Peer support is key to youth work longevity.

Today, I had the pleasure of a lunch with a good friend and supporter of the work of Ultimate Youth Worker. A manager of a local government youth service and a canny outlaw I was enthralled in our conversation. We spoke about children, sociology, government policy, raising families and much much more. We spoke for nearly two hours and could have spent another two quite easy. We spoke about life in the good and bad and in the end we parted more strengthened and enthused in our walk.
 

Peer support is essential

 

It is these type of encounters that keep us going as youth workers. When colleagues share life together it takes our relationship from mutual employee to friend and confidant. It is the ability to share our joys and our fears that make these relationships so important. We must go beyond just peer reflection. Unfortunately, most organisations do not foster this relationship development. Managers and HR stress that as people we are only there doing the work to hit KPI’s. It is this lack of relationship building which confirms in many of us the need to leave our employer.
 
In my work throughout the sector I have been stoked to find such support and friendship from many people. We may only catch up once or twice a year or we may meet weekly but always we encourage an build one another up. We look out for each other, support each others projects and dream of the next big thing. Over the past two years I have also began to build an international group of peers who also do this. We Skype. We email. One day we will even meet face-to-face.
 
Get some peer support. It may require you to reach out. To be uncomfortable. To trust another. For your longevity you need good support networks. 
 
Who are the people in the sector who support you?
Let us know so we can celebrate them.

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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Become more educated: Youth work longevity requires it!


Over the past few years I have had the privilege of educating youth workers in a number of educational facilities throughout Victoria. I see highly passionate people with a clear understanding of the sector that they want to work in. I also know over 50% of them will not be in the sector in two years! As a qualified teacher in the TAFE system I know what the training package says should be taught to youth workers completing a certificate four or diploma course. I also know how lacking the courses are. The average youth work course is not equipping future youth workers to work effectively with young people in the current climate.

One of the biggest issues facing the future of youth work in Australia and throughout the world is lack of education. In Australia over 50% of youth workers have a certificate four (a one year course) or less. There are a large number unqualified people in our sector. Qualifications are a key indicator of intention to stay in the sector and they are an indicator of the level of support a young person can expect.

I know many unqualified people who provide great service to young people and I know they would all be even more exceptional with some qualification. I know many youth workers who have qualified with a one, two or three year qualification who need to get more qualifications. I know PhD holders who need more education. Read a Book. Do a short course. Get a lateral qualification. Educate yourself more! Read a youth work journal. Attend a conference or a webinar. Listen to a podcast. Educate yourself. 

It costs money but ignorance will cost you more.

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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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Why should a youth worker have supervision?

In the AYAC National Youth Work Snapshot 2013 a survey of youth workers showed that 8.4% of surveyed youth workers had never had a supervision session and around 51.7% receive it less than once every three months. As an industry that claims professional status this is appalling. It is no wonder that the sector in Australia turns over staff at 23% every year. Supervision is important to staff retention.
 
The best supervisors I have had came from both ends of the qualification spectrum. One was a qualified Social Worker with over a decade of experience who regularly attended courses on supervision. The other was a Youth Worker who had no qualifications but was an avid reader of supervision texts and attended every professional development opportunity focused on supervision. The skill set that both of these supervisors had in common was an eager appetite to better their own practice as supervisors and a great ability to listen and reflect. The styles they used were different, the theoretical focus wide and varied and the outcomes specific to the needs of myself and my clients. Supervision is important to staff development.
 
But why should we have supervision sessions in the first place?
 
Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice”.
 
The short answer is supervision gives us time to reflect and develop our skills to become the best we can be!
 
The longer answer is that there are at least three distinct spheres to supervision that need to be addressed in each session for effectiveness: understanding the field of practice and how it applies to your tasks, personal support and affect regulation, and the administrative elements to your work within your organisation. As an external supervisor we add the element of professional skills development to this as well.
 
The largest cause of burnout within our sector is that of psychological distress. Using supervision sessions in the formats above creates an opportunity for minimising the distress and maximising longevity in the field. Supervision provides a conduit for communication on specific issues relating to the causes of youth worker burnout. It asks us to be open and responsive to the issues while learning and developing our skills.
 
Supervision is key to success and longevity in youth work.

Apply for supervision today

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 youth work supervision environment: importance of neutrality

The supervision environment is important to staff uptake

All to often I hear from youth workers that they don’t want to do supervision sessions. The concerns range from the classic ‘it would breach confidentiality‘ to the obscure, ‘it doesn’t fit well with my existential philosophy‘. The main reason we hear is that staff don’t feel comfortable. Whether meeting with their manager or an external provider the staff member must feel comfortable with the supervision environment. 

Many staff feel that supervision sessions with their manager are really uncomfortable. The meetings are usually had in the managers office with all the managers stuff on the desk and a mountain of paperwork which needs to be dealt with beside the computer. The manager says they are 100% engaged in the session while looking over the pile of paperwork and listen to their staff intently while the email toast pops up on their computer screen.

In the case of external supervisors if they come to your office to work with you or your staff, using the store room as a spare office does not make anyone feel like this is a worthwhile session. If you go out from the office you have issues of privacy and confidentiality. If you go to the external supervisors office they should have a space which is dedicated to sessions like this.

Your environment for the supervision session is really important! If the staff member does not feel comfortable then they will not be open to challenge and change. It needs to be an area that does not have too many distracting qualities and gives the person attending a feeling of safety and warmth.

A bad supervision environment
Would you prefer this?
A good supervision environment
or this?

 

Apply for supervision today

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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Seven things a manager needs to know about internal supervision?

You should be doing internal supervision

As a youth worker who managed staff one of the areas I spent a lot of my time doing was internal supervision sessions. I saw that my staff needed the opportunity to discuss cases in depth, gain professional skills and a framework for organisational administrative procedural work. These staff liked the idea of having an open door but the most productive work happened through our supervision sessions.
Unfortunately, many youth work managers have been promoted into management without gaining any training in supervising staff. They remember the support they received and then give the same to their staff… nothing. But if no one has shown them what to do we can forgive them for not supporting their staff. But no longer. Here are the top seven things a manager needs to know about supervising their youth work staff. 

  1. More communication is better. These sessions are a way of not only speaking about their practice but building a relationship with your staff member. Many managers believe that they are communicating a lot with their staff… you could triple it and it still wouldn’t be enough. In the words of Steven Covey, ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood’. 
  2. You speak for the organisation in all things. As a manager you have role power. It is written all over your face. When you speak to your staff you are speaking with all the authority of your organisation. When you encourage it is like the board has given encouragement. When you admonish they see the CEO getting ready to fire them. Be aware that in their eyes you are the organisation!
  3. Have a best practice framework for the session. In youth work there has not been a lot written about frameworks for professional supervision. In the social work setting there has been quite a lot. Whether you use Alfred Kadushan’s model or another… use a model that has been tried and tested. 
  4. Have an agenda. This is a business meeting like any other. It requires an agenda! What case do you want to work through? What policy do we need to analyse? Is there an organisational framework for the work we do? Whatever you choose as your model for practice will frame your agenda.
  5. One hour EVERY fortnight. Consistency is key. You need to do these sessions regularly with your staff. We recommend every fortnight. when you start it will seem like a lot… but give it time. Even if you are travelling for work use Skype or the phone tot have your session. I was a way at a conference not long after taking on my first managing gig. When I told my staff that we would still be doing our sessions they were amazed. It shows that you care about them.
  6. Its about your staff member. These sessions are not a time for you to reminisce about the good old days when you were on the frontline. They are not for you to sprout from the font of all knowledge. They are all about your staff! What are they struggling with? What do they need to know? What is the best way to deal with the issue they have? Overarching your model of supervision is the fact that it is all about your staff development.
  7. You need to be more knowledgable than your staff. If you know less than your staff then you are in trouble. Read a book. Do a course. Get your own external supervision. In the sessions your staff will expect that you can lead them through the maze of case work to pop out the end with their objective well in hand. You need to know what you are doing! If you don’t you may want to look at contracting an external supervisor.
If you follow these seven steps you will be more effective than the average youth work manager by leaps and bounds.

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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Chaplains in schools: A youth workers thoughts

Chaplains in schools

One of the most contentious issues in youth work today is funding. We don’t have enough money and we don’t have enough positions. So when the Australian federal government released their budget last month an a number of youth work programs were defunded the sector cried out. One area that was at the forefront of the attack was the Government’s decision to remove funding for some school welfare staff who were funded under the National School Chaplaincy & Student Welfare Program. The Government decided to revert to an earlier version of the program which solely funded chaplains and not welfare workers. 

Many of the comments that have been floating around the ether have painted a picture of religious right winged fanatics taking over student welfare. Most of all they paint a picture of untrained, unqualified proselytisers who will damn us all to hell. To put it quite bluntly the public is being grossly misinformed. If your argument is about the ideology of having religious people in student welfare positions that is a very different discussion than the one about their ability and qualifications. Here are a few thoughts our Executive Director shared this morning.

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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Just try… your doomed if you don’t!


Many of my clients over the years have been doomed by inaction. In many cases it has not been that they lack ability to continue education, stay out of jail, develop social relationships etc. It is that they lacked the self esteem to even try. They had heard for so long how useless they are that eventually they believed it. When you believe something so negative about yourself you don’t even try… especially if there is even the slightest chance of failure.

I have also seen this method at use by many youth workers. In their work they fear failure so much they don’t event try with some clients. With their clients they look at the initial referral and see the too hard basket. They see clients that no one else has made a difference to. They see the difficult path ahead and it is too much. The way to save time, effort and disappointment is to not try at all.  

When it comes to career they don’t want to be disappointed there either. They have completed some level of qualification and struggled through and now are scared for life. Any more study seems like a recipe for failure. They don’t do professional development planning. They don’t look at the future with excitement but bitter disappointment. Failure seems like the only way forward so they don’t even try.

When we look to the future and see difficulties and troubles it is only natural to shy away. Fear is a natural state of mind. But, if we let that fear rule us and dominate our thinking it leads to inaction. If we do not act we are doomed to fail before we even start. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. You will be disappointed if you do.

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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Youth workers need to be in the online space.

Over the past few weeks I have had dozens of conversations around why youth workers and their services need to be using social media. Over the course of my career I have worked in organisations who at best dabbled in using social media and at worst kept it a good arms length away from core business. As youth workers we need to be where the young people are… online!

Recently, I was reading a post on why CEO’s need to be on social media. It is not a job for the pimple covered volunteer intern but the CEO!!! Basically the organisations reputation is on the line and it is up to the head of the organisation to keep that reputation positive.  



As youth workers we need to be on social media. We need to be there for the same reasons we do outreach and run youth centres. We need to be fully aware of the role and the boundaries of youth work in the virtual environment. We need to remember all our youth work skills are transferable to the online world. We need to blog, Facebook, tweet and whatever else comes along.

What are you doing in the online space?

If you need support touch base and we will see what we can do!

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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Youth work needs to rid itself of its inferiority complex.


Over the years no other issue in youth work has bugged me more than the discussions about how we need to become more like other professions. For the most part it is a discussion about what we are not as youth workers. It says what we do not do. It says we are inferior to other professions.

We hear it every day as youth workers. Our clients are referred to “professionals” because we aren’t trained enough, aren’t qualified enough or just plain don’t know enough. These professionals look upon us with the same condescension that people aim at well meaning children who are overly excited. They tell us how much we don’t know about young people from their perspective and why they are indispensable to our young people. And we look at them with wide doe eyes and a knowing glance that says they are right. We are inferior.

The academy has told us for years that youth work as it stands is inferior.

Our colleagues have told us how inferior our work is.

We have told ourselves how inferior we are.

For youth work as a profession to take the next step we first need to stop comparing ourselves to others. Comparison leads to inferiority. We are a stand alone profession with our own knowledge base and a rocking way of supporting young people that others can only dream about.

Inferiority only comes if we allow it… so lets stop it.

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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What are you struggling with at the moment?

Every so often I like to take the pulse of the people I serve. I want to know what is going well. What is happening in their organisations. Most of all I want to know what they are struggling with at the moment!

We are here to support youth workers and the organisations they work for. Your struggles are our struggles and if there is something we can do to stand in the gap for you we will. 

What are you struggling with at the moment?

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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