Book brings to life a framework for being with youth in relational, authentic ways.

At Neu-Life, we know that youth workers are positionted to be extremely influential in the lives of youth and their families. Known as Relational Care, this belief is foundational to our family-like atmosphere and leads to both staff and youth remaining with the organization longer than industry average. As an expert in the field, Rhodes was invited to contribute to the recently published book, Relational Child and Youth Care in ActionRhodes highlights the community youth-development model at Neu-Life, run in part by former program youth, and outlines the characteristics of relational youth care that permeate programs here at Neu-Life.

But what is Relational Child and Youth Care, and where does it come from? Relational care is founded on the belief that all human issues, including personal growth and development, are essentially “relational”. As early as 2004, Thom Garfat (University of Victoria) began identifying characteristics thought to identify a Child and Youth Care (CYC) approach to caring. Drawn from research, academic literature, and experience of the field, the area of CYC is now well-established with best practices that have uses in youth care, social work, and education.

"Relational Child and Youth Care practice can be describe as an approach in which attention is directed at ‘the in-between between us’ (Garfat, 2008)."

This "in-between between us", represented below as the center of the circle, can also be thought of simply as the rela tionship between youth and care givers or youth workers. At Neu-Life, all characteristics of youth work revolve around this center, and our youth workers are constantly attending to this center, asking– for example – ‘Is Neu-Life a safe enough place?’; ‘Is it a learning space?’; ‘Is it a developmentally appropriate place of experience?’; Is Neu-Life a place of discomfort or joy?’; Of inclusion and equity? 

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More than an after school program. Neu-Life is so much more than an after school program. In addition to a longer-than-average staff retention rate, many of our staff are themselves former program participants! The result is a family-like climate where youth receive a well-rounded continuum of support, from academics to prevention and mentoring, from highly-trained staff who remain with the organization long enough to build long-lasting relationships - or "in-between between us" - with youth. 

Want to know more? If you want to know more about Neu-Life's unique relational youth care model and best practices, contact Executive Director Jody Rhodes.

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