Association of Newfoundland and Labrador’s standards committee and is the director for Key Assets NL. — Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram
Historically, child and youth care workers in Newfoundland and Labrador and the rest of Canada have been hired without necessarily having an identifiable background in the field, even if their skill set might be relevant.
That’s according to the director of a local company providing residential care for children and youth with complex and challenging needs.
“One of the problems has been that people are hired as child and youth care workers before they actually have a child and youth care identity, so people have historically been hired into the field with a broad range of educational backgrounds and experience backgrounds,” said Heather Modlin, the director for Key Assets NL, who also chairs the standards committee for the provincial Child and Youth Care Association (CYCANL).
Modlin says a certification process that has been widely embraced in Newfoundland and Labrador and given legitimacy by the provincial government is doing its job to recognize professionals in the field.
CYCANL has been on board with the Child and Youth Care Certification Board’s (CYCCB) process for professional certification for the last four years. According to Modlin, Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the way when it comes to embracing CYCCB’s certification model.
“This is a field that has been characterized for a really long time by a lack of standards, and that has translated in many cases into a lack of quality,” said Modlin.
“When a child requires the care of an organization that employs child and youth care workers, whether or not they’re actually going to receive competent and skilled care is dependent on the organization they get. We’ve been playing Russian roulette, if you will, with children’s lives for a really long time in terms of the kind of care that they may receive. So I think, from a practitioner perspective, certification is just one way to demonstrate a level of knowledge, skill and professionalism.”
Several organizations in the province have practitioners certified, and Modlin estimates more than 75 people took the certification exam within the last year. Some companies now require employees to get certified, and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services requires government-funded residential programs to have at least two professionally certified workers involved.
“That’s huge. That makes us one of the first provinces in Canada to have any kind of stipulation for qualification for child and youth care worker hiring, and it’s a very exciting first step forward.”
Certification requires a combination of experience, documented training, a supervisor assessment and professional references, and the completion of an exam. The three-hour exam includes a $135 fee, and there is a $100 processing fee for the application. The responsibility for covering those costs varies by employer, according to Modlin.
Modlin said the ultimate goal for CYCANL would be to have all workers coming into the profession trained in child and youth care.
“We’re probably 20 years off that, but we’re moving in that direction.”