Given the continuing significance of the ‘professionalisation’ debate, particularly with the creation of an Institute for Youth Work, we are drawing together on this page a range of pieces offering a diversity of opinion and analysis.

Three pieces from Aaron Garth from Australia:

One of the reasons we have found professionalism so hard to  implement is the difficulty of centrality. We don’t have a central definition and code of ethics in Australia and we have a number of different approaches and frameworks which guide our field. It is this vitality which we should be looking to develop in our quest for professionalism not just aiming to become another cookie cutter “profession.”

Is youth work languishing? In the shadow of inferior frameworks of professionalism

Is youth work suffering the death of a thousand cuts?

The stupidity of calling youth work science will limit our effectiveness


Hans Skott-Myhre writing passionately from Canada,

Finally, I would argue that our field of practice has a long history of resisting and opposing the ways s in which our society has dealt with young people. We have posited our selves as offering young people  a different set of relations where they might be met as fellow travelers rather than social pariahs. I might refer to this aspect of our field as the tradition of revolutionary love. Love, I would define as an encounter that maximizes the capacities of all parties involved. Such love is revolutionary, because the social norm of the current regime of capitalist domination does anything but maximize our capacities. To jointly work together to see how we might creatively maximize what each of our bodies and minds has the capacity to do is to resist and revolt against the constraints of global capitalism. This is not the work of a professional trained to think and practice within the confines of standards, common beliefs and restricted practice. It is an open field of experimentation unconstrained by common adherence to an abstract common definition of who we are. Instead, who we are is defined by our day-to-day encounters and our rewards are sought in the work itself.

Tilting at Windmills : The Professionalization of Youth and Child Care


Dana Fusco writing from the States draws our attention to a specific edition of the journal Child and Youth Services, Professionalization Deconstructed: Implications for the Field of Youth Workwhich she has edited together with Michael Baizerman.

Here, we hope to deconstruct the underlying beliefs and narratives on professiona­lization in youth work and in related human service fields by examining the arguments for and against professionalization, by looking at the historically situated evidence within and outside of the field of youth work, and by exploring alternate conceptions of professionalization. It is always our goal to have young people and youth workers in the forefront of our mind; thus, our framing of the issues always rests on the questions: Is this good for young people and youth workers? Who decides and why?

Dana’s own eloquent final chapter,Is Youth Work Being Courted by the Appropriate Suitor, examines a range of understandings of the professional.

Specifically, the privileging of science and epistemic culture as the foundation for profession is questioned as the best suitor for a practice of working with young people that values meaning over truth, dialogue over evidence, and reflexivity over certainty


 Graeme Tiffany’s intriguing philosophical and practice-based reflections on the ‘professional. He concludes,

 Consider then a paradigm shift; one in which the youth worker leads a heightened appreciation of the ‘semi-professional’: someone who acknowledges they don’t know it all; someone who celebrates knowledge on the ground; someone moved by the thoughts and experiences of those that they work with, someone who can value young people’s values (even if they are not necessarily their own) and someone who, in so-doing, ‘tips power’ toward the young in order to create the spaces essential for their autonomy and self-determination to flourish. Consider the youth worker then as the architect of a new vision of professionalism. Perhaps it is this that should be campaigned for: the true professional prize of freedom in judgement-making – and the opportunity then to pass this on to young people. With this we can argue, daily if necessary, that the values, principles and ethics of youth work can endure even in a world of constant change, where the only certainty is of uncertainty. It is this debate, of what youth work values are (and what should be done to live them out) that is implicit in all good social practices. It is this that must be attended to and invested in. Made public this will advocate for youth work in a participatory rather than representative way. Thence it is for the many, rather than the few.

Professional Standards in Youth Work – Philosophical Reflections


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