Advancing Child and Youth Work Through Professional Preparation:
Proceedings of the Summit on Higher Education in Child and Youth Work at the University of Pittsburgh
Karen VanderVen, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Department of Psychology in Education University of Pittsburgh
As the field of child and youth work continues its decades-long effort to professionalize through instituting a system of training and education to produce a recognized knowledgeable and skilled workforce, it periodically assemble its constituents to formally review progress and to plan for the future . There is a long tradition of addressing this area, beginning with the University of Pittsburgh and with other organizations and universities continuing the precedent of convening groups to address this area. Many new developments in the field, including the seminal development and implementation of the certification program of the Child and Youth Care Certification Board and the CYW Workforce Coalition, made this a new review and planning activity necessary and timely.
This report thus describes the purpose of and findings of the one-day Child and Youth Care Summit held at the University of Pittsburgh March 23 and 24, 2015 and will cover preparation for the Summit, the topics that were identified for its focus, and the findings of the groups that discussed each topic. A final summation and interpretation of the major themes and proposed future actions will follow.
The Summit was hosted by the Department of Psychology in Education Programs in Applied Developmental Psychology of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. It was organized and led under a collaborative effort by Dr. Andrew Schneider-Munoz, CYC-P, President, Association of Child and Youth Care Practice; Dr. Dale H. Curry, CYC-P, Professor, Kent State University and member of the Child and Youth Care Certification Board; Dr. Thomas Akiva, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology in Education; Dr. Carl Johnson, Program Director, Department of Psychology in Education; and former President of the National Afterschool Association Judy Nee, CEO of AlphaBest, Inc. The Summit was attended by an international group of trainers, educators, students, and others involved with child and youth work. Financial support was provided by gift funds to the Department of Psychology in Education and from AlphaBest, Inc. courtesy of Judy Nee; and the Estate of Dr. Mark Krueger, CYC-P.
PREPARING FOR AND ORGANIZING THE SUMMIT
Recognition of the importance to child and youth work of higher education has been reflected in a decades long historical precedent as already stated. To best appreciate the format, issues, and findings of the 2015 Higher Education Summit, a review of these marker events is ideal to set the stage.
Initial Conferences at the University of Pittsburgh and Expansion into Conference Programs
From the early 60’s to the 1980’s the University of Pittsburgh pioneered gatherings to assess and develop higher education offering in child and youth work. Since the University of Pittsburgh has been a pioneer in organizing such events, it was not surprising that once again it served as host with the support of others who have been actively involved in training and education over the years. Previous gatherings include the 1969 National Conference on Curricula for the Career Ladder in the Child
Caring Professions (Besaw, 1929); and the 1974 conference, Child Care Training for a Changing World (Vander Ven, K. 1975). and the Conference-Research Sequence in Education. ( VanderVen, K., Mattingly, M., and Morris, M. 1982 ) There have been other activities nationally and internationally, e.g. at the University of Victoria and in member countries of FICE (The International Federation of Educative Communities) that focus on broadening and enhancing organized training and education for child and youth practice. For example, “Educator’s Days” for trainers and educators have been held at major North American conferences for several decades.
The Cream City Summits and Birth of the North American Competencies and Certification Project
At the end of the last century (1999) came a burgeoning effort to define the field in terms of competencies (as somewhat contrasted to the scope of curriculum) required for practice.
A Higher Education Summit was originally proposed in the work plan for the International Child and Youth Care Coalition ( ICYCC) held in 1992 at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, one of the pioneering and best known child and youth work preparation programs. The frequency and scope of Training and Education Days held at both national and international conferences increased and became an expectation. Growing out of the continued interest in higher education and training, Dr. Mark Krueger, CYC-P along with Dr. Andrew Schneider-Munoz, were among those who provided direct consultation on the development of new Child and Youth Care degree programs. For example, recently the Indiana University School of Public Health initiated a Human Development and Family Studies BS in Applied Health Science with a minor in youth development. The University of Pittsburgh’s MS programs in Applied Developmental Psychology in the School of Education offers a concentration in Child and Youth Care Work concentration that aligns with the competencies for child and youth work developed by the North American Competency Project (Stuart, Mattingly, VanderVen, 2002).
Near the end of the 20th century, a series of meetings known as the Cream City Summit and following the precedent set by the ICYCC), focused specifically on the North American Certification Project’s work to install national professional certification to credential child and youth care workers. A group of American and Canadian organizations collaborated to from the North American Certification project (NACP). Its goal was to have a professional certification process in place in five years. (Krueger et. al., 2003). Present at this meeting was Frank Eckles, who had played a major role in a viable state-wide certification project in Texas and had established the Academy for Competent Youth Work which has served as a clearinghouse for state-of-the-art training and education.
The North American Competency Project (with the involvement of many child and youth work professionals produced codified description in a competency format describing the “competencies required for a first level of professional practice across the various settings in which child and youth care professionals practice” (Mattingly, Stuart and VanderVen, 2002, p. 16). There are 5 competency domains identified and desdcribed.
Subsequently a series of meetings took place at Kent State University and were co-led by Dr. Curry, Dr. Schneider – Munoz, and Frank Eckles. These culminated in the intent to call together the next meeting to consolidate progress and to fully explore the role of child and youth care faculty to best prepare persons for multiple levels of practice, to recognize and consolidate the North American Certification Project as the first credentialed level of professional practice, and to examine ways of promoting effective teaching, research, competency-based professional practice, and in advancing wider recognition of the field and advancing professionalization.
The recently formed CYW Workforce Coalition, designed to link professional development across child and youth work settings, held an initial gathering in 2012 in Indianapolis, IN. Participants included the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers (AACRC), the Association of Child and Youth Care Practice, Inc. (ACYCP) , The Child and Youth Care Certification Board (CYCCB), the National Afterschool Association (NAA), The National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS), and the National Staff Development and Training Association (NSDTA).
Preliminary Design of the Summit
The working design for the Summit to prepare participants included describing some background issues, identifying current training and educational programs and other initiatives, and designing the actual program.
The Summit was designed as a working meeting in which representatives of diverse educational programs would contribute their expertise, in contrast to the traditional presentation-based conference, although there were a few brief presentations to set the stage or add a perspective. Dr. Carol Kelly, Professor Emerita of the University of California-Northridge, focused on global exchange and Dr. Karen VanderVen of the University of Pittsburgh gave a brief lunchtime presentation on developmental and practice research, the need to translate it into practice; and the importance of moving towards a life course model of care training and education. Jean Carpenter-Williams from the University of Oklahoma OUTREACH National Resource Center for Youth Services and the publisher of the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, provided a copy of the most recent journal for the participants.
Over 60 people participated in the Summit. They epresented training and higher education programs (the greatest number) , training centers, child and youth policy, resource centers, and various focal areas of child and youth work such as early childhood care and education and after-school. Student participants served as recorders. Participants came from the United States and Canada and from England and Scotland.
CONFERENCE CONTENT and FINDINGS
The following issues were initially set out to provide a context for guiding the conference discussions:
Workforce. The workforce of persons holding a variety of titles within the general field of practice work with children and youth is extensive. It is estimated to be as large as six million in the United States, substantially larger than the number of K-12 teachers. Within the workforce, there is a multitude of job titles and roles, e.g. youth development specialist, youth worker, child care worker, after-school worker, child and youth care worker, day care worker/teacher, caregiver, detention worker, camp counselor, counselor, etc. These persons work in a variety of settings, such as group and residential care programs, residential treatment, in-patient treatment, day care centers, nursery schools, infant programs,. rehabilitation programs, transitional living, homeless shelters, activity clubs, foster care, home visiting, community centers, specialized programs and numerous others. Continuing issues include low compensation and rapid turnover.
Higher Education. While there are higher education programs offering associate, baccalaureate, and master degrees, these are widely dispersed geographically, are diverse in structure and content, and are largely uncoordinated despite the fact that core definitions of the field have existed for some years and have been widely disseminated. The advent of a solidly established, research-verified certification program is a great advance, but there are issues if certification is not formally linked in with a multi-leveled system of higher education.
Development as a Profession. A mature profession such as social work and education embodies specific criteria for a profession, such as an established knowledge base, a set of practice competencies, a code of ethics, controlled entry into the field, and continuing education requirements supported by the work of professional organizations. The field of child and youth work has been active in the United States for well over 60 years, but is not always viewed as a profession by other human services. It has been argued by some that child and youth care will not be a profession until it focuses on the specialized nature of the work rather than restricted ages (children and youth) and specific settings – in other words the services associated with the competencies should be delivered to people throughout the life course in the same way that other human service professions do.
Work Group Discussion Topics
The following topics were established for consideration by each working group:
Curriculum. What are models and resources (content and methods) to facilitate informed practice and student / practitioner development? Specific questions were posed such as:
- How can we think systematically about the various levels of higher education (community college, four year\, and graduate programs)?
- How various settings e.g. afterschool, detention centers) respond to the push for academic achievement and the implications for child and youth care work?
- What instructional methods promote development of competencies?
- How do we take advantage of technology and opportunity for life long learning?
- Can one teach youth work if one has never been a youth worker?
- How do we ensure we are teaching the content that best prepares workers to be
effective practitioners/professionals in the varied practice settings?
- How can we increase the integration of the ‘learning’ and the ‘doing’?
- How can we foster coherent connections between community based training and higher education?
Research. What is the role of research in the field and what approaches are most suited to it?
- How can we embed research in professional education more effectively?
- What research approaches and skills are most needed and suited to be taught in youth work programs?
- How can we create synergy between research and higher education?
Professional Standards and Certification: What are ways of promoting common standards and certification (credentialing) across the field?
- What professional standards exist for the field and how can a program become accredited ? What certification exists for youth workers and how can we increase their value for students?
- How can a program best prepare students for certification?
Career connections. What are the relationships between levels of education and career options and pathways?
- How do we foster more attractive careers ?
- How do we recruit more students who might consider this career option?
- How do we prepare for all the roles and functions needed by the field (direct practice, administration, research, advocacy, etc.?
Societal issues and field’s image. How do we make the connection between societal issues and external awareness of the field’s capacity to address them?
- How do we address the mismatch between necessary expertise to perform and lead youth work and its relatively low regard in society ?
- How can we strengthen society’s understanding of the field ?
- How can we build better and ongoing connections and collaborations in within and outside of the field ?
(The content in the section above was adapted from material developed by Department of Psychology in Education, University of Pittsburgh (2015)
FINDINGS OF THE DISCUSSION GROUPS
Following for each topic is a summation of the findings of the group assigned to address it. For organizational and integrational purposes where another group discussed a topic that fit appropriate under one of the other established categories the comment was moved there. While there is not total congruence between the original questions as set out above and the results of the discussion, there was a rich and relevant response to each topic. As well there were emergent topics in which there were sufficient comments to present under separate headings.
The “curriculum” category had the most detailed responses from the attendees although much of the recorded proceedings information did not seem to specifically focus on curriculum content. Instead it examined settings in which child and youth care curriculum is needed. Some of the main points were:
- Compilation of curriculum information. Activities that provide current information on curricular activities are needed. These can include syllabi sharing, assembling descriptions of programs offering child and youth work, a repository of case studies and the like can greatly enhance curriculum development and refinement. Technology makes these compilations much more possible.
- Including a global and multicultural focus. It is crucial to include such topics as immigrants and refugees, foreign language understanding, gender identity, racial discrimination; and to encourage understanding of bias and understanding of how
one’s own culture affects one’s perspective of and practices towards others.
- Integrating after school – out of school work into the child and youth work field.
A recent cross-walk between child and youth care and after school work has identified many commonalities in the competencies and curricular areas needed to do the work.
- Focusing on community internships is crucial.
- Meaningful supervised work with a defined intent rather than a free pair of hands
- Match needs of site with abilities and interests of students
- Student determined projects vs. professor determined ‘bounded’ projects
- Providing opportunity to develop self understanding. Self understanding is fundamental in child and youth work so curriculum must encourage reflection on such topics as one’s own upbringing and those factors and worldviews that affected one’s developmental course.
- Integrating learning and doing through stronger supervision. There are multiple methods for encouraging integration of learning and doing: reflective supervision, promoting deep understanding, using ‘triangle sides’ of competence, structure, leadership; more emphasis on observation
- Continued use of technology. Incorporating blended learning and distance education models being sure not to let technology totally take over face to face interaction), multiple types of interactive video used for educational purposes,, digital storytelling,
- There are research potentials and resources within the field along with a growing research base and momentum for conducting research. There is a need to establish connections between practitioners and people in other roles in the field, and researchers.
- While there continues to be growth in individual research projects , there are still few if any “big” research initiatives.
- It is important to understand the dynamics of ‘evidence based practice’, and such issues
as ‘what is evidence’ and the role of both quantitative and qualitative research, separately and in interaction with each other, in determining valid and useful ‘evidence’. While of course the evidence attained in well designed studies whose results are properly translated in practice principles can have great utility, it must be recognized that some ‘evidence’ , by nature of the conceptualization and design of a study, may actually endorse actions that are counter to the long term welfare of children.
- The relational centrality of child and youth care work is widely accepted now. We need to be aware that the current trend towards looking for highly prescriptive and short term interventions may not be in the best interests of this approach.
- The emerging field of translational research intended to derive practice premises from formal research study is very relevant to child and youth care. It has often been said that too much research reposes in highly complex journal articles on library shelves, with no effort to systematically turn potentially useful findings into practice premises and knowledge and skills that can then be taught in training and education programs.
Professional standards and certification
- Certification has added great value to the field especially since research supports the validity of the certification process and the greater effectiveness of certified child and youth workers (Eckles F., Carraway-Jones, C. and Curry, D.H., 2016) There is demand for it and recognition of it by employers. Credentials command higher pay. Certification can help to further define the field
- It is important to incorporate certification within degree programs. Since the credential is supported by active members of the field, there should be an acceptance of this. Competencies can be aligned with program requirements and certification elements Integrated into coursework and internships.
- The value of the certification can be enhanced by adding other certificates to create a ‘linked system’ in which credentials across specialty areas are connected. Levels of certification can endorse growth in competence and attaining new skill sets. A dual process can be developed in academic settings and certification can be required for degree completion. Provisional certification might be offered.
- Certification vs. an associate degree is a concern. However, it is important not to view this as an ‘either-or’ issue. An associate degree represents longer and more preparation with depth than a certificate, with no intent to detract to the effectiveness of the empirically supported current Child and Youth Care Certification program.
Rather the following actions could address the issue:
- Conduct an academic equivalency evaluation to determine what courses in child and youth work curricula relate to the certification competencies
- Attach academic credit to successful completion of the certification requirements.
There are some concerns. For example, would certification pose special challenge to low income and immigrant students and practitioners and students ?
- University structure and bureaucracy are not suited to move quickly to take advantage of trends and opportunities
- There are barriers between colleges and universities, such as curriculum structure and content, the degree to which faculty is connected to community programs, and the realities of practice settings
- * The field is not taken seriously in the academy; has to fight “baby sitter” image
Strengths of the Child and Youth Care field
Despite the number of core issues that need to be addressed, strengths of the field were articulated.
- Student and faculty involvement and commitment.
- There is an interested student base that really does want to contribute to a better world
- There are dedicated faculty committed to advancing the field, its knowledge and skill base, and enhancing the field’s presence in higher education
- The field is growing. There are 6 million people in the field. How can they be reached to involve them in their own professional preparation and advocacy?
- An increased interest in non-school learning falls within the field’s purview and new connections have been forged.
- Increased awareness of the field has widened interest and access
- Technology has increased communication networks, publications, and educational access as well as providing another modality for relating to children and youth
- Child and youth work educators are becoming increasingly connected globally
- A well established competency based and research-supported certification program has become increasingly respected and supported by rigorous empirical research
- Current salient needs among young people gives the field political currency, e.g. disadvantaged children, children and youth with mental health issues.
- Continued development of higher education programs has occurred.
- Higher education holds the promise of being in sufficiently powerful position to address the issues represented by the CYW Workforce Coalition by combining all of the represented domains or subfields (group care, afterschool, juvenile justice, etc.) into an integrated curriculum representing generic and specialized practice at established academic levels . (In fact this has already been done in some of the well established college and university programs).
Challenges to the Field.
Despite the acknowledged strengths and continued growth and development of the child and youth work field, challenges that must be addressed remain:
- Financial. Financial issues are core in all levels and functions of practice. Direct practitioners especially must receive higher compensation to reduce the turnover
that lowers quality of care, contributes to practitioner sense of inequality compared to other human service areas and is often insufficient to pay for education and meet the costs of living.
- Lack of clear identity as a field
- Ill defined definition of child and youth work (while this was a comment from the Summit, this may not is really not true (see comments under the Interpretation section).
- Need for cohesion and a clear message from the field
- Poor professional identification by practitioners
- There are divisions in practice settings, e.g. between line workers and supervisors/administrators; and between line workers and members of other human service fields.
- Focus on one age range and on specific settings enables internal development of the field but continues to prevent it from emerging as a true profession considering that all other human service professions take a life course approach,
- Marketing and promotion
- The wider world really doesn’t know about us. We must tell our story much more widely to the general public, politicians, policy makers, etc.
- The current market model does not serve the field itself or the available training and education
- There needs to be an envisioning process that will enable us to look outward beyond our generally” understood among ourselves” boundaries
Building a Community of Practice
Subsequent correspondence among Summit participants discussed forming a Community of Practice to be organized around shared interaction around such topics as scholarships, training, teaching, practice, career paths and global workforce development.
The working groups proposed the following topics:
* Web Space to Host Community of Practice
* Child and Youth Work Course Syllabi
* Child and Youth Research Methods
* Child and Youth Work Archives
* Global Workforce Development and Leadership and Career Pathways for Child and Youth Work Students
* MOOC - On-line Course
These elements of a Community of Practice provides much opportunity to further develop the teaching, scholarship and career preparation for students in the field and opens the prospect for faculty collaboration across departments, disciplines, and schools.
Such collaboration and higher level integration in the academic and practice enterprise offer a promising approach; however, this seems like a very promising approach to making progress in solidifying and professionalizing child and youth work.
It is important to note that a Google document site has been set up for sharing
Syllabi has been set up by Corinne McKamey from Rhode Island College. Syllabi can
be uploaded as a Google document. The link is :
INTERPRETATION and COMMENTS
This Higher Education Summit represents a great advance in mutual understanding and energy in the field. However, it is important that those engaged in advancing the field recognize how much has already been accomplished over the years so that future efforts can truly move it forward in some directions highlighted at the Summit rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’. As the movement to professionalize child and youth work and strengthen its offerings in higher education, there are some issues to bear in mind where
practice meets scholarship and where professionalization is crucial.
- Definition of Field. The point was made that the field is ill-defined. That is not really so – substantive definitions have been proposed, widely disseminated and viewed widely as indicated in the review in this article. Among dedicated members there is clear understanding of the scope of the field and the activities of practice it subsumes. The issue is lack of external awareness and recognition, and of recognized alignment with criteria for professionalization. Levels of practice and competencies for various ‘indirect’ roles need to be more precisely refined and implemented in both training and education.
- Scope of Field. There has been sufficient support from leaders both in child and youth work and after school, for the inclusion of after school/out of school time work within the scope of child and youth work. A cross-walk study established essential commonality between the competencies required for after school work and the broader field of child and youth work. Early childhood care and education must also be encouraged to recognize its connection with child and youth work .
- Movement Towards Being a Profession. Right or wrong, child and youth work is not yet a profession for two reasons: There are no other human service professions that are age-group circumscribed or are defined by the type of agency or setting where their services are delivered.
It is crucial that we continue to consolidate and integrate across child and youth work settings and then move towards an eventual life-course scope, recognizing the commonalities between child and youth work and direct care delivered to people of all ages. Such consolidation and integration would give the field of professional caregiving greater political influence that hopefully would lead to increased compensation and improved working conditions and overall presence as a significant human service. The model of education offered at the State University of New York New Paltz under the direction of Mette Christensen might be considered for wide emulation. Based on the European social pedagogue model, practitioners are prepared to work with people of all age groups.
- Internal vs. External Development. A reflection on the content of these Proceedings, among other information, suggests that the field is progressing well in its internal definition and actually has for some years (e.g. curricular guidelines, empirically supported certification credential, development and sustainment of higher education degree programs (even if sporadic), body of professional literature, etc.)
- Academic Sponsorship. Child and youth work higher education programs have consistently been housed in a variety of academic homes, e.g. Public Health, Education, Social Work general, this has been viewed as a disadvantage in that makes it difficult to develop consistent practices and an ease in locating programs. This issue needs to be addressed in the future although a caveat is that established child and youth work programs in different departments and schools may simply be lost if their present homes are not seen as appropriate. On the other hand, there can be positive results of such arrangements in that child and youth care infuses its strengths into the disciplines in which it is housed. For example in a School of Education child and youth work offers developmental and activity-based approaches to remediate risks to vulnerable young people as they are learning. As well, these different academic homes provide an opportunity for unusual forms of interdisciplinary collaboration
- Curriculum. There is considerable agreement that guided direct practice – e.g. internships, employment for credit and similar formats – are essential at all levels of preparation. While the traditional academic coursework model with an appended direct experience is certainly meritorious, the field should consider more field—based curricular and delivery models, such as Professional Development Schools. The role of Practice Professor might also be considered where these faculty are practitioners with appropriate academic credentials rather than the traditional research-oriented academics (although there must be research leadership which traditionally falls to the professoriate.
- The Evidence – Based Practice Movement. There is no doubt that child and youth care will be affected by the growing presence of the press for “evidence-based” practices and interventions. Despite the fact that at face value of course there is much to be said for moving towards evidence - based practice, it is important to bear in mind a hermeneutic and post-modern perspective that privileges other sources of authentic knowledge and the more recent movement questioning the veracity of and irreproducibility of numerous psychological studies. The relational core of child and youth work also has to be borne in mind in that somewhat prescriptive application of ‘evidence’ may restrict relational opportunities and benefits. The Child and Youth Care field’s presence and contribution to the burgeoning evidence-based practice movement is highlighted in the seminal work Child and Youth Care Practitioners Contributions to Evidence-Based Practices in Group Care (Stuart and Sanders, 2008).
- Publications. One of the greatest achievements in the professionalization movement has been the growth of published journals in the child and youth care field. A number of these have changed their title or delivery mode over the years ( i.e. from print to digital and on-line). The role of these in advancing higher education and the field in general cannot be overemphasized. Special efforts must be made to adapt so as to sustain these publications.
Over the years the contention that child and youth care practitioners needed to be prepared through higher education has been questioned, with proposals for training (as contrasted to education) or both training and education, and for learning through apprenticeships and the like.
The entire meaning of the history of higher education in child and youth work and the findings of this conference are compelling. There will never be a profession of care work without higher education since there is no profession without compilation, codification and dissemination of knowledge, and without actively performing research: among the prime purposes of academic units. That said, the findings of this Summit indicate a growing critical mass of higher education programs and activities, and a promising future.
Finally we draw attention to the primary source for organizing the Summit: Professional Child and Youth Work Practice which can be found in the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work (2012, volume 24). This seminal work incorporated peer-reviewed research articles including classic and contemporary approaches to practice.*
* The Five Domains of Competence can be found both in the published journal and on line at www.cyccb.org
** Special thanks to those who gave this manuscript an advance reading and made suggestions for modification: Dr. Andrew Schneider-Munoz and others.
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