Why I Want to be a Child Youth Worker

at a glance

Child and Youth Worker, BSW
Children's Aid Society
1986 - 1993
Community and Social Services
John Beer (LIB) Zanana Akande (NDP) Marion Boyd (NDP) Tony Silipo (NDP) John Sweeney (LIB)

I want to be a child and youth worker for a variety of reasons, Some of which include: my life experiences, my personality, and the need I have to help others. Before I tell you my motivation for this career I think that it is appropriate that I tell you a little of my history.

From the ages of 8 to about 16 I was under C.A.S care. The majority of that time a crown ward. Because of problems at home, i.e. abuse poverty, etc., I was placed into custody. I was shuttled to 2 group homes over a period of 8 years. The first one was a catholic run group home that felt like a prison. Its out of business now.(wonder why?) It was a very terrifying place for a young child to be. Most of the rooms were equipped with 2 way mirrors to monitor everything taking place.

As well, we had only limited opportunities to interact with the community, and we were always kept on a short leash. School was in a catholic high school, and you had to fight with the home to even be integrated into one real classroom. It was a very strict place to be. You had to dress and act a certain way and if you did not you would be punished. Sounds easy right? Remember this is a group home full of 8 to 13 year olds who had been sexually, physically, and emotionally beaten. As well, most of these kids had severe psychological and behavioural problems. The punishment was usually isolation in a room with nothing in it. You would be allowed to eat your meal in there and you would have to stay in there until it was bedtime. You couldn't fall asleep there because their was a staff member watching you at all times.

Sounds prehistoric and cruel doesn't it? This is only ten years ago. It is one of the reasons I want to go into C.Y.S. I don't want to see kids treated like criminals just because they live in a group home. I think that also if I had been shown some care and felt that someone actually cared about me there I wouldn't have felt like just another paycheck for the group home. Many of the kids I lived with there felt the same way.

The isolation retards your social skills considerably, I hadn't even talked to anyone outside of Sacred Heart for over the 5 years I had lived there, except for my C.A.S. worker at the time. Not good for coping with life.

I was then moved to Hayden Youth services in Oshawa. I thought that it may have been an improvement over S.H. but it had problems all its own. I was dealing at age 13 with a majority of older peers who had not been so isolated from an early age. Again I had very little interaction with the outside world. Anyone that tells you that there is no abuse by other kids in a group home is a liar. I witnessed a lot of sexual and psychical abuse in this group home that could have been stopped if the staff at the time had been supervising. (Funny I went from a place where I was watched 24-7 to a place where abuse was rampant because as long as the staff knew that you were in the home, they really didn't care what you did).

This group home had a part-time shrink on their board who was also some kind of employee at the time of Whitby Psychiatric Hospital. I guess he had a quota because he tried to have 5 of the kids I was living with transferred to Whitby in one year. Sometimes he was able to convince their workers that they were not mentally stable or mentally able to deal with the world. I couldn't understand why this was because some of those kids were my friends and knew as much of the world as I did, sometimes they even knew more than I did. I realized that the shrink had an ulterior motive when he misdiagnosed my learning disability as paranoid schizophrenia. I have been to many shrinks since and none of them has been able to tell me something to confirm that diagnosis.

But his signature saying I was a raving lunatic was almost enough to have me placed in a psychiatric hospital. My worker didn't bite however. She didn't believe that I was that troubled. She was right.

These are a few more reasons why I want to become a child and youth worker, 1st I would like to see in the home style residences like Hayden perhaps a bit more interaction between staff and kids, not the staff acting like a highly paid baby-sitter. That is the way I believe I would act towards the kids. It might help the kids to know that they have friends in the staff such as me that actually do care about them and don't treat them like just a paycheck they might open up and say something if they are being abused by other residents OF the group home.

As well I truly believe if there is an interactionalist approach towards these kids and they become close with the staff, the staff can figure out what might be wrong with some of these kids. Misdiagnoses by doctors about a group-home kids' mental state would probably decrease if staff were more involved with the kids.

Remember most of these kids have little or no family that cares about them and have been abused both physically and sexually.

The worst crime committed by group homes is the practice of turning them loose after they turn 16 or 18 depending on the C.A.S. wardship. Many of these kids have no place to go and usually end up on the streets. I was placed in a school for physiologically problematic teens around the spring before my 16th birthday. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Many of my peers here were suicidal and manic depressive and had already lived on the streets or had been in jail or major psychiatric institutions. Only a few of us even lived at home.

I had been living with my mom at the time and had started to date in my social circle, which was the girls at school. The first one I dated I was deeply in love with and she had been sexually abused and was now abusing herself by cutting (scaring oneself with razorblades) and doing drugs and booze. No one seemed to care about her except me. I felt like I was the only person in the school that was helping her cope with life. I eventually started getting depressed over my own problems and began cutting and delving deeper into drugs and booze.

Here again I would notice that someone was having problems and try to discuss it with them instead of having an apathetic view like the staff did there. They thought that if they want to destroy themselves on their time let them do it. I can't tell you how many times I tried to overdose while out on the weekly afternoon bowling games. Many times I would just swallow a bunch of Ritalin and no one would notice. A good child youth worker has to notice something like that or else they are not doing their job right.

Many staff abuse the kids as well and nothing is said because it is kept and disciplined inside of the institution. One of my ex-girlfriends was raped by a male staff member while living at a group home in Hamilton. Nothing was ever done except until I came to see her one day and she told me and I threatened to rip his head off (that's putting what I wanted to do nicely). The view that it can be dealt with inside the institution is bullshit, If another staff member knows about abuse they should report it immediately to both the institutions heads and the police.

The C.A.S. should not just let these kids out on the streets to fend for their own. Many of the kids I have lived with or went to school with are on the streets, dead, or working as prostitutes. Most of my street friends had at one time or another been in some form of children's aid. Remember these are people who have already been abused by someone and they go to the streets and are abused more. Many of these so-called agencies are just breeding grounds for pimps and dealers.

The problem is, many of the workers in these street outreach programs are volunteers with very little experience, and are told what to do by higher ups. A place like the Evergreen in Toronto is run by a church and hires mostly former streetkids as volunteer workers. That in itself is not a problem, but it doesn't ask for the skills required. So many of these volunteers work for pimps and dealers to locate new blood to work the streets.

As the C.A.S. has no jurisdiction here it is imperative that things in these outreach programs be changed, I would want to work in an environment like this only if I knew that my coworkers were not their to exploit the kids. If I caught someone trying to exploit the street kids I would immediately report them to the police.

If I could just get through to a kid once and make him realize that he isn't just something on this earth worth nothing and make him know that he can achieve something with his life that would be my ultimate goal as a C.Y.S. worker.

That, in a nutshell, is why I want to become a child and youth worker.

~ Nick (written in 1997)

Today, Nick is a Child and Youth Worker at a group home in Ontario. He would like to work in the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, to further his goal of bettering the lives of children and youth in care.

From The Inside, by Nick (1999) [pdf]

Source: Esther Buckareff