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About the School of Child and Youth Care

Our mission   

Our mission, based on the fundamental values of social justice, is to prepare students to become activist practitioners who promote the rights of children and youth, enrich the everyday lived experience of young people facing adversity, and advocate with young people to improve organizations, systems and policies that impact young people in communities and institutional settings.

Our vision   

We envision the School of Child and Youth Care as a space that promotes the active engagement with diverse groups and that encourages inclusion of under-represented groups as students, instructors and faculty members in the effort to reflect the diversity of the child and youth care field and practice settings.

We are committed to enhancing innovation in our curriculum, student engagement, research, community relations and pedagogic approaches.

Fundamentally, we seek to establish ourselves as an internationally relevant, locally impactful, innovative, and authentic space for learning and for advancing the well-being of children and youth through excellent research, experiential teaching and modeling inclusion and transparency to the field of child and youth care at large.

A few highlights

  • 1989: The School of Child & Youth Care was launched at Ryerson University as the first degree-granting child & youth care program in Ontario. The School was created in response to growing demand from the child and youth care sector and the Toronto District School Board for advanced education in child and youth care. Under the direction of our founder and first director, Dr. Francis Hare, we offered a Part-time Degree Completion program, allowing students with a Child and Youth Worker Diploma to further their education
  • 1993: The first cohort of graduates from a degree program in Child & Youth Care in Ontario crossed the convocation stage.
  • 2002: Dr. Carol Stuart becomes the second Director of the School of Child & Youth Care.
  • 2006: Based on the initial success of the part-time program, we introduced a Full-time, Four-year program for high school graduates, under the leadership of our second director, Dr. Carol Stuart. In 2006, we welcomed our first 60 students into this remarkable new program. In the same year, we launched a Full-time, Direct Entry program and welcomed our first 36 students.
  • 2008:  Dr. Ted Dunlop becomes the School's third Director, moving from New Zealand to Toronto to once again take up an administrative leadership position as he had done across Canada for 25 years before relocating to New Zealand.
  • 2010: Our first cohort of students graduated from our Full-time, Four-year program.
  • 2013: Responding to growing student demand, we expanded our Four-year program intake to over 125 students and our Full-time, Direct Entry intake to 82 students per year, while still admitting part-time students, often studying at a distance.
  • 2014: Dr. Kiaras Gharabaghi becomes the fourth Director of the School of Child & Youth Care.
  • 2016: We launched a Master of Arts in Child and Youth Care, the first graduate program in Child & Youth Care in Ontario, and only the second graduate degree program in Canada. Our graduate students intensively explore theoretical and practice-oriented approaches related to young people facing adversity in myriad contexts.
  • 2020: Dr. Judy Finlay becomes the fifth Director of the School of Child & Youth Care.

Advancing distance learning

Throughout our history, we have provided students located outside of Toronto as well as local students with demanding employment with access to child and youth care education.

In 1989, we delivered our degree completion program through distance learning — relying on phone lines, mail and eventually fax. Over the years, we have integrated new technologies into online course delivery, so that today we preside over the most expansive online child & youth care curriculum in Canada.

Our Master of Arts in Child and Youth Care features online and hybrid course options beginning in the second term.

What is child and youth care?

Child and youth care is a professional field of practice that is focused on the relational engagement of young people facing adversities, as well as their families and their communities. Child and youth care practitioners provide therapeutic interventions for young people, their families and their communities where their lives unfold. While the everyday practice includes a strong emphasis on interpersonal and group interaction, child and youth care is also focused on advocacy for rights based practices and child and youth participation, and it unfolds within a broader context of anti-racism and anti-oppressive practices. In particular, child & youth care, as we construct it at Ryerson, is deeply committed to the principles and recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation, respect for land-based teachings and practices, and an acknowledgement of youth work as it unfolds across Indigenous and racialized communities often organically and reflective of community cultures and practices.

Workplace settings

Child and youth care practitioners have many opportunities in human service sectors, health care, policy and government, as well as advocacy. They can develop careers in local, national and global contexts. Some common settings for practitioners include:

  • Hospital-based eating disorder clinics
  • Psychiatric units or substance use programs
  • Community-based health clinics, service centres, recreational centres and others
  • Schools, special education, and outdoor education programs
  • Autism services and developmental services
  • Shelters, drop-in programs and street outreach
  • Foster care, residential care and residential treatment
  • In-home family support programs and walk-in mental health support clinics
  • Youth justice services, custody programs and alternatives-to-custody programs
  • Advocacy organizations, legal clinics and courts
  • Government ministries, professional associations and research settings
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Private practice and entrepreneurial activities

Overcoming adversity

Many young people, families and communities child and youth care practitioners encounter may have a wide range of experiences and social contexts that present challenges. Very often, marginalization and inequities associated with racism, trans-phobia, ableism, homophobia and other oppressions contribute to and even cause such challenges. As a result, child and youth care practitioners encounter young people and families impacted by inadequate and sometimes harmful social responses to:

  • Mental health
  • Substance use and addictions
  • Trauma, abuse and neglect
  • Family dynamics
  • Identity, cultural and spiritual uncertainties
  • Young people impacted by autism, FASD, developmental, neurological, psychiatric and regulatory processes

Allied professions and disciplines

While child and youth care is informed first and foremost by theories, concepts and practices that have evolved uniquely as part of the evolution of the discipline itself, there is a longstanding tradition of engaging allied professions and disciplines — such as teaching, nursing and social work —  for interprofessional and inter-disciplinary learning and growth. At Ryerson, we understand and are committed to the integration of critical perspectives informed by the ongoing histories of inequity and systemic marginalization of racialized communities, in particular First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples as well as African-Canadians and Afro-Caribbean Canadians.

Our faculty are leaders in the field. They pursue innovative research and social change projects that seek to advance the well-being and the rights of children and youth, their families and their communities. They regularly make important contributions to policy, practice and teaching, they often contribute to television, radio and web-based media, and they frequently take on activist academic endeavors.

Their high level of engagement and commitment creates meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities for our students. Together with our dedicated staff, they help our students achieve their goals.