What’s left in your top draw while your on Christmas holidays???

Every year in the lead up to Christmas I get so excited about the time off that I have coming up that everything takes its slow excruciating time to get completed. Projects need to be wrapped up, budgets reconciled and my desk tidied so that everything looks neat. In the final throes of my work week before Christmas I begin to be overwhelmed by the growing mountain of work which hasn’t been able to be completed. It is around this time that I sweep my desktop into my top draw and hope it all works out until next year. 
The danger of this way of ending things is that after all that work building relationships our young people end up as a burden to us getting to our holiday. We are in such a rush to get out of the office (and sometimes rightfully so) that any interruption or worry that come from our young people is seen as the end of the world. But what would happen to your young person if while you are on holiday they get thrown out of home, or they are caught up in a family violence, or they become pregnant, or, or, OR! What would happen if those worrying behaviours came to the fore? What if while you are living it up with family or at the beach or in the mountains their life begins to crumble? What did you do in the last few weeks before you went on holidays to provide for them in their time of need… the one Murphy said would happen when you weren’t there.
Throughout the world there are many different ways of handling this situation, from having someone in your team covering your cases to employing an independent agency to take over. Perhaps you work in a church setting and most families will be away as well who is there to help? Another pastor, a deacon or another family? The point is you need to have a plan in place for the young people who rely on you and your counsel. If your organisation has a plan great, follow it and hope all goes well while you are sipping a Mai Tai. If not you need a plan. Here is our plan!!! Its not fool proof, but it has worked well for us in the past.
  1. Assess risk
    • Write a list of your young people and use the basic traffic light system to rate how at risk you think they are (GREEN = No Risk, YELLOW = Some Risk, RED = High Risk). If your not sure about a case chat with your colleagues.
    •  If necesary you may even need to do a formal assessment. You may do a K10 or an  AISRAP assessment or if further assessment is required get them assessed by a qualified health professional. 
  2. Impliment a safety plan
    • For those who are assessed as YELLOW give them a couple of names, numbers or online supports they could contact eg. lifeline, kids help line or counselling online (You will need to develop a list of contacts in your area that meet this criteria)
    • If you assess a young person as RED you could do the same as with a YELLOW, however you also need to up the ante. You need to make sure that you have a conversation with the young person stating your concern. Ask them to make a list of five people they could speak with or go to if there was an issue that arose while you were away. Ask to refer them to a specialist organisation such as a mental health, drug and alcohol rehab or family violence service if you believe the risk to warrant ongoing supervision. Take them to their General Practitioner and discuss the options with them. If necesary you may even make a statutory report. Make sure you document all the steps you have made as to cover your backside if anything goes wrong… because even the best laid plans can go awry.
    The most important thing is to make sure that what ever is left in your top draw will survive the holiday break. Just as you would not leave a piece of fruit in the top draw you need to be sure the things you leave in the top draw will be ok while you are away. Once you have attended to all the cases needed and ensured that you have done the best you can to make sure nothing and no one is left un-aided you are able to have a good break. Knowing you have set plans in place for your clients helps you switch off and gives you the freedom to enjoy your break without worrying and thinking about what else you should have done. You cannot ensure anyone’s safety fully but you can put in place plans to protect it as best you can.
    Now that the draw is clean, left with just the keys you want kept safe, have a great break and we will see you after Christmas … We are having a break as well. No post next tuesday the 25th.

Merry Christmas and enjoy some family time.


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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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