There are real opportunities in these non-traditional settings for schools of education to become involved. Two areas seem especially promising.
- Youth Work: Youth workers engage with families and children in a range of different settings, including group homes, foster-care placements, community-based organizations, correctional institutions, and a range of other settings. While some of these workers pursue degrees in social work, in my experience few are prepared for the specific jobs they are required to do.
- Child Care: Child care workers care for children in a wide range of settings. The national child care association has begun to require that these workers take courses for college credit and there is an increasing demand for college degrees. There is also a new national certification for child care administrators that requires 18 college credits.
Our department is currently expanding our offerings in both of these areas. We are working with the Youth Work Certificate program offered out of our university’s School of Continuing Education, since their courses are cross-listed with our department. And our department has always offered classes in child care, although this focus has been much reduced in recent years. Because of new college credit requirements for child care workers, we will be offering a number of new courses in the next few years. Interestingly, the base enrollment is coming from the University’s child care center, since they need these courses to meet the new requirements. But this will provide a base for us to draw in new interested students from around the city.
I believe these offerings will attract an even wider group of students who work in a diverse range of community-service organizations like homeless shelters, women’s shelters, health centers, neighborhood organizations, and other areas. While we already have many students with jobs like these, by including these new specific focuses in our marketing, I believe we will attract even more.
As I have argued before, these “educational” arenas that tend to fall through the cracks of other schools and departments offer possibilities for foundations departments around the nation. In many cases, our departments offer a unique focus on the social and community contexts in which these workers operate, while encouraging students to critique the oppressive aspects of the institutions that many youth find themselves confined to. Â