One of the most important things to me in this field is the idea of relationship. After all – without building relationships with clients and other practitioners, how would you expect to get anywhere?
Below, I’ve listed and explained some of the bigger pieces that build into the idea of relationships: Caring, Engagement, Teamwork, Professional Relationships and Activities.
Caring, in this context, can simply mean being emotionally available and able to listen to your clients and respond when they need you to, but it can also mean the ability to do things beyond what’s emotional to show that you care for them (Stuart, 2009). Are they out of toothpaste and don’t have the money or the means to go and get some? Make that a priority, go and get a tube, because it’s a priority for them. Caring can be showing up to events like concerts or recitals and sports events that they’ve invited you to, granted that your place of work allows you to. Caring can be knowing how much the client needs a new winter jacket or textbook but they have no way to get anywhere to access those things, and taking them yourself to buy these things.
Engagement is the act of including and engaging the client in the decision-making process. Part of building and keeping a working professional relationship with clients is the fact that it must be give-and-take, equal opportunity and power on both sides, not simply push from only the practitioner and no input from the client. The client is directly affected by most, if not all, decisions in many cases, so they deserve a voice. Part of engagement can include boundaries as well, for example, discussing jobs around the house with a client in residential care and even which chores or jobs they prefer over others. It is important to include your clients in everything you do, because what you’re doing should always be for them.
Teamwork. This term is often confused with the idea of a group of people going into different directions, working on a piece of something larger individually and congregating again at the end to discuss. This is not considered teamwork. This is independent work, usually directed by one person who spearheaded the group’s project or work, and divvied the work up themselves with little to no input from others. Teamwork is being together for the whole process, making room for others to speak and share ideas, and collaborating effectively to get things done. Being able to cooperate with clients and other practitioners, even, is important in the relationship-building aspect of CYC.
Professional Relationships are different from professional networking, where networking is more about knowing of resources and the people who run or provide them, and the relationships are the actual exchanges one has with other practitioners and community members. Keeping connected with others who offer supports in the area that a practitioner works is extremely important, because these are the people one refers clients to when something is beyond their power or control within their field of work (Stuart, 2009). These are also the people one advocates to and who advocate with them for the clients they work with. Because of this, positive relationships and communications with the community and other professionals like oneself within that community are necessary to practice in CYC.
The last smaller definition under Relationships is activities. Activities, games or anything similar are organized and performed by CYCPs with clients and communities in an effort to build skills in clients, like leadership, (healthy) aggression, focus, sociability and spontaneity, among other things. Playing and organizing games and activities with clients passes time and offers an opportunity for connection. When children and youth play games, they unconsciously develop skills that will help them later in life; these are the skills I mentioned previously. It is important that practitioners apply activities (especially ones that get the body moving as well as the mind) to the everyday lives of their clients because they are crucial to the psychological development of young people, especially if they never had the chance to develop the skills that activities may offer before being introduced to the practitioner (Stuart, 2009). They all want to learn, but learning should be fun.
Evidence of Competency
ENGAGEMENT: To save the writing of a whole journal here, I have provided a hyperlink HERE to one of my own self-evaluated engagement rubrics, used to evaluate factors such as class participation and relationships with classmates and faculty. In response to this self-evaluation, my professor, Lisa, told me that she agreed, and that “[my] contribution to [the] learning environment is very valuable.”
TEAMWORK: If I hadn’t successfully made this apparent before now, the concept of teamwork and being capable of working in groups is one of the most important parts of work as CYC practitioners.
Consilience, as defined by Larry Brendtro and Martin Mitchell (2015) in their book Deep Brain Learning, is the collaboration of different areas of knowledge (e.g. sciences and arts) in developing a strong and rounded conclusion to any given query. This consilience is a necessity in child social work as there is currently a noticeable lack in professional knowledge around the field – this is presumably due to past failure in recording accurate data on issues such as children’s mental health and emotional abuse/trauma. Because of this, working together within our own field and even outside, reaching to other fields of work and knowledge, is vastly important, and this collaboration is sparked long before new professionals arrive at the first day on the job. Many course assignments and activities have been peer-focused, making for co-operation whenever possible and encouraging the building of communication skills in each student.
Almost half of the major assignments in each course this semester have been group-oriented, and impossible to complete entirely by oneself. While this can be frustrating at times, the need for communication and collaboration is certainly present in the field, and one of the best ways to ensure that the need is fulfilled is to start early, and teach the emerging students how to get along and work efficiently with one another.
PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS: The idea of professional relationships, as covered above, is different from professional networking, in that networking is contact alone, and relationships are the actual connections and interactions that take place between a student/practitioner and other professionals. Strong bonds with other professionals from related and even unrelated fields of knowledge is very important for the same reasons that networking and collaboration itself is so important to child and youth care.
Developing positive relationships with other professionals (for example, experienced program faculty, local program directors for young people, social service workers and the like) has served me well thus far in the program, and now that I am leaving my first year and entering a free period of summer, I plan to connect more and even closer with more professionals in my community.
Stuart, C. (2009). Foundations of Child and Youth Care. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
Image taken from restoretroubledteens.com.