The South African child and youth care system faces a crisis. Recently the CYC profession received a considerable boost in professional recognition with registration now legally required for all child and youth care workers. This ensures that the profession is now regulated and ultimately also ensures standards for training of workers which should translate into improved quality services for children and youth at risk.
A major challenge the profession still faces is the relatively few professionally registered child and youth care workers in the profession. Having “enough” pofessionally registered CYC workers is critical to the profession, since child and youth care workers (auxiliary level) can only legally work under the supervision of a professional child and youth care worker (S19 of Board Notice 56 of 2014, Government Gazette 37689).
Common practice in many organisations was for social workers to provide supervision to child and youth care workers, but this no longer allowed (my previous blog post addresses this). Some organisations have tried to comply with this requirement by appointing more senior and experienced auxiliary child and youth care workers to a supervisory position, but the scope of practice does not make provision for this. While the scope of practice of a professional level child and youth care worker includes “consulting, supervision management and directing of child and youth care workers” (S19 of Board Notice 56 of 2014, Government Gazette 37689), the scope of practice of an auxiliary level child and youth care worker does not include any scope for providing supervision. Therefore, appointing an auxiliary level CYC worker to provide supervision means that such a practitioner would be working outside their scope of practice and could be guilty of misconduct. This makes perfect sense if we compared this with the current practice within the social work profession, where comparable registration levels exist for professional social workers and auxiliary social workers. Auxiliary workers may only practice under the supervision of a registered social worker – this is not disputed anywhere and no organisation would even consider appointing an auxiliary worker without having registered social worker to provide supervision (at least, I hope not!).
The reality of the situation however remains, and without any immediate solutions. There simply are not enough professional level child and youth care workers registered to appoint to positions where they can supervision auxiliary level colleagues (this is a statement of opinion). There are very few training institutions who offer degree programmes that lead to professional registration, currently only DUT and Monash. These training institutions are inaccessible to most due to distance from the institutions as well as the cost of study. It is therefore unlikely that the profession will experience a sudden “injection” of professional level practitioners, which it currently needs urgently.
I believe that the authorities and leaders in the field need to proactively engage with this challenge and offer interim solutions and guidelines to organisation who struggle to comply with legislation due to the practical challenges experienced. It is not enough to change legislation. Organisations, especially in the non-profit sector, need clear guidance and support on these practice challenges.