I was in a youth advisory committee meeting for a local council last week and we asked each young person what issues they are passionate about. One of the answers really stood out to me, a young person said “I am passionate about recognising and understanding my privilege and using it to give a voice to those less fortunate than me”. How many 14 year olds do you know that can reflect so deeply on a topic such as privilege? I was astounded and inspired.
This got me thinking.. when have I been required to be critically reflective about myself and my work? Whilst there is some reflective practice involved in team meetings, supervision (that’s a whole other story in itself) and trainings, I don’t recall a time where the main focus was on critical reflective practice. With this in mind I decided to get in touch with you, our Ultimate Youth Worker community, and find out what your thoughts are on reflective practice.
Here are some of the responses:
“Youth Workers should use this process to talk about the things that are affecting you personally. What has been a situation with a client that are made you uneasy, or made you frustrated or angry, or made you nervous, or that you have ‘hit the wall’ with a client. You should unpack that and get in touch with what is going on, it will help you.”
– Paul McDonald, Anglicare Victoria.
“Reflective practice is extremely important in youth and social work to avoid experiencing vicarious trauma. A few years into my career, I worked with a particular family that caused me to suffer vicarious trauma. I was young myself and their story was particularly harrowing and frustrating. I wasn’t in the headspace, both professionally and personally, to truly acknowledge how this situation was affecting me. I had one-on-one supervision but at that time it wasn’t adequate, and I would stay late every day, long after everyone else had gone home. After many months of this, the trauma seeped into my personal life and eventually I realised what was happening. As my career has progressed and I have now managed a team, I see the vast importance of reflective practice, both individually and as a group/team.
Within our team and site, we have one-on-one supervision, group supervision with a child psychiatrist, group supervision with an occupational therapist who is a child trauma specialist, as well as practice reflection as a site. These are absolute non-negotiables now and are compulsory for all required staff to attend. The work we do is tough, and without these safe spaces to be able to reflect on what we do and how we do it, as well realise how our work affects us, we cannot do the best work for the people we support.”
– Sammy Hoppe, Launch Housing.
It’s great to see positive comments on reflective practice, it goes to show that there are some structures and processes out there that work really well to support staff in their personal and professional development. However I have come across a large number of youth workers who express the opposite concerns about the support they are getting with regards to reflective practice. In our experience at Ultimate Youth Worker, we find that this is partly due to a lack of a clear model for critical reflective practice for youth workers. One particular model that we find effective in our practice is Jan Fook and Fiona Gardiners framework for critically reflective practice, outlined in their book ‘Practicing Critical Reflection’.
In short, the framework is broken down into three phases and is usually facilitated in small groups, but it can also be used in a one-on-one setting. Firstly, the participants are asked to go through the process of ‘unsettling assumptions’. In this stage, the participant is asked to reflect on their practice and how it is affecting them, but they are also asked to unpack their assumptions based on their social and cultural context. The reason the term ‘unsettling assumptions’ is used is to ‘shake up’ the thinking of the participant in a way that they start to experience a degree of discomfort and explore hidden assumptions that they normally wouldn’t. Which in a supportive and clinical environment can foster greater and deeper learning. The second phase focuses on linking the learnings from the previous stage with theory and practice relevant to the individual and their work. In the third phase, which we argue is potentially the most neglected part of reflective practice, the participant goes through the process of linking their changed awareness with changed actions. This third phase is the most important part of reflective practice.
In their book, Fook and Gardiner state that “The climate and culture of the critical reflection process are probably as important as the tools and techniques used.” They continue by describing how important it is for the facilitator to create an environment where participants acknowledge the potential pain, risk and vulnerability involved with reflecting. I would love to say that I’ve had such a detailed and structured reflective practice session in my years as a youth worker, but unfortunately this is not the case. A story that I’m sure is all too familiar. What are your thoughts on this model? Would you want it to be implemented in your workplace? Share your comments in the section below.
I remember when I first started as a youth worker. I knew that ethics were important, that they underpinned the work that I did and that a youth work code of ethics existed in Victoria. However, being the gung-ho youth worker that I was, I was more interested in diving head first into the nitty gritty stuff rather than sitting down and dissecting how a code of ethics might better inform my practice. Over the years I have spent a lot of time reflecting on and refining the work that I do and this has led me to spend a lot more time developing a more rounded and ethical approach to my work. Whilst I would argue that I naturally act within an ethical framework, it can be helpful to know the “guidelines” set out by the industry professionals in your area. This is where a code of ethics comes into play. Having a code of ethics can guide you in the right direction with regards to professional development, increase your longevity in the field and help you to fully understand your roles and responsibilities on a micro and macro scale.
Earlier this year we spoke with Professor Howard Sercombe about his work developing a youth work code of ethics in Australia. I’ve listened to it and summarised a few key learnings that I drew from it, however I do encourage you to listen to the podcast and then have some discussions with your colleagues about the information raised. Here is what stood out for me;
Whilst we can perform our job ethically without necessarily having a code of ethics written down, having it written down allows us to be more conscious of the work we do and why we do it.
It gives us a common language to use with each other and allows us to define ourselves and our role to other professionals.
There is no nationwide code of ethics. Some states are opposed to a code of ethics, however those states that do possess a code share ones that are similar in their makeup.
A code of ethics is not a list of rules. Youth Work is such a broad field and the circumstances we face are so varied that having one set of rules would not work.
A code of ethics can be described as “terms of engagement”; core principles that govern our overall approach to working with young people.
With this mind, I have taken some of the key responsibilities from “The Code of Ethical Practice for the Victorian Youth Sector” and outlined ways in which they inform my day to day practice as a youth worker. The Victorian Youth Work Code of Ethics states that “The youth work practice responsibilities describe key elements of what youth workers do when guided by the youth work principles. They are the essence of youth work practice and are important in youth workers fulfilling their responsibilities. The youth work practice responsibilities are not placed in order of importance, but are all of equal value”.
Young People as the Primary Consideration.
“This means thinking about, then doing, what is best for the young person. So even if other people are involved in your work—like the young person’s parents or another worker—you always make decisions in the best interest of the young person”.
I hear all the time “we have the young person’s best interest at heart” or many other variations of the same sentiment. But what does it actually mean in practice? I regularly try to think back to when I was their age and how I would have responded to certain situations, then put myself in their shoes. Being able to understand a young person’s situation from their point of view allows you to truly consider what is best for them at that point in time. From this point of view, you can connect with them on their level and act as an advocate.
As a residential youth worker, a prime example of “young people as the primary consideration” is the Looking After Children documents (LAC). The Department of Health and Human Services states that “Looking After Children (LAC) is an outcomes-focused approach for collaboratively providing good care for children placed in out-of-home care. In Victoria, LAC provides the practice framework for considering how each child’s needs will be met, whilst that child is in out-of-home care. It is used for managing out-of-home care in accordance with the Best Interests Case Practice Model cycle of information gathering, assessment, planning, implementation and review”.
Parts of the document are completed by the caregivers, and parts are completed with the young person to ensure they have a say in the outcomes they want from being in out-of-home care. The goal setting element of this document is extremely important and can be an empowering process for the young person if done correctly.
“The youth work relationship is strictly professional. Professional boundaries intentionally protect both the young person and the worker. Youth workers will maintain the integrity of these limits”. Some of the young people I work with make it their mission to find me on social media. For the most part they are successful. This has led me to finding ways to conceal my online identity and I have even deleted some accounts to avoid causing any issues. For the most part this is not a real issue though, as the boundaries are very clearly set out in the beginning.
This is such an important responsibility to adhere to when working with young people. Depending on the service and your role, you have to walk a fine line between between being a “friend” and being a “worker”. Professor Howard Sercombe states that the relationship between a youth worker and a young person creates a space of safety and security that can make it easier for them to disclose. As a youth worker you connect with the young people on their level and form a close and trusting relationship, but you must also make sure that they understand your role and the responsibilities you have. For instance, the legal responsibilities you have in terms of mandatory reporting. As stated above, this is for the protection of the worker and the young person.
Cooperation and Collaboration.
“This means you work together with other people to get the best results for young people. For example, you might involve another service or the young person’s family if it’s appropriate (and the young person gives consent)”.
To practice this responsibility ethically would involve putting differences aside and always having the child or young person’s best interests at the forefront of your practice. As the age old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child”; the same applies for the social services sector and the young people and children we support. We are constantly liaising with family members, other services and government organisations to ensure the best possible outcomes for the people in our services.
I am currently involved with a program that is a prime example of cooperation and collaboration. Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO); a foster care based program, includes four key professionals that are working with and for each young person around the areas of individual therapy, skills coaching, family therapy and education. Every week, we meet with the young person, their carers and their family, as well as have a clinical meeting. In this meeting, professionals share ideas, make sure we are all working towards the same end goal and develop a fully collaborative plan for each young person’s time in the program and beyond. This model displays transparent regard for the young person, what they want to achieve and how. This is extremely important when working with other professionals and / or other organisations, as the young person must firstly give consent but also have ownership over their case plan.
Recognition of Indigenous Peoples.
“Youth workers recognise that we live on the traditional lands and waters of the Indigenous peoples of Australia. They recognise that culture and connection to land and community is a right for Indigenous young people and that they have a right to cultural safety. Youth workers will be respectful of Indigenous culture at all times and recognise the importance of culture as it relates to Indigenous young people’s self-esteem and sense of identity”
“In 2015-16, Indigenous children aged 0-17 received child protection services at a rate around seven times that for non-Indigenous children, and they were 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care” (Australia’s Welfare 2017: in brief, AIHW).
The above statistic is alarming. In my work I am ten times more likely to work with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) child or young person than a non-ATSI child or young person. This highlights how important it is to have a deep understanding of how to appropriately and ethically work with ATSI people.
I was lucky enough to begin my journey as a youth worker within an ATSI leadership program in Melbourne. Through this I was able to learn a lot from local ATSI young people and elders about the importance of culture, not only in their lives, but in the lives of non-ATSI people too. One important lesson I took from this experience was that ATSI culture is so expansive and differs all over Australia. So in order to be culturally sensitive in my practice I have to familiarise myself with the history and customs of each different community I am working with.
There are many ways in which having an ethical practice with regards to recognition for Indigenous people can be achieved. A few simple but important things that can be done are;
Knowing the traditional owners of the land you live/work on and display a flag or sticker to show your acknowledgement.
Perform an acknowledgement of country at the beginning of meetings/events.
Participate in cultural awareness training at your workplace.
Know the history of Australia and the details around its’ invasion.
Know the appropriate language and terms to use when talking to and about ATSI people.
Attend events in support of ATSI rights and recognition.
“This means you commit to ongoing learning. For example, you might read new research or take special training. Self-care means you’re aware of and take responsibility for your own physical and emotional wellbeing. This is important because you help young people best when you feel well yourself. Your organisation also has a responsibility to support your professional development and self-care”
At Ultimate Youth Worker we have spent a lot of time speaking about self-care. Our last blog post was entirely dedicated to self care as it is such an important part of ethical practice.
Knowledge is also part of this section of the code and is just as important. Within all the work that I do, knowing the legal boundaries and expectations of my role is just as important as knowing organisational ones. Trainings such as those from Youth Law have formed an integral part of my understanding around mandatory reporting and age of consent laws. As these laws can change, it is your ethical duty to ensure you are up-to-date with the laws that affect your role.
As part of my own quest for knowledge, skill and self care, I participate in the World Youth Worker Network. It is a facilitated peer support network run by Ultimate Youth Worker solely dedicated to the longevity of youth workers through personal and professional development. The network has given me a deeper understanding of my core values, my purpose and goals in life. It has played an integral part in ensuring that I have the best ethical practice possible.
The other responsibilities in the Victorian code of ethics are privacy and confidentiality, duty of care, social context and anti-oppressive practice: non-discrimination, equity and self-awareness. As stated at the start, no single responsibility is considered more or less important than the other, and most of them are overlapping in how they affect our day to day practice. Are you familiar with the code of ethics for your sector? Do you think it’s important to have a code of ethics and apply it in your everyday work? We would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this topic. Leave a comment on our socials and get the conversation started!
If you would like to read more about different codes of ethics in Australia, you can access them in the links below:
In my experience, “self care” in the Youth Work industry can be used as a “buzz word” or just a box to tick on your supervision notes. In my first year as a youth worker that was exactly how I thought. But after a while I began to experience mental health issues as a consequence of not looking after myself. This is when I started to take self-care more seriously. I have benefited enormously from putting time and effort in to my self-care and that’s why I have created this guide. With more than 20 articles in the Ultimate Youth Worker archives dedicated to self-care, I have found some of my favourites and compiled a five step guide on how to stay on top of your self-care.
Step 1. Make a plan.
Step one is nice and easy; settle in to a cosy chair somewhere with a beautiful view, find a pen and paper, get yourself a nice warm cup ‘o tea and listen to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001.
In the podcast Aaron & Kat talk about how to live a balanced life. They go through a step-by-step process of how to create your very own “self-care stool”, each leg of the stool representing an integral element of life that needs to be tended to in order to live a balanced life and reduce vicarious trauma. If one leg of the stool is weak or off-balance, then the whole stool is unstable.
It’s no coincidence that the first step in this self-care guide is the topic of our first ever podcast!
If we think in terms of first-aid, the very first thing you are taught is to prioritise personal safety over everything else, even the casualty. The same applies for Youth Work. You can’t provide best care to another person without caring for yourself properly first.
Take the first step, listen to the podcast below and create your self-care plan.
“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” – Will Rogers
In response to my self-care plan, step two for me was finding out how I could keep myself composed during times of stress and how I could deal with the aftermath of stressful situations at work. The answer was meditation (as well as adequate follow-up and supervision of course). But it wasn’t just one short meditation course, it was several courses backed up with a consistent daily practice. Hard work and effort, but the reward was well worth it.
Meditation worked for me because I found calm in the process and the results were fruitful. But not everyone finds meditation helpful. In that case, start to put your self-care plan in to action and find out what will help you fulfil the different elements of your self-care stool.
In the article below, Aaron talks about the many benefits of meditation and expresses his regret of giving it up too easily when he first tried it.
Step three is about recognising when you need to seek the help of others. In your self-care plan you would have listed a few people who are responsible for keeping you accountable. We work in a tough industry, we are often verbally and sometimes physically abused, we see and hear things that can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and we are really good at brushing it aside as “part of the job”. Vicarious trauma is a real threat to the longevity of Youth Workers and we need to make a concerted effort to seek help when we are showing signs of burn out.
This may involve sitting down for a chat with a mentor, a friend or a partner. It could even mean using your employee assistance program to see a Psychologist. Find someone who can assist you with finding your centre and then work together to put a plan in place to minimise the likelihood of burn out in the future.
In Aaron’s story below he talks of some of the signs and symptoms he was experiencing that led to him seeking help.
Circumstances can sometimes get in the way of taking holidays, but when it starts to effect the quality of your work then you need to prioritise a break. After one year as a full-time residential care worker where I was picking up extra casual shifts and taking every personal development opportunity possible, I was burning out pretty fast. It was time to bite the bullet and take a break.
How are you going to recharge your batteries enough so that you can come back refreshed and more prepared to deal with the job? For me it was in my self-care plan, spend time in nature. This, coupled with meditation and having a clear mind from not being at work for a while gave me a strong platform to return to work and give my all to the people I was working for. So, it is time for you to take a holiday?
Ive said it three times because it’s one of the underlying and most important principles of self-care. As discussed in the podcast in step one, having someone to keep you on track and accountable for your self-care is the best way to do it successfully. Your self-care stool relies on it. Sit down with a friend and do your self-care plans together, then set a date for a review and do that together as well. Good luck!
To read more articles and insights in to self-care from the Ultimate Youth Worker team, click the link below.
What drug is that? The top 5 youth drugs in Australia.
In todays post we have scoured the depths of Youtube to find some great videos with information to help you answer that annoying question ‘what drug is that?’ We have found info on some of the most common drugs that young people use and will link you in with some resources that you can use in your practice with young people.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 gives some valuable information about drug use and patterns in Australia, we have used this as a guide to choosing which drugs to look at today. You can download the report in the link below:
What better way to start than with a light hearted look at the possible drugs our young people have access to in todays world.
Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia and for a lot of young people it can be a rite of passage and an important part of social inclusion in the adolescent years. With the adolescent years being an integral time for brain development, the neurotoxins in alcohol can potentially cause significant harm if not used safely. That is why it’s important to make sure that young people understand the effects of alcohol and are armed with as much information as possible to consume safely and look after each other when they do. Headspace have created this video and an information page that is easily digestible for young people, albeit a little cheesy. But who doesn’t like cheese.
Next up we have Cannabis, or Marijuana, Weed, Choof, or a myriad of other street names that we would all be familiar with. Also one of the most common drugs used within Australia, with under 30’s being the highest users. If you aren’t familiar with the below video, it was a $350,000 (failed) attempt by the NSW government to raise awareness about the effects of Cannabis on young people. Whilst it did provide us with a few laughs, there are questions about its’ effectiveness of informing young people.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 states that young Australians (aged 14–24) first try cocaine at 19.2 years on average and it is the second most commonly used illegal drug after cannabis. So what is cocaine? In short, cocaine from its’ original form as a coca leaf, goes through about 8 processes and is mixed with at least 11 harmful and poisonous ingredients along the way, including gasoline and cement. It is also common to mix cocaine with other drugs including amphetamines. By the time cocaine reaches the street there is no way to know what has actually been used to mix and cut the drug. The above video gives a brief overview of what is in cocaine.
If you would like some information about the effects of cocaine and links to services’ head to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website provided below.
Methamphetamine is a man-made stimulant drug and it is a more potent form of the drug amphetamine. When it is in its crystalline form, the drug is called crystal meth or “ice”. Whilst both drugs cause similar symptoms, methamphetamine has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with high potential for widespread abuse. Consequently, it has been thrust in to the public eye on a large scale in recent times due to the devastating affect it can have on the individual and the wider community. In 2016, the Australian government launched the Nation Ice Action Strategy as an attempt to reduce the supply and demand and to increase education, prevention, treatment, support and community engagement. There entire strategy is funded for just under $300 million which will be divided amongst different programs working towards tackling both alcohol and drug problems Australia wide.
MDMA is the main ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy and the most common form of ecstasy used comes in either pill or tablet form. The average amount of MDMA in a “pill” is 70-125mg. When ingested, MDMA causes the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a vital role in mood regulation and helps defend against mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. If our serotonin stores are depleted it can have a debilitating effect on our sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behaviour. In Australia, there is currently a big push for “pill testing” to become legal at music festivals as a harm reduction method. Due to the amount of unknown and potentially dangerous ingredients used in the production of MDMA, especially pills, this method is seen by some professionals as a step towards reducing drug related deaths and overdoses at festivals. For further information on this and MDMA visit the links below.
For further information on the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey as well as a detailed summary of what you can do to support young people in accessing treatment options for alcohol and other drug related issues, read the article below by Ultimate Youth Worker Executive Director Aaron Garth.
In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Faith and identity’ Aaron speaks with Dr. Julie Morsillo about her work focussing on youth identity development and what impact faith has on this.
Julie grew up in Sydney, spent a year in Papua New Guinea with her parents where she was an assistant primary school teacher and piano teacher. She went to the Bible College of South Australia in Victor Harbour. Then moving to Melbourne Julie has been involved in church leadership, a foster parent and cottage parent, she worked for the North-West One Stop Welfare Centre, Victoria Equal Opportunity Commission, Victorian Public Service Commissioner, International Commission of Jurists, International Red Cross and Whitley Theological College. Julie has also been an adjunct lecturer in psychology and community development at Victoria University, the counselling co-ordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, researcher in the Public Interest team at Australian Psychological Society (APS) and has had her own private practice as a counselling psychologist and supervisor of provisional psychologists.
If you are wondering how to best implement what you hear on the podcast we think getting supervision is one of the best ways. Having the opportunity to critically reflect is the best tool for career longevity we know of. If you don’t currently have a supervisor who looks to grow you as a person and as a professional then its time to get an external supervisor. We can help with that!!!
Where do you start when you need youth mental health resources?
We get asked all the time where the best resources are. Well finally we have created a resource just for youth workers. All the resources here have been check and tested by our team. These youth mental health resources are recommended by leading practitioners and organisations who work with young people from all over the world. We will continue to update this post so come back again and again to get more resources. All the links to the books take you directly to amazon so you can pick up a copy for yourself.
BeyondNow Convenient and confidential, the BeyondNow app puts your safety plan in your pocket so you can access and edit it at any time. You can also email a copy to trusted friends, family or your health professional so they can support you when you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or heading towards a suicidal crisis.
BeyondNow is free to download from the Apple Store or Google Play. If you don’t have a smartphone or would prefer to use your desktop or laptop, BeyondNow is also available to use online.
Thanks for listening to me speak today. I really appreciated finding out a bit about your course and where you hope to go in your careers. At Ultimate Youth Worker we want to see every youth worker become the best they can be. Youth work can be hard, but it can also be extremely rewarding. The journey can be a difficult one without the right support. Here are a few of our most used tools for you to use as you need.
Our Core Values Audit is a simple tool to help you begin to work through your values. As youth workers we need to have a good understanding of what makes us tick. Our young people will learn what ticks us off very quickly. If we know ourselves then we will be less likely to snap when they push our buttons.
This Skills Audit makes you think about your future. Have a look at a couple of job descriptions for the roles you would like to have in five years time. Use the audit to find out what you need to do to get the job you want.
Qualifications_Depth and Breath is a tool to help you map out your career needs. Knowing what qualifications you have and what you need to do the job you want give you a clear path for education.
Great website resources
YACVic YERP: This is one of the best resources for practically doing youth participation work done by a bunch of experts from Victoria.
Detached Youth Work – Learning from the Street: James Ballantyne is a youth worker in the north of England who is very much on the coal face of Christian Youth Work. James helps Christian youth ministers understand the nuance of doing detached youth work.
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Check out the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast for the most up to date research, tools and practice wisdom from the youth sector. Subscribe and get a fortnightly cast straight to your iTunes account, and if you like it give us a good rating.
Howard Sercombe is a leading youth work academic and practitioner. He has been a pioneer internationally in thinking about professional ethics for youth workers, and was involved in drafting codes of ethics for youth workers across Australia and in Scotland, England, South Africa, Zambia and New Zealand. His book, Youth Work Ethics has been widely influential. He has also published widely on the sociology of youth, including the construction of youth in the media and the emerging influence of neuroscience. He and his partner, broadcaster Helen Wolfenden, have just relocated to Sydney after ten years in Glasgow. He currently holds an honorary Professorship in Education with the University of Glasgow, and is doing primary parenting for Oscar, 4 and Timothy, nearly 2.
In todays episode Aaron and Howard speak about the development of the Fairbridge code of ethics used by many youth work associations worldwide. How did the code come in to being? Why do youth workers need to think about ethics? How can youth workers think ethically in their day to day practice?
Professional youth workers must think about the concept of ethical practice every day. Codes of Ethics are a significant way for the young people we serve to know what we can and cannot do. They also give youth workers a great framework for professional supervision and reflective practice.
You can find more information about Howard on LinkedIn.
Here are links to some of Howard’s latest articles that have bearing on todays podcast.
In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast Aaron speaks with Ben Lohmeyer from Tabor College of Higher Education about his research into youth work and power.
Ben Lohmeyer is a critical youth sociologist and youth worker. He is a PhD candidate at Flinders University and the Program Coordinator of the Bachelor of Applied Social Sciences (Youth Work) at Tabor. Ben’s research interests include: youth, governance, violence (personal, structural and neoliberal) and youth work practice.
Ben has worked across a range of youth work settings including alternative education, alternative accommodation and peace building. He has experience facilitating restorative justice processes, designing and facilitating peace building programs as well as grant and policy writing. Ben has is currently completing his PhD in Sociology at Flinders University focussing on youth and neoliberal violence.
In todays episode Aaron and Ben speak about youth work and power. How do youth workers recognise power issues? What can youth workers do when power is imposed by neoliberal structures? How can youth workers show genuine concern in the face of power imbalances? Youth workers must wrestle with the concept of power as it is a significant issue for the young people we serve and in doing youth work with integrity.
Back in 2013 we wrote a post that dealt with how to approach youth work when you have a criminal record. You can read the original article here: Police records and public perception: Youth work with conviction. We had just had a number of students who had struggled to find placements due to their criminal record. These students were questioning if they had made a huge mistake. Basically they asked something like, “Aaron, will I ever be able to get a job in the sector or should I just quit now?” The unfortunate answer to this is it depends.
This week the Australian Community Workers Association wrote a post titled “Pursuing community work when you have a criminal record“. In the post, which we think is fantastic, the crew at ACWA have reiterated all the points we made almost five years ago. First, they cover what a security check reveals about you. Second, how employers will determine your suitability. Finally, how to handle your history during a job search. This article brings together some really great thoughts, particularly the final section. Being open and honest about your criminal record and what you have done to restore your community standing is a really important step. It helps employers to understand you and to make informed decisions as to your suitability for employment.
Unfortunately, there will always be people and organisations who see a criminal record and take that to mean you are unsuitable. These people and organisations will judge you without the opportunity for explanation or recourse. Don’t let this stop you. As a judge once told me, “we need youth workers who have experienced the other side and have come back from the edge”. These youth workers show that it is possible to restore community perception and make a great life for yourself.
ACWA end this very important piece by stating, “At the end of the day, we all make mistakes and deserve a chance to put our past behind us. The community services sector supports people to reach their potential and this is as true for aspiring workers as it is for clients“. We couldn’t agree more!!!