I am a long-time child and youth care administrator and educator. When I started in the child and youth care field, over 30 years ago, there were very few if any educational opportunities for practising workers. The few that were available were poorly subscribed to as jobs were plentiful and experience was all one needed to be hired. There were no criminal records checks, limited reference checks, and few written policies that related to hiring in most organizations. I was able to get my first job in child welfare by knowing someone who worked in the resource and getting his verbal recommendation.
When I was hired, there was no formal orientation. Training was done on the job. I was never evaluated and never received formal supervision. This is not to say that I was not working with competent professionals. I was. But in hindsight, it was clear to me that I was not working in a profession. I am not even sure if it was a trade. It was quite informal.
That was over 30 years ago and the field has changed and evolved. Today I teach in an urban community college where a two-year diploma is offered in child and youth care training. It is an applied program and has an almost 100% success rate in placing graduates. When I started teaching in 1991, the program was one year in length. Today, the program is taking its first formal steps towards a formal four-year undergraduate degree. This in turn will tie in nicely to a graduate degree in child and youth care being offered at a local university. That in turn will tie into a Doctoral program at that same university, that will begin in the fall of 2005.
All of these advances in education are helping to move child and youth care closer to the status of a profession. Here in British Columbia, the province has mandated agencies to become accredited and, given that accreditation standards relate to educational levels, this is also assisting agencies to move towards a more professional status. I am left to wonder if the field has thought through the shift in values and practices.
Will there be room in our field for the 1-year and 2-year community college graduates?
Will agencies only hire undergraduate degree graduates?
Will experienced workers be able to take on management positions with anything less than a graduate degree?
Will a 4-year degree be of an applied nature or will it focus primarily on research and theory?
Who will be left out as we recruit workers for direct service work?
Will there be room in the field or the classroom for experienced, competent and under-educated workers?
As child and youth care has advanced as a profession, we have not given a great deal of thought to the consequences of this evolution. Who will be left behind? What will be left behind? What will child and youth care be once we have professionalized?
I admit to not having answers
but still feel the need to ask the questions.