Youth care leaders (YCL) Scott Waters and Kiel Smith have very recently completed CARE training (Children And Residential Experiences: Creating Conditions for Change), but they may have a head start – they’ve already been incorporating the CARE principles in the roles for many years at the agency. Especially when it comes to relationships.
The agency has recently begun implementing the residential program model developed by Cornell University to our existing framework to improves our services for clients.
“I wanted to work at Ranch Ehrlo because I wanted to help kids,” said Kiel simply.
Scott, too, has always wanted a hands-on role with the youth. Scott spent just over a year in the role of unit manager but returned to YCL position due to wanting to work more closely with the kids.
The two of them are of course different but it’s the ways in which they are similar that stand out. The two of them are well-known in in the agency for putting focus on relationship building between themselves and the youth they work with.
“CARE is a bigger picture philosophy that focuses on relationships and building positive attachments with youth. I’ve always believed that’s an important staple when dealing with any children,” Scott said.
Simply put, Scott said, “I just always treat the kids like I would want someone to treat my kids.”
Kiel, too, focuses on letting relationships build naturally by letting the youth in his charge know that he and other staff are safe, and want the best for each youth in their care. Because talking isn’t always the easiest, Kiel and Scott allow the youth to get to know them (and vice versa) by engaging in day-to-day activities, first.
“I don’t push the relationship, obviously I want that to happen naturally. Once I gain some of their trust, they start sharing some of their past with me. I let them know I understand where they come from and what they’ve been through. This way, there’s a trust level built,” Kiel said.
But it doesn’t end there. Once a youth is comfortable with them, Scott and Kiel continue to focus on ensuring the relationship, and a youth’s individual needs, are prioritized in every situation.
“If we flow to them and their needs … then things go a lot smoother on the day-to-day stuff, especially with routines or expectations,” Kiel explained.
Humour, too, is an important tool.
“I subscribe to the idea that I should do anything I possibly can – as long as it’s safe – to make the kids laugh or be happy,” Scott said. “I think that keeping kids happy and content allows them to be more receptive to learning opportunities, which can come up organically if you have a good relationship.”
And while the feedback may not be immediate, a supportive relationship such as the ones Kiel and Scott build with the youth in the programs can have a positive impact far down the line in their lives.
“You may not make a difference in ten years – maybe some of them will be in their 20s and 30s by the time something that you’ve said, or done, or shown, is actually going to make a difference for them,” Kiel said. “But that’s the reward – knowing that at some point in time, something may click. The more we show these positives, the better the chances are that we can change someone’s life.”