The Unity Through Relationship Conference takes place in
Dublin, Ireland in November for some time now. In 2016,
three members of the board of the Council were able to
attend along with others. This is one of the friendliest
conferences noted for its warmth and hospitality. It also is a
great excuse to take a trip to Ireland, a land fabled for its
history, landscapes and whiskey. This page will introduce or
even remind some to make plans toward the end of summer
to attend this wonderful event.
Pennie Sibbald writes about her experience of the
Jeff Reid, Kelly Shaw and Pennie Sibbald 2016
Unity 2016, Dublin, Ireland – Canada CYC Represents!!
Who better to embrace the chilly winds of Ireland in November than a bunch of Cannucks? This was certainly reflected in the
over many years.
The conference theme was Disruption, Trauma and Impact on Mental Health: Exploring Relational Responses. The keynotes,
plenary sessions and multiple workshops were thought provoking and insightful. There was an excellent representation of many
lenses from which to view trauma in the field of Child and Youth Care. We were challenged with questions such as “What is
trauma?, “How do you minimize the lasting effects if it?”, and even “What is the effect of over-using “trauma and traumatized” in
Representation from Canadian presenters alone offered many different trauma-related perspectives to ponder. Dr. Thom Garfat
opened with his Keynote presentation, setting the stage for the use of relational strategies to engage traumatized youth. The
sessions that followed for the most part fell into what we felt to be one of three areas; the provision of services to traumatized
persons, the best practices in staff development and leadership for those providing the services or identifying the needs of
students that are preparing for service provision. And again, the Canadian presenters covered all three.
offered his expertise on trauma and FASD. Jenny McGrath of Alberta, in
collaboration with her Irish counterpart Dr. Ashling Jackson, did a session on
the traumatization of social disadvantage. Dr. Patricia Kostouros , also of
Alberta, presented on the use of the Corry Keyes and the potential of
incorporating the model in residential care to meet the needs of traumatized
Under the staff development umbrella, Catherine Smey Cardston, Alberta, was
not present but did contribute to Ireland’s Cathy Jones’ session regarding
putting the “care” back into social care and child and youth care through the
use of leadership. Representing the Child and Youth Care Association of
Alberta, Michelle Briegel and Pennie Sibbald presented on the importance of
education, certification, professionalization and legislation of Child and Youth
Care in meeting the very specialized needs of traumatized children and families.
Aurorra De Monte and Rachel Charles, both of Ontario, presented on vicarious
traumatization and burnout in Child and Youth Care roles.
The importance of CYC student wellness was impressed upon participants by
Canadian presenters as well. Jeff Reid and Kelly Shaw spoke of their work with
the Nova Scotia Community College CYC program, identifying that educational
institutions need to provide purposeful activities and support in order to
minimize the trauma associated with exposure to our field while navigating ones
own disruption and life changes. Dr. Pat Kostouros, in her second session,
discussed the possibility of traumatizing students while, ironically, trying to
prepare them for the experiences they will likely face while in the field of Child
and Youth Care.
relational practice in engaging traumatized indigenous
youth in the 4D program in Cambridge Bay, Nunavit. And
these were just the Canadian contributions! By no means
did we outshine our international peers, however. There
was a multitude of inspiring presentations from around
Fittingly, the Unity through Relationships conference was
just that. The more intimate size, the venue location and
amazing hospitality enabled participants to connect and
collaborate. Everywhere you turned people were sharing,
challenging, debating, and most importantly, feeling that
our world is really not so big. We face many of the same
challenges and want the same outcomes- the best
services we can provide and the hope that we can
support the healing of those with whom we work.
Our CYC worlds can sometimes feel quite isolated - most
of us work, in some capacity, with the marginalized
children and families. These are often some of the most
troubled and traumatized people in our communities. Yet
much of this work goes unrecognized by the general
public. When we can gather as like-minds, unified in
purpose, sharing expertise and hope, we are no longer
isolated and our voice can be heard.
Thank you to the organizers of Unity 2016. It was a