Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Child and Youth Care student helps at-risk teens succeed

David Denofreo photo
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

Cindy A. says the best part of her job is building relationships with kids and seeing them succeed.

The Douglas College Child and Youth Care student works with at-risk teenagers – at-risk meaning they may be struggling with drug problems, family issues, relationships, peers, school, mental health issues or other concerns – at a high school in Surrey.

“I’m here to support them, counsel them and help them make positive choices and support them as needed,” Cindy says.

Cindy earned a diploma in Child and Youth Care from Douglas about five years ago, and has come back to take the Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care program part-time.

“I’ve taken courses at other places, and the material is pretty much the same wherever you go,” she says. “But I like the instructors at Douglas and the way they teach the program, so I came back to get my degree. I think it will create more opportunities for me in the field.”

At her job, Cindy has a list of kids she regularly checks in with to see how they’re doing. She monitors their attendance, asks them about their weekend, how things are at home, about their relationships with their friends, their health and even if they’re getting enough to eat.

“A lot of kids don’t get enough food, so if they’re hungry we can provide it for them,” she says, citing the high school’s breakfast and lunchtime program, where kids can drop in for a talk.

The job comes with its challenges. Cindy says she gets so close to her work that it’s sometimes difficult to leave it behind when she goes home at the end of the day.

“I always need to remind myself that I’m not there to fix everything – that there will be times when I can’t help.”

The job also comes with its rewards.

“I have seen kids change,” she says, “kids in the worst situations who make a really positive turnaround. I’ve had kids come to me after five years who say, ‘Hey, do you remember me?’ And they’re no longer taking drugs, or they’re getting better marks or they’re involved in their community. Watching these kids succeed is so rewarding.”

For anyone considering entering the field of child and youth care, Cindy says having certain qualities is crucial.

“You have to be flexible, and be non-judgmental. We all have our personal beliefs and views and, you know, the way we want to see things turn out. But I find that in this field you have to put all your personal stuff aside and just be available and open-minded to the kids, because a lot of the time we’re the only people they have to connect with. If we shut our doors with judgmental views and attitudes, then who can they turn to?

Find out more about Douglas’s Child and Youth Care program on our website. Or come to an info session Nov. 13 or 15, or Dec. 4.