Child and Youth Care Worker

Child and youth care workers work to improve the physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of vulnerable children, youth and families.

Also Known As:Caregiver, Child Care Professional, Community Support Worker, Youth Care Worker
NOC Number(s):4212
Minimum Education:1 year post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to above average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:S M i

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


Child and youth care workers may work with young people who are:

  • temporarily housed in government or private homes, agencies, treatment centres or group homes
  • involved in community youth programs, recreational programs,early intervention programs, family support or foster care programs, or school based programs.

In general, child and youth care workers:

  • establish trusting and meaningful one-to-one relationships with children, youth and families
  • implement strategies such as planned daily activities, coordinated treatment interventions, structured environments, and organized recreational and social activities
  • help individuals and families identify personal strengths and resources for positive change
  • help develop and implement individual and group treatment programs
  • respond effectively to acts of aggression and depressive, destructive or self-injurious behaviours
  • act as a resource for individuals and their families
  • engage in behaviour management, safety and security programming for young people in residential centres
  • complete written documentation.

Child and youth care workers often work as part of a team of social workers, psychologists, recreation therapists, foster care workers, teachers and other professionals. They help integrate the efforts of all these specialized professionals with children, youth and families who may be experiencing emotional or behavioural challenges. Due to their on-going close involvement with children, youth and families, child and youth care workers are in an ideal position to help these individuals to be advocates for themselves and to take responsibility for their actions.

The number of individuals or families assigned to each worker varies depending on the needs of the individuals and families and the type of services being offered.

Working Conditions

Child and youth care workers may be required to work shifts (days, evenings and sometimes nights, seven days a week). The work can be physically and mentally demanding, and may require physically restraining young people.

Personal Characteristics

Child and youth care workers need the following characteristics:

  • excellent written and oral communication skills
  • decision making and problem solving skills
  • the desire, ability and maturity required to engage in intense therapeutic relationships with children, youth and families
  • the ability to be reliable and consistent
  • the flexibility and creativity required to adopt new ways to do things
  • the ability to work in a team environment with children, youth, and families, and other professionals.

They should enjoy working with young people and families, keeping in touch with others involved in the helping process, and finding innovative solutions to problems.

Educational Requirements

Child and youth care workers must be familiar with the developmental, and educational, emotional, social and recreational needs of young people as well as the family system. Employers generally prefer to hire applicants who have related post-secondary education, preferably a diploma or degree in child and youth care or a related social science or human services degree. Previous work experience with young people is a definite asset. In some settings, knowledge of native culture and language may be required.

Two year child and youth care diploma programs are offered throughout Alberta. Articulation agreements to degree programs, both within Alberta and in other provinces, have been set up between post-secondary institutions and provide smooth transfer for those wishing to continue their education into a bachelor or master's degree. The following institutions offer programs that are specifically related to child and youth care:

  • Columbia College, a private vocational school in Calgary, offers a 50 week Human Services diploma program. Admission requirements include successful completion of the Educational Assistant Certifiate program offered by Columbia College or equivalent. Contact the school for the specific entrance requirements for the diploma program.
  • Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton offers a four year Bachelor of Child and Youth Care degree program. Applicants must have a minimum overall average of 65 per cent (with no course grade lower than 50 per cent) in English Language Arts 30-1, Social Studies 30 and three other courses chosen from specified eligible courses. 
  • Lakeland College in Vermilion offers a two year Child and Youth Care diploma program. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with at least a 65 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1 (or 80 per cent in ELA 30-2).
  • Lethbridge College offers a two year Child and Youth Care diploma program. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1 (or 70 per cent in ELA 30-2), Social Studies 30 (or 70 per cent in Social Studies 33) and one other 30 level course, or equivalent. The College also offers a one year Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Education certificate program.
  • Medicine Hat College offers a two year Child and Youth Care Counsellor diploma program. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1 (or at least 70 per cent in 30-2), and at least 60 per cent in one 30 level subject and three Grade 12 subjects (maximum of five credits of CTS courses) or equivalent.
  • Mount Royal University in Calgary offers a two year Child and Youth Care Counsellor diploma program. The entrance requirement is a minimum of 19 years of age and a high school diploma with at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, or equivalent. Mount Royal also offers a four year applied degree program in Child Studies. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1, Social Studies 30 and three other appropriate Grade 12 subjects.
  • Rocky Mountain College, a private vocational school in Calgary, offers a four year BA in Human Services degree program with a specialization in Child and Youth Care. Contact school for specific entrance requirements.

Admission or practicum experience requirements may include a personal interview, medical immunization records and testing, first aid training, volunteer experience or criminal record and Child Intervention Record System checks. Post-secondary institutions may give students credit for prior learning. For information about mature student admission policies, please check institution calendars or websites.

In addition to formal education programs, most child and youth care employers offer orientation training for newly hired employees.

Section revised December 2013

Related Legislation
The Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta offers a certification program for child and youth care workers. Certification is not mandatory in this occupation but it may be asset when seeking employment.

Employment and Advancement

Child and youth care workers are employed by:

  • provincial government departments
  • school boards
  • private agencies (for example, residential treatment programs, group homes, family support and independent living programs)
  • community programs (for example, emergency shelters, community leagues, schools, after-school programs, recreational programs).

Experienced child and youth care workers may advance to supervisory positions. Further advancement generally requires additional education.

Child and youth care workers are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 4212: Community and Social Service Workers. In Alberta, 85 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 12,000 Albertans are employed in the Community and Social Service Workers occupational group which is expected to have an annual above average growth of 3.3 per cent from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta. It is forecasted that about 396 new positions will be created each year in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. (Note: Since child and youth care workers form only a part of the larger occupational group on which this forecast is based, only a portion of the new positions created will be for child and youth care workers.)

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013


According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Community and Social Service Workers occupational group earned on average from $18.53 to $23.12 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $20.87 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website:

Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta (CYCAA) website:

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website:

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Social Worker

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; and Health, Recreation and Human Services (Human and Social Services)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies; and Social, Community and Protective Services

Produced January 2012
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services