Police records and public perception: Youth work with conviction

Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with a number of young people who have had run ins with the justice system. Many of these young people have had people look down on them because of their infringements. A number of them have since become youth workers.
Over the last couple of years we have had a number of inquires and inquests into the abuse of young people in care in Victoria. It never fails that there was a lapse in organisational protocols that let someone with a record into a place of trust who then abused their role. However, for every one person who causes trouble hundreds more go about their job with honour. The issue however is that the public view and society more broadly is that if you have a police record you are not worthy of being placed in a position of trust. We are a species which seeks retribution rather than restoration.
This of course leads to issues in youth services as we believe strongly in the restoration of people, the focus on strengths and the ability for people to choose their own destiny. It is also an issue as many youth workers come from having been troubled youth themselves! I think we would be surprised to see how many youth workers had some sort of record.
To attempt to negate the negative we have instituted a number of safeguards including a Working With Children Check and Police Check to screen potential youth workers for their appropriateness. However, if you went by the general recommendation a person with a record would still not be able to get a position, whether your offence was superficial or serious. As an employer I have employed youth workers with and without police records. The seriousness of their offence is always one of my first questions but if it is a minor offence I am know to have a discussion.
I remember sitting in a court room when a Judge told a young man who was about to start a youth work course that he was an idiot for his infringements. The Judge told the young man that with his background and his knowledge of the justice system he would make a great youth worker. That was over a decade ago and I have had to deal with the fallout of a stupid decision ever since. Many youth workers are in the game to help young people stay on the straight and narrow and hopefully not head down the path that they trod.
Youth workers need passion and conviction. A conviction against their name is not necessarily a reason to exclude someone from becoming a youth worker. As with most things that develop an Ultimate Youth Worker its all about character. Whether you have a record or not I will not employ a youth worker if they can’t show character. If you have a police record let people know, show them your character. If you are hiring and a person states that they have a record have a discussion, see if their character is a fit for your organisation. Above all be transparent.

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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  1. Great article, Aaron. Often it is those with direct experience of living in social deprivation that can bring the most to a youth worker role, even if they have served time. They can become powerful role models for young people who want to make good, especially if they’re from the local area.

  2. Thanks for the comment guys. Experience when tempered makes for phenomenal youth workers. Love the work you are doing in Scotland. Keep up the great job and stay in touch.

  3. Pingback: Youth work with a criminal record - Ultimate Youth Worker

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