The profession of child and youth care requires a great amount of effort, determination and skill. Within the field, child and youth care workers are expected to acquire and uphold a trusting bond with the youth involved (Quinn, 2004: 18). Although the main aim of the child and youth care worker is to care for, love, and protect the child, this may prove difficult in many circumstances. Therefore, the youth care worker needs to have acquired skills in order to overcome these challenges while still succeeding in building a strong relationship with the child involved. This essay will discuss the elements of child and youth care work as well as the expectations of child and youth care workers. In particular, it will focus on the skills needed within the profession and the difficulties faced when trying to care for children and youth.
Elements of Child and Youth Care
Maier (1987) describes the core elements of child and youth care work as providing children with physical comfort, knowing the different temperaments of each child, rhythmic interactions with children, predictability, dependability and also behavioural training.
When practicing within the field of child and youth care, the worker is required to have an understanding of these elements in order to do their work to the best of their ability. More specifically, the elements of child and youth care includes fulfilling the physical and privacy needs of the children and also knowing the differences in their temperaments, in other words, knowing the differences in their personalities and attitudes. Also, the child care worker needs to make time for rhythmic interactions with the patient so that they can both have an experience of closeness .e.g. singing or dancing (Maier, 1987).
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Children have a strong need for predictability, and rhythmic interactions also play a role in this. “Rhythmic activities seem to confirm the experience of repetition and continuity of repetition” which, as a result, provides the child with a feeling of lasting commitment and predictability. Children and youth need to know that they have a reliable adult to depend on. Lastly, child and youth care workers need to add in a personal element to the behavioural training of their patients. Children generally learn quicker from those who have meaning to them and therefore will learn more readily from their care-giver once care has been established (Maier, 1987).
Expectations and Skills Required
The main role of a child and youth care worker is to work with children and youth in ways that are educative, participative and empowering. The worker is expected to encourage equality of opportunity and social inclusion amongst the children that they are working with (Pittman, 2004: 90).
Communication plays an important role within the profession of child and youth care. Workers are required to create and maintain relationships of trust with the children and youth involved and should deliver information so that it is received in the manner intended. Child and youth care workers need to communicate well and convey and explain information assertively and “in language of the community” (Quinn, 2004: 18).
Child and youth care workers are also expected to implement programmes which aid the children and youth in their growth, learning and development. In order to do this, workers are required to have knowledge on group work and should know how to assist groups in times of need. Child and youth care workers should continuously be planning and implementing new activities for children to participate in. While doing this, the patients should be motivated and encouraged to engage in these activities (Quinn, 2004: 18).
In order to show respect for the family of the child and the community in which they reside, it is vital that the worker gains an understanding of the family culture and structures (Quinn, 2004: 19). This will allow workers to deal with conflicts easier as they will then be more sensitive when holding discussions on certain topics and will thus be-able to create relevant strategies in order to satisfy the child’s needs.
Child and youth care workers should show a high level of understanding of children and should be able to “recognise need for intervention” so that they can help with the child’s problem with immediacy.
Difficulties in the Field
Providing good child care means “providing children with authoritative control and giving them responsive nurturance” (Cancian, 2002:65). However, it may be difficult to carry out good child care effectively at times.
Difficulties in the field may include communication problems like not being sensitive or authoritative enough. Being in the profession involves a lot of stress as it is a challenge to care for children and youth and to achieve a professional image amongst society for the child and youth care profession. It is also challenging in the fact that it requires us to be flexible in changes that may occur. Child and youth care workers need to be willing to grow and learn from good and bad experiences in the profession and thus prevent certain bad aspects from occurring in the future, which may prove difficult for people who do not like change and who don’t take bad experience and criticism lightly.
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It is concluded that the child and youth care profession involves providing children with basic and essential needs such as love, care and protection. Child care workers need to communicate effectively with the children in order to efficiently help with their problems and establish a trusting relationship with their patients so that proper care can be given. However, the profession does provide a few challenges but none which cannot be overcome with time and more experience in the field of child and youth care.
- Cancian, F.M. (ed). 2002. ‘Defining “Good” Child Care: Hegemonic and Democratic Standards’, Child Care and Inequality: Rethinking carework for children and youth. Great Britain: Routledge. p.65.
- Maier, H.W. (1987). ‘Essential Components in Care and Treatment Environments for Children’, Developmental Group Care of Children and Youth: Concepts and Practice, USA: The Haworth Press, Inc. p.40-58.
- Pittman, K.J. (2004). ‘Reflections on the road not (yet) taken: How a centralized public strategy can help youth work focus on youth’, (In Garza, P., Borden, L.M., & Astroth, K.A. (eds.), New Directions for Youth Development: Professional Development for Youth Workers, 104: 90, Winter.
- Quinn, J. (2004). ‘Professional development in the youth development field: Issues, trends, opportunities, and challenges’, (In Garza, P., Borden, L.M., & Astroth, K.A. (eds.), New Directions for Youth Development: Professional Development for Youth Workers, 18-19, Winter.
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