Interview with Dr. Carol S. Kelly

by Vlad-Petre Glaveanu

Carol S. Kelly is a Professor Emeriti in Child and Adolescent Development at California State University Northridge. She has been honored for her teaching and mentorship of students including receiving the Outstanding Teaching Award from the University in 1995. She has served at USA representative to FICE, a UNESCO affiliated organization that supports children and adolescents at high risk. In this capacity, she has supported FICE Romania through presentations at the 1996 international symposia on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and at the 2005 International Conference on Children and Domestic and Community Violence. In addition she is on the FICE Romania Editorial Board. She was presented with the medallion of appreciation for the Romania International Federation of Educative Communities. Carol has also presented at many international conferences and has published in her field. She serves on the Board of the Association of Child and Youth Care Practitioners where she has been on national committees including National Certification of Child and Youth Care Professionals. She also serves on their editorial board.
Carol was a Senior Consultant at the United Nations in Vienna for the International Year of the Family in 1993. She worked at the international level as well as working with Hungry to prepare for this special year honoring families. Carol was director of a Peace Expo in 1989 in which over 60 community agencies, internationally know speakers shared with an audience of over five thousand participants including children and adolescents.
Her work reflects her goal of contributing to a less violent more peaceful world.

EJOP: What made you embrace your career working with children and youth?
Dr. Carol: Caring for and about children is a central part of who I am from childhood until the present. As the oldest of four children, I was involved in caring for my siblings which let to baby sitting. As I matured, I taught Sunday School, worked with Brownie Scouts, taught swimming, and was employed in other educational and recreation programs with children. My passion for learning resulted in beginning my career as a teacher of children and adolescents. As I worked with diverse populations, I increasingly understood the importance of child and adolescent development and counseling and guidance. I was particularly interested in children with challenges having opportunities to develop their potential. I continued my education in this realm. Working with a federal government National Defense Education Act program for innovations in education led to an offer to join the faculty at California State University Northridge. I was fortunate to be a central committee member to develop the Interdisciplinary Major in Child Development (now the Department of Child and Adolescent Development). The opportunity to teach and mentor university students in becoming professionals is deeply fulfilling. I view my career as developmental and look forward to the next phase.
EJOP: What are the main challenges you encountered in working with children and youth and how can a professional overcome them?
Dr. Carol: The need for educating the public, other professionals, legislators, those in the media, and the general public about the importance of children and adolescents being a priority is a major challenge. Key to meeting this challenge: Formally educating students and professionals to be expert advocates. Know how to use literature including research and personal stories to create change. For example, we offer a course in Child Advocacy. We just offered a high quality conference on child labor that included a powerful documentary followed by a panel of exerts and break out groups focused upon advocacy.
Lack of resources is a second challenge directly related to the above mentioned challenge. Children and adolescents are not a priority. There are inadequate resources allocated to meet their needs. Competent professionals who can collaborate with others including parents, legislators, attorneys, and the public is essential. The voices of children and adolescents need to be included.
A third challenge is networking effectively and using the media. The media can be a powerful voice for children at the local, area, national, and international levels.
Other challenges include lack of appropriate education of child and youth care providers, incompetent adults working with children and adolescents, low pay and inadequate benefits.
EJOP: Your mentoring work during the years included launching students’ careers. How would you describe the mentoring process and the role of the mentor in developing a career?
Dr. Carol: For me, mentoring is based upon an authentic caring professional relationship in which a mentor understands the background and goals of the student or alumni and provided support and creates opportunities and resources that enhances professional and personal development. There are clear boundaries, mutual respect, and honesty in the relationship.
EJOP: How would you illustrate a mentor student relationship and what makes it different from a teacher-student one?
Dr. Carol: Two examples illustrate mentor-student relationships I have been honored to have. A young Hispanic student was told shat she would never be able to achieve a degree in higher education. When I met her, I saw a very bright, capable, curious and determined young woman who wanted to make a difference in the world. I learned of her dreams and goals and worked with her to acquire a strong academic foundation, to research graduate schools for a “right match”, and to support completion of her applications. She was accepted into the children at-risk Master’s degree program at Harvard University. She then completed her Ph.D. at Columbia University and is now a researcher at RAND. As she says, “When I tell my family, colleagues, and friends I have had you a mentor for over 15 years, they are shocked”. It has been a very rewarding experience to see her flourish professionally, contribute to important research, and maintain our relationship.
An African American woman in a junior seminar was homeless, living in a shelter and raising twins were toddlers. I assisted her securing support needed for academic success including working with our Learning Disabilities Center and our Counseling Center. She was able to use the support offered by our University and focus upon her career goals. She was able to arrange high quality child care for her twins and eventually secured an apartment through a city housing project. She just completed her B.A. degree, has a position in her field, and plans to continue her education. She came to show me a newsletter from a local Housing Authority in which she was featured as a success story. This courageous woman is another role model for many which demonstrates one reason that mentoring is so fulfilling.
From my perspective, a teacher-student relationship focuses on the specific course goals, content, and evaluation. The teacher has an ethical responsibility to all students to facilitate academic success. The mentor relationship is a broader relationship ha includes career development and the professional and personal development that are a part of success.
EJOP: What can you tell us about the Interdisciplinary Program in Child Development, the program that you coordinated and that became a full-fledged academic department?
Dr. Carol: The Interdisciplinary Major in Child Development was created to meet a community need to provide education for those pursuing careers working with children and adolescents, primarily in early childhood education. The major drew from many disciplines including Psychology, Education, Pan African Studies, and Chicano Studies. The focus was and continues to be development being a foundation to enter a range of careers involving children and adolescents. The major continually grew in numbers of graduates, graduates contributing to community programs, and those successfully pursuing a wide range of graduate work. After several attempts, the program was approved to become a Department of Child and Adolescent Development with a new curriculum, more of our own courses, and increased faculty. Professional development for our faculty, assessment, collaboration across campus, and strong community partners are an on-going process to continue to strengthen our program and professional development of our graduates.
EJOP: Another program you participated in is Jumpstart. How would you describe the basis and results of this initiative?
Dr. Carol: Jumpstart is a national program that works with university work study students and the most at-risk young children in programs such as Head Start. There are two primary goals: early literacy and social competencies. While I was responsible for bringing this program to campus and implementing some innovations now adopted by the national program, I am no longer directly involved.
EJOP: You serve as a United States’ representative for the International Federation of Educative Communities (FICE). What can you tell us about this organization? What are the latest programs you are involved in as a FICE representative?
Dr. Carol: FICE is a UNESCO affiliated organization with a unique specific focus on children and adolescents at high risk (includes residential care, group homes, and street children).FICE has been a very rewarding aspect of my professional career. I have served FICE in several ways. I have had the opportunity to make plenary and workshop presentations at the FICE Congresses held every two years, work in specific countries including Romania (work on the U.N. Rights of the Child, international conference presentation, serve as an Editor for the Romanian FICE Journal), networking and providing resource information for FICE members in other countries, and serving as a liaison for USA and Canadian colleagues. Perhaps the most rewarding involvement has been providing opportunities for students with whom I work to work in the FICE Youth Conferences, and to present workshops.
EJOP: How is it possible to create a link between the activity of NGOs, government organizations, and community?
Dr. Carol: Links among NGO’s, government organizations, and communities need to be multi-faceted and muli- level. From my view, positive human relationships, clear mission statements and goals are imperative. Understanding that ALL have contributions to make and that collaboration is essential needs to guide. Often personal stories with supporting facts and research are powerful. Building upon individuals, groups, organizations with a STRENGTH BASE (we all have strengths), working at the grass roots level, using media effectively, and authentically realizing that we can all benefit from making children and adolescents a priority enhance links. The common denominator needs to be the safety, health, and education of children.
EJOP: How important is the experience as a volunteer for young professional wanting to work in the field of child and adolescent development?
Dr. Carol: The value of volunteering is dependent upon the motivation and the commitment of the volunteer and the quality of the program and the supervision. Certainly, having an experiential understanding of development is very important. I differentiate between volunteer work and supervised fieldwork or internships. Both have important contributions to make in professional development. Key is a high quality experience is learning to apply theory to practice and have theory guide practice.
EJOP: What are the qualities that you consider crucial to a person working in the field of education and youth care?
EJOP: Among the qualities one who works with children and youth should have are the following:
Dr. Carol: Professional competencies including developmental theory and application of theory to practice, being able to provide and receive constructive criticism well.
Professional behavior is essential and includes strong communication skills, ethical based behavior, ability to work with diverse cultures, on-going professional development, ability to collaborate, advocacy skills, a commitment to make a positive difference, and ability to use resources well.
Personal qualities are certainly important and include being self-directed, having a passion for your work/wanting to make a positive difference in the lives of children and adolescents, reflective, and the ability to deal well with stress and taking care of personal issues and situations that impact professional work.
EJOP: What advice do you have for the students that are interested in building a career in education and school psychology?
Dr. Carol: Be clear about what your professional goals are and why. Follow your heart, know your passion … where you wan to make a difference. Become educated about the career including requirements such as licenses or credentials, and learn where you can gain needed education and requirement. Work with one or more mentors. Network both formally and informally. Professional organizations are excellent sources of current information and provide opportunity to network and develop leadership skills. Learn how to identify resources and use resources well. Document your achievements. Be open to constrictive criticism. Learn to read the professional literature and understand the research and what it means in working with children and adolescents. Be a risk-taker with thoughtful preparation, learn from mistakes (we all make them), acquire stress management skills that work well for you, take time for your self, family, and friends, have support of family and friends.