I have been trying to write this editorial for a few weeks now. I have known I needed to do it. I have thought about it. I even told others that I had to do it thinking that somehow that would spur me on to get it done.

But other things keep coming up. Other things that seem more demanding, more immediate, more relevant, more … well, you know … just more important than getting this written. Like there was the day when the circuit breaker blew and I had to go get a new one and install it. Or the day when the drains blocked, or the weatherman predicted snow and I hadn’t picked up all my tools from the garden. And then there were the days when I had to go shopping (we always need food), and the times when the dogs demanded to be walked, or my spouse wanted me to make dinner, or … well, there was that day when the futon was calling me to nap in the middle of the afternoon.

Finally, I was writing to my friend Brian, telling him about this and suddenly I thought “How like doing supervision, my behaviour is”. There is always something else which demands out attention, isn’t there? The kids in crisis, the payroll, the scheduling, the program development plan, the team meeting, that call from a social worker – daily life in working with troubled kids and their families. There is always a reason, justifiable and important, which keeps us from supervision. And if you are the one who some call the “supervisee”, well then there are even more reasons not to meet for supervision, aren’t there?

But that’s only a part of the reason. It is not just that we have other things to occupy us, but also that we are often unsure about what we should be doing in supervision. And, like all things, when we are unsure, we are hesitant. So, what is it we should be doing in supervision? What should be our focus? What should it look like?

There are probably as many models for supervision as there are forms of helping. In fact, it often seems to me that the form which supervision takes is modeled after the form of helping. Someone whose work requires them to meet with families every two weeks, for example, might meet in a supervision meeting once every two weeks. People who work with groups might engage in group supervision. What I am suggesting here is that the form of supervision, in many cases, parallels the form of practice. But in Child and Youth Care practice, we seem to want to borrow the form for our supervision from other forms of practice. Let’s think about this for a moment.

It is becoming more and more widely accepted that child and youth care practice involves the utilization of everyday life events as they are occurring (Garfat, 1998, 1999). We talk about “being with” youth as they live their lives (Fewster, 1990), “counselling on the go” (Krueger, 1991), using the “minutiae” of everyday life experiencing (Maier, 1981), the importance of “immediacy” (Guttman, 1991), or “interactive practice” (Krueger, 1998). In essence, we talk about being with children, youth and families as they live their lives, where they live those lives, and intervening as that living is occurring.

So, why should the Child and Youth Care approach to supervision not look the same as the Child and Youth Care approach to intervention? It seems to me that supervisors who engage in real parallel practice, where the approach to, and form of, supervision models the form and approach of effective practice, help their staff to learn that approach. So, whatever your approach to Child and Youth Care practice is, wouldn’t it just make sense that your approach to supervision should be the same?

For example, if you believe in the utilization of everyday life events as they are occurring, then this would have certain implications for supervision in your program. It would mean, for example, that the supervisor would need to be present when the Child and Youth Care worker was intervening with youth. It might also mean that supervisory interventions are short and focused on the immediate. If your approach to Child and Youth Care practice involves a focus on the relationship between the worker and the youth, then supervision would also attend to the relationship between the supervisor and the worker. If your approach is defined by developmentally appropriate interventions, then supervisory interactions would take in to consideration the developmental level of the Child and Youth Care worker. If your approach involves modeling new ways for youth, then … well, you get the point.

Supervisory interactions can be an opportunity to help workers learn about the “doing” of their work through experiencing a similar process in the relationship with their supervisor. It is also a way in which the program values and approach can be experienced by the worker, not just talked about in meetings. When there is incongruence between the program approach to Child and Youth Care and what the worker experiences in relationship with the supervisor, then confusion walks through the door. And practice suffers.

By the way, if you keep putting off supervision, don’t be surprised if the Child and Youth Care workers put off those interventions with the young people or families. After all, people do tend to practice what they experience.


Fewster, G. (1990). Being in child care: A journey into self. New York: Haworth.

Garfat, T. (1998). The effective child and youth care intervention: A phenomenological inquiry. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 12(1&2), 5–178.

Garfat, T. (1999). On reading about the child and youth care approach. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 13(1), vii–viii.

Guttman, E. (1991). Immediacy in residential child and youth care work: The fusion of experience, self-consciousness, and action. In J. Beker & Z. Eisikovits (Eds.), Knowledge utilization in residential child and youth care practice (pp. 65–84). Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.

Krueger, M.A. (1991). Coming from your center, being there, meeting them where they’re at, interacting together, counselling on the go, creating circles of caring, discovering and using self, and caring for one another: Central themes in professional child and youth care. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 5(1), 77–87.

Krueger, M. (1998). Interactive youth work practice. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.

Maier, H. (1981). Essential component in care and treatment environments for children. In F. Ainsworth & L. Fulcher (Eds.), Group care for children: Concepts and issues (pp. 19–70). London: Tavistock.

Garfat, T. (2001). Editorial: Congruence between supervision and practice. Journal of Child and Youth Care. 15(2), iii-iv.