The practice of Child and Youth Workers is rooted in direct involvement with children and youth who are dealing with a wide range of social, emotional, or behavioural challenges which may be related to a variety of factors: developmental difficulties, relationship problems with family or peers, situational crises arising from illness, loss or bereavement , concerns around identity, sexuality, or sense of personal worth, mental or physical health issues. The work of Child and Youth Workers is based in relationship with and advocacy on behalf of young people and, consequently, the workplace of Child and Youth Workers has been in the settings where children and youth experiencing difficulty receive support: family homes, residential treatment settings, child welfare agencies, group homes, hospitals, mental health clinics, recreational programs, camps, correctional settings, probation services, and schools.
Training for Child and Youth Work in Ontario occurs at both the college and university level and draws its theoretical underpinnings from a broad range of disciplines including psychology, counselling, social work, nursing, education, and recreation. Curriculum addresses child development, theories of learning and personality, abnormal psychology, group theory, family dynamics, counselling theory, milieu therapy, research, ethics and professional issues. A key requirement of training for Child and Youth Work is supervised experiential learning through practicum placements in a variety of settings serving children and youth.
The cornerstone of Child and Youth Work practice is relationship. Consequently, there is an imperative for Child and Youth Workers to become skilful in actively engaging young people, to become effective listeners and communicators, to be accepting of young people without being judgemental, to be sufficiently professionally focussed and self-aware to ensure objectivity in addressing client issues, and to be committed to providing purposeful interventions which help increase a young person’s sense of capability and competence.
Child and Youth Work in Schools
Within school settings, Child and Youth Workers contribute to the provision of a spectrum of services. They do so in partnership with teachers, parents, and other support services personnel. In addition, they may work in collaboration with other agencies and services outside of the school. Their work usually focusses on behavioural concerns related to students. It is through behaviour that students give expression to their perceptions and needs and it is through interaction with them that Child and Youth Workers seek to provide support. Interaction may take the form of individual counselling, behaviour management, social or life skill instruction, group involvement, activity involving sport, drama, or music, or in-class academic and social support.
Behavioural concerns in schools may relate to individual students or may be more global in scope. Schools are concerned with issues of safety, security, academic and social climate, and community. The behaviour which people in schools display toward one another impacts dramatically on all of these domains. Child and Youth Workers are committed and skilled in supporting classroom and school-wide programs which foster safe and healthy school climates. Examples of these programs are conflict resolution, class-wide social skills, anger management, bullying prevention, friendship-building, violence prevention. Child and Youth Workers also contribute to in-service staff training related to crisis intervention, behaviour management, conflict resolution, and PDD/Autism.
Child and Youth Work Roles
The model of school-based Child and Youth Work practiced in Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board utilizes Child and Youth Workers in a range of roles providing both preventative and intervention services. All contained behavioural class programs are staffed by teacher / CYW teams. Elementary schools have Child and Youth Workers assigned on a school-wide basis to assist in addressing behavioural issues within the student population and also in providing intensive support to high need behavioural students. Secondary schools are assigned Child and Youth Workers who provide behavioural services through Guidance Departments or who support high need students in Planning for Independence Programs or within the general student body. Students with significant need for behavioural support arising from Pervasive Developmental Disorder / Autism receive CYW support through staffing of contained classroom programs and also through support available from board-based teams composed of a teacher and a Child and Youth Worker.
Partners in Teamwork
Child and Youth Workers rely on a team process in identifying and assessing student need and in providing support services to students. Teachers, parents, or school administrators may identify students who are struggling academically, socially, emotionally, or behaviourally in school, or students may self-identify. In the best of circumstances, assessment of student need has the benefit of input from the multi-disciplinary team which includes the teacher, administrator, special education support staff including educational assistants, psychology, speech and language, social work, and child and youth work staff. Combining the expertise of these service providers with the insights of parents, medical practitioners, other community service workers and students themselves optimizes the likelihood that students will receive appropriate help.
Processes That Guide Child and Youth Work
Intervention with students on the part of Child and Youth Workers is guided by on-going assessment and consultation with others who are involved with the student. Interdisciplinary consultation, school team meetings, case conferences, and I.P.R.C.s provide tools for developing pathways to support for students in need. Individual education plans provide a blueprint for services to be provided. These processes and tools help shape the work of Child and Youth Workers.
Allocation of Child and Youth Workers
Child and Youth Workers are allocated to roles in either the Program Department of the Board or in one of the Families of Schools. Assignment to specific school settings within a Family of Schools is the responsibility of the Family of Schools Superintendent. School principals provide administrative supervision of C.Y.W’s.
Accessing Child and Youth Work Services
Child and Youth Work services can be accessed through school administrators or school teams.