Hope in Child and Youth Care: An Ecological Perspective

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Smith, Mark E.R.
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Hope involves having a direction in life, combined with external support and internal spirit, which enables people to move forward on a diversity of personal life long dreams. Too often, challenging life circumstances, contexts, labelling, and expectations lead to hopelessness and its consequences, such as a loss of dreams or life purpose. Child and Youth Care practice is based upon caring relationships that occur within the very life context in which children and youth exist and uses an ecological perspective. Parallel ‘marginalizing journeys’ can develop within youth-serving programmes that co-join to create an atmosphere of hopelessness, to the detriment of the youth, the workers, and the organization (i.e., ‘burnout’ or ‘delinquency’). Given that youth services look to promote youths’ sense of security, self-worth, efficacy, and optimism, and that organizations and staff should also be equally secure and healthy, there is a critical need to better understand factors surrounding the role of hope and its impact upon daily Child and Youth Care practice. Other studies generally look at one group’s experiences of hope or hopelessness but little is known about how two highly interactive groups impact each other’s level of hope. Through the use of qualitative methodology this study looked to discover pertinent themes and concepts aimed at a better understanding of the dynamics surrounding the role of hope and its interactive effect upon daily Child and Youth Care practice. Focus group discussions were, respectively, held with youth and youth care staff connected with residential and/or community-based youth service programmes. Qualitative analysis of the focus group discussions resulted in the identification of four major categories. Generating Hope, Elements and Sources of Hope, Dynamics and Patterns of Hope, and Generating Hope, and three principal influences, Relationships and Activities, Tensions, and Peer Support upon the daily states of hope and hopelessness, on the part of participant staff and youth. Recommendations for staff, youth, and other key stakeholders are offered to promote the development and maintenance of hope for all participants within youth care programmes, settings, and daily supportive interactions.
Youth-Serving Programmes , Child and Youth Care practice , Peer Support