This article was originally published in the Arts Co-op Connect in Fall 2013.
Prior to returning to school to complete my degree in Criminology, I was making a living as a dog trainer. Studying animals and their behaviour, as well as guiding fearful and anxious dogs to a path of confidence is a fascinating and rewarding experience. When I saw the job posting from Capstone Youth and Family Services for a respite worker with at risk youth, I was drawn to it and felt that it could be a great fit given my background with animal training. While many cringe to have dog training compared to child rearing, it was the fundamental abilities required in each of these processes. that drew me to Capstone’s job posting, and them to me as an employee.
Capstone fosters at-risk youth in a home environment, offering the knowledge and guidance necessary to either reunite that youth with their family, or provide them with the skills they need to live independently. Patience, understanding, and an ability to remain calm in tense situations are all characteristics that serve as major assets when working with both animals and youth.
My role with Capstone is to support the foster parents in their overall goals with the youths during the 24-hour shifts in which I work, as well as maintain a structure as similar as possible to their typical routine. The kids attend school, do chores, engage in extracurricular activities, and spend time with the other residents of the home as a family. Activities are planned to keep them physically active, such as playing soccer or hiking; activities which emphasize learning or engaging them in these processes. It was no surprise to me that the greater complexity of the human brain would test me in ways that dogs could not; I too have learned a great deal during my first work term with this organization. One of the most valuable skills I am developing is the ability to confront and resolve conflict in an assertive manner. Open communication is a necessity due to the nature of living with youth who have identified behavioural challenges. When a conflict arises it is discussed and explored so that the youth can understand why they responded the way they did, and can learn how to react more productively in future situations. In addition to providing me with life skills, this experience is particularly relevant to my interest in a career in conflict resolution
Combined with having the opportunity to play a role in the positive development of young people, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to apply my studies to a work context with such a respectable organization.
Beyond the Blog
For more opportunities like Lesley's, visit the FASS co-op page!