Involuntary clients in youth work

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 004 Working with involuntary clients

Involuntary clients in youth workInvoluntary clients

Working with involuntary clients is one of the most difficult tasks youth workers will have to do in their career. Youth work by its very nature is a voluntary relationship. So how can youth workers provide service to this client group? In this podcast we begin to share some thoughts on working with involuntary clients as youth workers. This is the first podcast in a series we will do on working with involuntary clients. From youth justice to working in the local church youth workers in every setting need to understand the basics of working with young people who have not voluntarily come to our service.

In todays cast Aaron Garth lays a foundation for us from his experience working with a number of clients who did not voluntarily come to his attention. From young people referred to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre as part of their parole conditions to young people who have a parent in prison Aaron has worked with many young people who were coerced into seeing him. It is through these many instances Aaron gained his experience. As a lecturer Aaron brings this experience to his classes and links them to current research on working with this client group.

We hope you begin to grapple with the work of youth workers in involuntary settings. More and more our funding is linked to our young people complying with services they don’t necessarily want. Services such as education, employment and training which is linked to their welfare payments. Drug and alcohol services linked to their parole conditions. All the while our funding requiring us to engage and support these young people who do not want to be there, with the threat of our service being defunded if we do not comply with the framework of the day.


Let us know what you think. Leave a comment below.

Group Work

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 003 Group Work

Group WorkGroup Work

Group work is one of the most rewarding and exciting parts of our job as youth workers. It comes in many forms and it looks different in every context it is used in. Until the 1950’s however, it was a relatively unheard of area of study. Today there are thousands of articles, books and training courses with different ideas on the who, how, what and why of working with groups. With so many different theories and styles it can also make group work one of the scariest parts of our job.

Whether you are running a group in a school, church, drug rehab, practically anywhere the rules are the same. But if you don’t know the rules groups can be extremely daunting. Knowing the rules of group work will help us as youth workers provide the best facilitation possible. It also lets us help our young people to settle in to the roles that suit them and challenge them to step into new ones.

Group work is our bread and butter as youth workers. We don’t necessarily do one on one counselling. We don’t all run programs. But it is likely that we have all run a group.

What is Youth Work?

The Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 002 What is youth work?

What is Youth Work?What is youth work?

What is youth work? It is a question that has haunted our profession for decades. In Australia we have attempted to frame our profession over the past few years however we keep coming up short. In todays podcast the team at Ultimate Youth Work frame this question using the current world wide definitions and our own framework of service. Controversial, probably! But it is a question we need to address if we are to cement ourselves as a profession.

We often frame our profession by what we are not rather than who we are. We do this as there is massive diversity. The range of qualifications from none at all to doctorates. The different practice situations. The issues our young people come to us with. Our different philosophical, sociological and ethical bents. We have a lot that can pull us apart. At Ultimate Youth Worker we are less concerned about our differences and more interested in what brings us together. We all care for young people. We want the best for them. Most of all we believe in their innate humanity.

Our profession is at a cross roads. Much of our previous held truths are gone. Government funding, gone. Universities protecting our courses, gone. Our very existence is threatened. Much of this because we can not answer the simple question, what is youth work? Until we can answer this question the future of our profession hangs in the balance.

If you have questions, thoughts, comments or queries we would love to hear from you, our amazing community of Ultimate Youth Worker’s.

Thank you so much for your support. If you’ve made it this far, We’d love for you to come say hi to us on our Facebook Page. You can also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Check out our follow up episode: What is Youth Work Pt 2

The Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001 A Balanced Life

Ultimate Youth Worker PodcastA Balanced Life

In this weeks Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast we explore the need for youth workers to have a self care plan. Youth work can be highly stressful. Because we care, we take on a lot. Vicarious trauma is a regular event on our calendar. Around 24% of youth workers leave the sector every year.

In today’s episode Aaron takes us on a journey towards developing our very own self care plan.

Leave us a comment about what you think!

Youth work students becoming youth work staff

The future of a youth work student.

Last week was youth work week. A time for us to reflect as a profession on how awesome we are and how we change the lives of young people. I think we did it pretty well this year… But I hope next year we do it bigger and louder. But enough about how awesome we are now. I was reflecting today that we are coming to the end of another year and that soon in Australia there will be close to 1000 youth work students graduating a Certificate IV, Diploma or Degree in youth work. November see the end of most courses and with it a vast array of new talent added to the pool.

As staff in the field we need to embrace these newbies with arms outstretched and hearts wide open. The likelihood is that half of them will not last a year because of the trauma, lack of support and meagre pay conditions. The sad fact is that we are losing such talent and passion because of things which can be managed and fixed. We know why people leave the sector. It has been documented extensively, spoken about at conferences and plans have been made… we just haven’t done anything to address it.


With this in mind here are our top 5 ways you can support a youth work student to succeed as a youth worker in your agency:

  1. Get to know them. This seems pretty straight forward for most of us, but it is the number one reason we hear over and over again in supervision sessions for conflict in the workplace. Managers, get to know your staff on a personal level as well as professionally. Find out what makes them tick, about their family and their aspirations for the future. If you are a colleague, invite them out for a drink, have peer supervision sessions, mentor them, perhaps you could even take them under your wing and support them for the first month or two.
  2. Give them a good orientation. There is no amount of leg work you can do later in their work than to give them a good orientation. Make sure they understand their role, other peoples roles, where the bathrooms are, the best place for coffee, how to work the photocopier, emergency procedures, the person to call if they lose their keys… everything you can think of. Make sure they take notes too. Its a pain in the butt and a massive amount of knowledge to take on board, but it will save you heaps in the long run.
  3. Allow them time to ask questions. Im sure you can remember starting a new job, I know I can. I had heaps of questions and they came in fits and spurts. Sometimes one question a day, other times one question a minute. Allow space in your schedule and the teams schedule for this to happen.
  4. Recognise limitations. We all want someone who can start a role on the run. The fact is even the best staff member will need to start slowly. recognise that they will not know how to do the job in the way your organisation wants it done straight away. They will not know how to use your systems, your resources or your language. This comes with time and support. Give them this. Remember they are new.
  5. Celebrate the newbie. Have a bit of a party at the end of the week. Make a fuss over them to the team and the wider organisation. Write a bit in the staff newsletter. Congratulate them for lasting the distance through interviews, checks and their first day. Make sure everyone knows their name!

This holds true for those new graduates that will be starting in your organisation soon. However, it also holds true for any new hire. Provide them with support, care and encouragement from the start and you will have amazing workers supporting your young people.

Leave a comment below if you can think of any other ways to support new youth work student graduates.

Student placements: youth work training ground

Over the course of my studies I have completed close on 200 days of field placement. As a youth work student this consisted of a 30 day and a 35 day direct service provision placement. I worked with some amazing youth work practitioners and I worked with some really poor ones. I got coffee and photocopied documents. I ran programs for young people and youth workers. I even got the chance to reflect on my practice. Overall I give these placements a seven out of ten for preparing me for the world of youth work. But that still leaves three points for a perfect score.

Student placements

Student placements are a great learning environment

So here are my thoughts on how to get those extra three points.

  1. Have something for your placement students to do. Since becoming a lecturer I have worked with over fifty students on placement. The one thing that is guaranteed to stuff a placement up is if the student has no key tasks to do. If you offer student placements, have a project in mind. Make sure you speak to the student to see what they need and want to get out of their placements. Its better for them and it is good for you.
  2. More communication is better. On one of my student placements I had seen my supervisor three times in 44 days. It was infuriating. I didn’t know what was expected of me. I had questions that weren’t answered. I didn’t trust him and didn’t get the chance to develop rapport. You should touch base at least twice a week. Once to make sure tasks are being completed and once to reflect on their placement. Communication is the most important task you have.
  3. Understand your student. Ask them lots of questions. Do a DISC profile with them. help them to reflect on who they are. Jan Fook has some great reflective tools in her books. Find out what makes them tick and drive that in them.

If you do this during student placements you will get a lot out of your students and they will get a lot out of you.

Youth ministry and youth work not quite the same

I am writing this while sitting in a session at the National Youth Ministry Convention in Tweed Heads on the usually sunny Gold Coast. It is always a real blessing to get together with some really committed youth ministers who want to see their young people become the best they can be. Last night over 300 of us joined together to hear Brad Griffin from the Fuller Youth Institute speak about the need for churches to embrace young people as part of their community rather than banish them to the kids table. An issue that the  wider community struggles with as much as anyone.

Youth Ministry in Australia

Youth Ministry in Australia

This morning I heard the amazing Jo Saxton speak about the need for us as leaders to lead from the inside out. We need to know ourselves, what makes us tick and what gets under our skin. Youth workers are leaders we need to know these things. We need to be challenged to think about who we are and why we do what we do. Jo asked us to think about what is holding our leadership back… our appetites, our need for approval or our ambitions. Great questions for us all.

The thing that has struck me most is the focus. Youth workers know much of this! if you have completed a degree in youth work you have been hammered with these ideas for three years. If you have completed a theology degree… not so much. Where youth work focuses on the young person as primary client, Youth ministry see young people as the mission field. Where youth workers see young people as significant contributors in the community, youth ministers see young people as needing guidance in right living. Youth workers see the person first. Youth Ministers see the person through a lens of scripture.

I have said before that all youth ministers could be youth workers, but not all youth workers are youth ministers. I have heard many youth ministers state that they are youth workers over the last two days. This is dangerous. it is trying to hook onto the coat tails of another profession. If youth ministers want to be youth workers this requires qualification and vocational shift. Sometimes it is ok to just be who you are. I do believe youth ministers would be better equipped if they had some youth work training under their belt.


Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it!

Self care is hard

So my last two months have been absolutely crazy. I have spoken at the Tasmanian Youth Conference in Launceston. Presented at the 16th International Mental Health Conference on the Gold Coast. I have also completed four weeks of my final field placement for my Master of Social Work and taught three classes a week in the Bachelor and Grad Dip Youth Studies program at Eastern College Australia. To top it of two of my children have had birthdays and half a dozen other extended family members decided to have them as well. I confess, my self care has gone right out the window.

Self Care SeminarI have a self care plan. I review it every three months. Even still I have been overcome by events. My sleep patterns are shot. I am living off coffee and even that has started to wear off. I generally feel pretty wrecked. This all because I wasn’t ready for the tsunami of events that have come my way. I knew they were coming and I smiled and watched them come. I didn’t enact my self care plan. I was an idiot!

Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it! I knew I was going to have a few crazy months and I penciled in the idea of having my quarterly retreat and then never did anything about it. I knew I needed to recharge the batteries before heading into this period of my life… but I put it off. Now I am paying for it. No self care strategy works unless you put it in to action. My strategy calls for a period of rest and reflection before long stints of work which never happened. Did I mention I’m and idiot!!! Self care is my baby. I would speak about it until I am blue in the face.  Yet even poor little old me is lost without my plan and its implementation.

Don’t forget to implement your plan! Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it! Its impossible if you don’t work your plan.

Youth mental health

Youth workers as mental health gatekeepers

We’ve been asked a fair bit over the last month what our stance is on mental health. There seems to be two camps growing up in the youth sector. Those who see us as generalist youth workers who do not need to know about mental health except that we should refer on to more qualified help and those who believe that as one of the biggest issues facing our young people is something we should know about…mental health. One camp is ignoring issues for the sake of the profession, the other is seeking to adapt with the times.

It will come as no surprise to our long term readers that we sit in the later camp. We believe that youth workers provide a first responder service to young people experiencing mental health issues in the same way that paramedics provide physical health services. We often provide gatekeeper services to mental health support through triaging the case and providing support until a mental health professional can take them on. We do this now, and with little or no specific mental health training. We believe that by our inaction in dealing with our young peoples mental health we are, by default, causing harm to them.

We are not advocating that all youth workers become mental health clinicians. We are saying that we need more than a mental health first aid certificate. A two day course is not enough. We need to faithfully support our young people in all their trails and tribulations. We need to come to grips with the fact that our training programs written decades ago have lost their relevance and we need to update our frameworks. It is up to the academics to change the course structures. It is up to the sector to demand this. It is every youth workers responsibility to become better than they are right now. Mental health is only one area we need to become more proficient in.

Youth mental health

Youth worker mental health gatekeepers