” and we go from there.
Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, 24,
1 and 2. Spring 2011, pp. 53-54