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Webinar 20: Development of the Child and Youth Care Work Profession

Webinar Summary and Recording

Click here to access the complete recording of the webinar and click here to download the presentations.

On July 2, 2015 the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, in collaboration with the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) hosted its 20th webinar. The session was a live webcast of a panel discussion on child and youth care work from the NACCW conference in Cape Town, South Africa. This panel was moderated by Zeni Thumbadoo, Deputy Director of NACCW and Vice Chairperson of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Steering Committee. Presentations included:

  • Definitional Framework for Child and Youth Care Work
  • Characteristics of Child and Youth Care Work
  • Para-Social Service Competencies Developed by the Alliance
  • Supervision of Child and Youth Care Workers
  • Development work of the Zambian Association of Child Care Workers
  • Statutory Regulation of South African Child and Youth Care Workers

The event was attended by more than 1,000 people participating online and in-person.

Ms. Zeni Thumbadoo, MA, Deputy Director, NACCW opened the panel by providing background on the Alliance, including its mission and vision and describing its approach to strengthening the workforce. She then welcomed and introduced the panelists and their presentations.

Jim Anglin, PhD, Professor, School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria, Canada, began his presentation on a definitional framework for child and youth care (CYC) work by describing its creation 30 years ago. While the framework has evolved since then, most of its elements have been there since the beginning. He then laid out the six elements of the framework; it is the cluster of these elements that come together to create the unique profession of child and youth care work:

  1. CYC Work is primarily focused on the growth and development of children and youth
  2. CYC workers focus on the whole child.
  3. CYC workers use strengths based approach and have courage to trust in the child.
  4. CYC workers operate in the life space of children. They are found anywhere a child may be found.
  5. CYC workers are concerned with developmental and therapeutic relationships
  6. CYC workers commit to a lifelong moral and spiritual journey. It’s not just a technical operation.

Dr. Anglin closed by emphasizing that in addition to the care relationship, CYC workers must actively advocate for children and youth at the policy level to help keep societies healthy for children.

Thom Garfat, PhD, Consultant, presented on the defining characteristics of child and youth care work. These characteristics not only encompass what CYC workers do when they are at work, but they encompass all aspects of a CYC worker’s life. There are 25 different characteristics of a CYC worker that are divided into three categories: Being, doing and interpreting. Dr. Garfat continued by describing the relational practice of CYC work and the importance of understanding the relationships being made between CYC workers and the children with whom they work. Quality relationships are central to healing and development. He also stressed the importance of purposeful use of everyday life events, making moments meaningful. Dr. Garfat closed his presentation by emphasizing his early point of CYC work as a way of being not just at work, but in life, using the phrase “(CYC is) How we are, who we are, while we do, what we do.”

Ms. Thumbadoo presented on the work of the Alliance’s interest group on paraprofessionals. The group has identified core competencies for child and youth care paraprofessionals in the social service workforce. This framework was necessary because there is currently no agreed upon definition of paraprofessionals, and they have taken on a wide range of titles and roles in the workforce. The guiding principles provide a base for the development of programs and activities for training, development, deployment and support of paraprofessionals, while recognizing country-specific contexts. The competencies were developed at two levels: for workers with less than one year of training and those with two years or more of training. Ms. Thumbadoo then provided examples of the competencies and described the validation process. These competencies present an opportunity for development of the CYC cadre.

Mr. Jack Phelan, MA, presented on supervision and child and youth care work. He began his presentation by describing the characteristics of a fully formed CYC worker, emphasizing the importance of supervision in developing new workers so they are able to move up the professional ladder. Mr. Phelan then described the issues new CYC workers face and why those issues make supervision critical. In addition, Mr. Phelan described the differences between a CYC worker in their first year of practice (intense focus on the self) and a CYC worker in subsequent years (focusing on the needs of others). Supervisors must be aware of this different. Supervision styles and techniques must change as the CYC worker changes. Mr. Phelan concluded by saying that an experienced supervisor can assist paraprofessional CYC workers in moving into professional CYC work in a natural way.

Rev. Robert Sihubwa, BTh Hon, Chairperson of the Zambian Association of Child Care Workers (ZACCW) presented on the development of the ZACCW and began by providing basic contextual background of the factors impacting the work of CYC workers. Rev. Sihubwa then described the development of the ZACCW and their current scope of work and impact. The ZACCW works closely with the NACCW and has implemented the Isibindi program and Safe Parks. This collaboration has also resulted in 2,000 CYC workers being trained in Zambia since 2006. The ZACCW is promoting efficiency and quality of care, has influenced legislation and policy, and is increasing the legitimacy of CYC work as a profession in Zambia. Rev. Sihubwa concluded by emphasizing the importance of advocating for children and youth when it comes to budgeting priorities for the government. The ZACCW is a platform to advocate for the needs of children.

Ms. Aziwe Magida; MSc., Chairperson of Professional Board for Child and Youth Care, South Africa, presented on the national regulation of CYC workers. Ms. Magida gave a history of CYC work in South Africa. It was organized in 1975 when national standards for ethical behavior were developed; in 1998 the Social Work Act became the Social Services Professions Act, allowing for further regulation of emerging social service professions. The South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) provides this regulation. Ms. Magida explained the implications of these regulations, including education requirements, continued education, and adherence to ethical standards of practice, giving an in-depth overview of the CYC worker code of ethics. In closing, Ms. Magida announced that more than 7,000 CYC workers have been registered by SACSSP since October 2014.

Ms. Thumbadoo summarized of the presentations and opened the floor for questions from the in-person and online audience.


NACCW provides the professional training and infrastructure to promote healthy child and youth development and improve standards of care and treatment for orphaned, vulnerable and at-risk children and youth in family, community and residential group care settings. Learn more about NACCW here and their Isibindi model of care here.

About Child and Youth Care Work

Child and youth care practice is a global profession. By definition, it includes skills in assessing client and program needs, designing and implementing programs and planned environments, integrating developmental, preventive and therapeutic requirements into the life space, contributing to the development of knowledge and professions, and participating in systems interventions through direct care, supervision, administration, teaching, research, consultation and advocacy.

Read more about child and youth care work on CYC-Net, an international network of thousands of members. The network aims to promote and facilitate reading, learning, information sharing, discussion, networking, support and accountable practice amongst all who work with children, youth and families in difficulty. Take a look at their online journal, CYC-Online, and at the Relational Child & Youth Care Practice journal.