Youth workers: write, do or do both.

The most well known youth workers world wide are often one of two types of people. They are either the academics who write something worth reading or they are the youth worker who does something spectacular that others write about. 

The academics are trying to write something that the youth worker on the ground can use to improve practice or develop the sector as a whole. They bring research and practice together within the pages of journals and textbooks and ask the reader to implement their ideas. Academics write to keep their jobs. They write to expand their influence. They write to frame the work of the youth worker on the ground.

The youth worker on the other hand is developing new programs, working with those delinquent young people the news is always talking about and living out action research. They are learning through doing. They are building relationships. They are developing a set of practice skills that are fluid and framed. They are the ones the rest of us look up to because they just seem to do the job so well.

These people either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. However I propose another group. Those who write something worth reading and do something worth writing about. There is a growing number of youth workers taking to writing about the ins and outs of this profession called youth work. They are doing some amazing work and writing about it. They blog, podcast and video their thoughts. They write for the common youth worker and the academic. They speak from the heart and from the data.

Where do you fit on the spectrum? Leave us a comment below.

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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Relational youth work.

I have been in contact with a youth worker lately who is currently writing a book about relational youth work. In our correspondence and discussions I have realised again the immense privilege and responsibility of youth work. Ours is a profession of relationship. Without the trust and respect that comes with the sharing of life youth work is nothing but case management. Relational youth work is at the core of great youth work. It is who we are as practitioners.
 
Today in a supervision session I encouraged a youth worker that her building relationships with severely disengaged young people was more important than trying to link them to employment options. This youth worker had heard the opposite. From managers and other service professional this woman had been told that relationships came second to KPI’s. Our work is being eroded by a neoliberalist agenda which focuses on outcomes and finances over relationship. If we allow our core work to be tainted by this agenda then we will continue to see our young people struggle.
Relational youth work
At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe so wholly in relationship that we added ‘deep engagement‘ to our pillars of practice. The short term solutions-focussed interventions that the government has been insisting on haven’t worked. The only way youth work ticks its KPI’s properly is if deep relationships underpin interventions. We need more engagement in youth work, not less. We need youth workers who reach out to young people with a focus on developing relationship before ticking boxes. We need more relational youth work. We all know this fundamental practice needs to become front and centre in our practice again.
 
What is one thing you can do to develop a stronger, deeper relationship with your young people this week? How can we become more relational in our work?
 

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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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We need older youth workers!

Youth work is an interesting profession. The vast majority of staff are under the age of 35. The average youth worker has worked in the sector for five years or less and it is as rare as hens teeth to find youth workers into their 50’s. Many years ago I heard a long term youth minister speak about the importance of having an age diverse youth workforce. Tim Hawkins, is that youth minister and as someone who has been in the gig for thirty odd years I think he is on to something.
We need workers who have experience and longevity in the field. We need some older workers with a lot of life in their years to strengthen the sector. We need the wisdom of experience.

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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We must change our thoughts in youth work.

Perception. It is what causes many of the issues I see every day. It is also something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. Whether it is our perception of our clients, others perceptions of us or our perception of ourselves; how we think about the world informs our actions within it.

In the therapeutic world this is something that has taken hold through therapies such as CBT and REBT which ask us to change our way of thinking about issues and situations. The paradigm of positive psychology echoes this also. How we look at our situation denotes how we will stand up to the issues we are facing.

Our world is hurting. It seems like every time I turn on the news some new atrocity has happened. People are being killed, raped, cheated and broken by their fellow man. When working with our young people we hear the stories of brokenness that encompass their lives. It would be easy to se the world as beyond hope.

For us to show the hope that the world needs we must first change how we think about it. May of those who know me best believe that I am an eternal optimist. When it looks like its at its worst I see hope. When I hear of people turning against each other I look to peace. When I see people hurting I look to restoration. This does not mean that I am blind to the current situation, on the contrary I am acutely aware. It meant that I am looking to the future and to hope.

I was not always like this however. When I was a teen myself I was a glass is half empty kind of guy. The world was against me and no one could tell me differently. I always saw the worst in a situation and in others and I suffered for it. We ask our young people to change their way of thinking every day. Perhaps for us as a profession to go to the next level we must change our thoughts as well. If we do we can change the world. 

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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Funding cuts to youth related programs

Funding cuts

In a funding coup which has not hit the youth sector like this before three national governments have combined to cut youth work funding programs across the board. In what has been seen by some in the sector as governments colluding in a neoliberal sting projects including education, homelessness and mental health are being hit In Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom by significant funding cuts.
 
In Australia the Abbott government today announced that all federal government funding for youth projects would end by June 2014. The hardest hit by this is the Australian Youth Affairs Council which has yet to receive any funding to continue as the national peak youth work body. Other programs which may be effected by this issue include Education, Employment and Training; Drug and Alcohol services, Mental Health service provision and camp programs.
 
In Canada the Harper Government is currently looking to scrap funding across the Child and Youth Work sector. First cuts are to university programs Including all major CYW programs and many Social work programs. They have also hinted to further cuts to social service education programs. Funding cuts to remote and rural youth services, fly-in fly-out services and out of school hours programs have all been reported to be on the cards.
 
In the United Kingdom extreme funding cuts to child protection by the Cameron government come on the back of decreased funding to youth centres and youth justice programs. Further cuts to outreach programs and youth homelessness projects have been tabled in parliament and are expected to take force by end of May.
 
Funding cuts
 
The saving grace to youth work in the developed world funnily enough comes from the United states where a massive increase to funding of Out of School Hours care just passed congress. Also a new program of youth social entrepreneurial ventures is being rolled out across 17 states including New York and Ohio.
If any of these program areas or funding issues affect you contact your local youth funding agency and tell them that you read this article on April 1st. If you have read this far we would like to say with a full and happy heart ARPIL FOOLS!

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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Professional development for Youth Ministers about youth work.

We know that a significant number of our readers are youth ministers who are seeking to develop a deeper understanding of young people and youth work. We commend this endeavour. One of the slurs thrown at youth ministry is that it is little more than games and coffees… We disagree wholeheartedly. Youth work in a church context has become more and more complex over the years. More youth ministry professionals have sought to bring the training of youth ministers in line with their secular counterparts injecting developmental and psychological understanding into the theological context. 

Over the last couple of years we have had the opportunity to support a number of youth ministries to develop their youth work capacity. Particularly, we have been involved with a movement of the Church towards relational based work with young people. Our work has been to provide a sounding board for ideas and a check and balance process when implementing them. We have also had the privilege of training a number of chaplains in supporting young people, mandatory reporting, suicide intervention and emergency management. These chaplains now have more training than the teachers and principals they work with in adolescent welfare. Over all we have seen a marked increase in training and professional development for those in youth ministry roles towards a more traditional youth work focus.

One group we have been keeping a keen eye on is the team at Youth Vision Victoria &Tasmania. YV, as they are fondly known, have spent a lot of their time developing youth ministers within the Churches of Christ denomination. YV run training and internships, regular professional development breakfasts as well as a number of programs for young people. One other thing that is put out is their quarterly journal ‘Youth Vision Quarterly’.

YVQ February 2014
In the latest edition two articles in particular stood out to me. The first by Mark Conner looks at self care for youth ministers. It could have come straight out of one of our posts on self care with the model used looking very familiar. I was glad to see self care being championed as this is an area that we are really passionate about. The second article by Keith Farmer looks at some of the transitions happening in ministry in Australia. One area that Keith illuminated was that of deeper relational focus in the work. This is also a huge area for youth workers to grapple with.

If you are a youth minister or an interested youth worker I highly recommend the work of the YV crew. Check out there website at http://vic.youthvision.org.au

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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‘I was told I wouldn’t have time for reflective practice when I qualified as a social worker’

I recently came across this great article from Community Care in the UK through a post by the amazing Teenage Whisperer, Sam Ross. Sam reminds us that good supervision and support to reflect on the work is of extreme importance… something that as a social work student and youth worker in Australia we seem to lack as well.

Check out the post from Community Care here:  ‘I was told I wouldn’t have time for reflective practice when I qualified as a social worker’

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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Ongoing professional development: Its all about your budget.

I have been in a number of agencies throughout my youth services career and only one of them had a written down budget for youth work professional development. In this organisation I had one of the largest budgets for professional development I had ever had… $1000. However in most organisations I worked in a professional development budget was at best ad hoc and at worse non-existent. 

I have heard of a number of ways to divide up a professional development budget and to tell you the truth I have not put much credence in most of them. How long you have been in the organisation? Your role requirements? Your agencies needs? None of them make any sense when you are talking about longevity in the field. When you want to develop workers to sustain your organisation and the sector you have to think outside the box, and for most organisations that means spending money.

In the mining industry here in Australia some of the best mines realised that they were losing workers because they had no reason to stay. The money was good, The work wasn’t to hard but still they were losing staff… Until they started putting money in the right place. They set up great internet, provided training opportunities and expected staff to develop themselves through courses. Everything from first aid to business development. It was open to the newest of staff and the long tremors. From the lowest paid to the highest paid. The expectation was that you did something.

At Ultimate Youth Worker we would love to offer an unlimited budget for professional development but like every youth organisation we have to balance our budget too. In our case we devote 3% of our yearly budget for staffing to professional development. If you earn $50,000 you have a professional development budget of $1,500. We ask our staff to develop a professional development plan that has some things for us as an organisation and some areas that they want to work on. If they want to work on something that is outside the purview of the work we do we ask them to demonstrate how it would support the work we do in the future. If it would support us or the sectors development we are happy to provide the finances within the 3%. We also offer employees further development above the 3% as needed however as a minimum that 3% is always in our budget.

What does your organisation do? Perhaps you can start providing a guarantee for your employees!  

Leave us a comment below!

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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The stupidity of calling youth work science will limit our effectiveness!

If I hear another person talk about the science behind youth work or the best-practice “research” that has been done I will scream. This pervasive discourse of youth work through a scientific lens, to the detriment of practice wisdom and individuality, will lead to the destruction of our sectors most central ideologies. 

Putting people in comfortable boxes has never been central to the work of a youth worker, until recently. To have clear diagnoses, a cookie cutter support plan and a “best-practice” set of interventions is the way of the medical, psychological and scientific sectors. There has been a lot written about the divide between the art and science of youth work with much more over the past decade focusing on the scientific. This does not take into account the the complexities that coalface youth workers deal with on a daily basis. “Becoming a professional when one’s discipline is people/young people requires more than technical knowledge; it requires a way of being that is relational, emergent, flexible, dialogic, participatory, and contextualised (Fusco 2013).

Youth work is a flexible, fluid profession. We have historically steered clear of generalising how we work with individuals as it limits our fluidity. We seek to support young people in their context with their individual needs. When we begin to use the frameworks of economic rationalism and the sciences to frame our practice we begin to see people view our practice wisdom and philosophy as weak hokum. Where science seeks fact and answers to problems, we seek to delve into the human condition through questions and journeying with our young people.

There is no doubt that the scientific has bolstered youth work. What we know of brain and psychosocial development has become integrated into our practice kitbag. But, there is a big difference between using the knowledge of a profession and subscribing to its framework and philosophy. If we allow governmental managerialism and our own inadequacies to force us to give up what makes us unique we will regret it.

Let us know your thoughts. Leave us a comment.

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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Is the professionalisation of our sector destroying the very foundation of youth work?

Thoughts on professionalisation

Over the last couple of days I have been re-listening to some of my favourite podcasts from c2ypodcast.  Two in particular grabbed my attention as the guests spoke about the failure of the professionalisation movement in light of youth work core principles. We have stated a number of times on this blog that the professionalisation debate is lacking and unhelpful at best. We believe that qualifications and metrics don’t make a professional… it takes passion, calling and a whole lot of work.
ProfessionalisationFirst up was Professor Dana Fusco who in discussing her amazing work “Advancing Youth Work: Current Trends, Critical Questions” spoke of the threat that certification of youth workers holds for youth work. The research for other professions appears to show that certification and professionalisation of other professions has not led to the recognition which we as youth workers are seeking. Dana’s discussion led me to think that the striving to become more professional in the human services sector has led to a watering down of youth work principles and practice wisdom.

The second conversation was with an elder statesman in the field of youth work, Dr. Gerry Fewster. Gerry spoke of how insidious and easy it is for us to fall into the trap of practicing just like other human services professions such as psychology or social work in a world which waters down our practice as youth workers. That our uniqueness and ability to work with young people in a fluid way is compromised by blindly following into the mire of professionalisation.

Neither of these professionals believe that youth workers should be less than highly professional. What they do argue is that by limiting the scope and practice of youth workers through managerialism and metrics whilst seeking to gain a better reputation is ludicrous.

Lets be more professional every day, but let us never give up that which makes us unique.

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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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