Code of Ethics

Youth Work Code of Ethics

Youth Work Code of Ethics

Youth Work Code of Ethics

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.

Youth Work Ethics

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.

Boundaries.

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.
  • Familiarise yourself with laws and important documents that relate to the history and recognition of ATSI people. Such as the “Bringing them Home Report”, and more recently the “Uluru statement from the heart”.

Knowledge, Skill and Self-care.

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:

The Code of Ethical Practice for the Victorian Youth Sector.

Australian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. 

Western Australian Association of Youth Workers Youth Work Code of Ethics.

Youth Ethics Framework for Tasmania.

NSW code of ethics.

South Australia Code of Ethics.

Jessy Hall

Jessy is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Ultimate Youth Worker. Jessy has been working as a youth worker since 2014 in a variety of different roles. His passion for youth work began whilst volunteering on a YMCA program for young indigenous leaders, after being inspired by the strength and passion of the young people on this program he immediately began his studies at Chisholm Institute of TAFE where he completed a Diploma of Youth Work. Since then, Jessy has expanded his knowledge and skills in the field by working in residential care facilities, being part of an Australian first evidence based foster care program (TFCO) and partaking in various trainings in youth mental health and other relevant areas to his work. Jessy currently lives in Melbourne but is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime and drive around Australia in a four wheel drive with his partner. He plans to work along the way and explore the different opportunities available for youth workers in Australia. Jessy has dreams to one day start his own organisation dedicated to developing the next generation of socially engaged and passionate young people.

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Podcast 014: Youth Work Ethics

Youth Work Ethics

 

Youth Work Ethics

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Youth Work Ethics’ Aaron speaks with Professor Howard Sercombe about his over two decade looking at and developing Youth Work Ethics documents.

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.

Youth Work Ethics with Howard Sercombe

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.

 

 

Today’s resources

Here are links to some of Howard’s latest articles that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

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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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There is no try in youth work

You cant try out youth work.

Youth work

Let me be blunt about youth work. You can not try out youth work. Its not like playing a game of basketball and then giving up. Its not like trying to paint and deciding you are not able to do better than stick figures. Its not like cooking where if you stuff up you can throw it in the bin. If you give youth work a go it is literally life and death. Your words, your actions, even your body language can support or shred the young people you work with in a heartbeat.

We get a lot of emails from people saying they want to try and be a youth worker. I cringe every time I read this statement. Its so non-committal. Many of our friends in the sector have stories of people they have met who during the course of their conversations state that they would love to try being a youth worker. Most of these people think its all coffees and camps, rainbows and unicorns. If you really want to be a youth worker you need to know that it is hard work. It is serious work. It takes people who genuinely care and want to work with young people through good times and bad.

I couldn’t resist a Star Wars quote. As the great Jedi master says, “Do or do not, there is no try”. In youth work we can’t try. Trying lends itself to giving up when it doesn’t work. Trying lends itself to being half-assed. Trying is… well just not enough. Be a youth worker. Give yourself to it fully. Don’t dip your toe in, do a belly whacker. The only way our young people will trust us and open up is if they see us fully engaged in youth work. it is the core to ethical practice. As Howard Sercombe says it provides space for young people to disclose. Do youth work with everything you are and everything you have and the rewards will be endless.

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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How economic rationalism is changing Australia for young people.

Economic rationalism is hurting our young people

Working with young people is a job drought with concern and trepidation. Young people are looking for hope and opportunity and when they feel there is no hope then with trepidation they strike forth or shrink away. Whether with words or fists we see young people seek to find their hope through striking forth. Through disengagement from social structures they shrink away from a world they see no hope in. It is in this discourse of hope that youth workers work to guide young people to further greatness.
 
In Australia last night the federal budget was put to parliament and to put it bluntly it will hurt young people. Life will cost more, you will get less and the dream of retiring one day will be lost for most. One such area is the ability for universities to set their own rates for course fees. It was only a few years ago that a less intrusive policy in the UK led to less university entrance in the late 1990’s into 2000. Further changes in 2010 led to a tripling of fees which led to riots.
 
 
The push to ‘earn or learn’ means that young people have less time to work out what they want to do. Gap years will become a thing of the past and young people will be up for fifty years of working for the man. If you can’t afford to pay for a course it is ok you can get a loan and pay it back when you earn, however if fees go up as is likely your debt will be much higher than currently. You will also pay it back when you earn less than is currently set. Oh, and you will be fighting with the over 55’s for those jobs you want.
 
Health care will cost more. You will have to pay $7 bucks to go to a GP and add another $5 on top of your medication costs. One in four young people will have a diagnosed mental health issue… sorry that is going to cost you. Many under 25’s are starting families… cha-ching. A general check up… cha-ching. If you have any chronic health issues.. cha-ching. If you are a young person you were less likely to go to a doctor before… now you just can’t afford to.
 
Welfare payments are being cut and means tested differently so that young people will be hurt. Now under 25’s can not access the unemployment allowance and will go on the youth allowance, a loss of a few thousand much needed dollars. The aged pension will not be indexed to CPI so in a few years the pension will be under the poverty line leading to more older people in the employment market at least part-time. Young people on disability will be required to work if they are able in any way and work for the dole is being reintroduced.
 
Transport costs will go up with a fuel tax hike. Family budgets are going to be tighter as the ceiling for family payments has been lowered. All in all young people are being hurt!
 
The economic rationalism in this budget was clearly visible to all watch. Limit the economic drain of individuals. Grow the free market. Rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Australia is only a slice in the world pie however many of these hits have happened in similar ways in all conservative governments worldwide.
 
When we as youth workers focus on bringing hope to young people economic rationalism makes this a really hard sell. Young people do not see hope. They see greed and hurt. How will young people react to these losses??? We just need to look to London in 2011 and Greece in 2012. When young people feel a lack of hope they either fight or flee from a society that they feel does not meet standard.
 
We as youth workers need to get along side our young people and help them to see HOPE. If we don’t the economic rationalist agenda will break them.
 

What are your thoughts?

 

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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Mandatory reporting of abuse for youth workers may be a thing of the past.

We have spoken a number of times about the duty of care that youth workers hold to report abuse. In Victoria, youth workers are currently not mandated by legislation to report abuse. However this looks like it will change very soon. In a move to enact recommendations of the Victorian enquiry into child sexual abuse two pieces of legislation are set to be tabled. These pieces of legislation will require all adults to report abuse under threat of jail time if they do not.

See the news article here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-25/failure-to-report-child-sexual-abuse-will-lead-to-jail-term/5343960

We at Ultimate Youth Worker applaud the Victorian government for this move and hope that it comes with the substantial resources required to follow up on the reports to come.

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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When your policy says nothing: Youth work practice wisdom

I have read more policy documents in the last month than I have read in the last two years. It has really hurt my head! Not because of the ammount of reading, but because of the lack of genuine content in the pages. A lot of the policy documents were very circular and led the readers round in circles. Others were full of legalise and bureaucratic jargon which really said nothing. I wish I could say that this was an unfortunate occurence which only happemned the once… but it is a trend I see every week.
Policy is useless if it is not easily readable and practically based. This is not an issue solely belonging to large government departments, it is an issue which we have seen in small, medium and large organisations from government, not-for-profit and corporate industry. People tend to make their policy very vague!
When a policy is vague the responsibility for action is also vague. You cannot go to you boss every five minutes because the policy is lacking. So what are we to do? Use our practice wisdom.
When the policy is lacking and your boss is vague your practice wisdom should kick in. A strong understanding of your sector and its ethics can guide you where your organisation fails to guide. Some argue that organisations are deliberately vague in policy to limit litigation and to place the focus on individual workers. If you can explain why you did wha you did and that it links with your industry code of ethics this also helps to limit your likelihood of litigation and also provides good practice to your clients.
If your policies are vague bring it up with your boss and human resources department as this will not help you in the long run. But when all is said and done policies cannot cover all aspects of the work we do as youth workers.

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 sector must promote self care

Promoting self care

One of my best mates in youth work said to me today that  he had been speaking to a bunch of people about the work of Ultimate Youth Worker recently. He stated that he was surprised when almost all of them stated that they didn’t think there was an issue with self care within the sector. When my friend spoke of burnout rates and levels of psychological stress in our sector they could begin to see the issue.

If managers and organisations really understood the negative effects and the cost to the organisation then self care would be the first thing on their agenda rather than the last. If organisations saw the revolving door that spat out their staff you think they would try to stop it. We can no longer ignore the fact that our sector is allowing staff to become psychologically damaged just to meet KPI’s.

Throughout our research we have been shocked at how many individuals, managers, organisations and peak bodies who at best pay lip service and at worst see self care as for the weak. Over the past few months I have been privileged to speak with and train a number of Tasmanians in self care. The most fantastic thing about this is that in the Youth Ethics Framework for Tasmania they state categorically that self care is a ethical requirement.

Self care being promoted in TasmaniaWe need more groups like the Youth Network of Tasmania to stand up and shout that self care is a requirement for exceptional youth work.

What are you doing to set the self care agenda???

You can also leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

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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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Good self care in youth work

Self care is an ethical requirement

I have heard, over the past year or so, more excuses as to why youth workers can’t commit to self care than I care to recall. These excuses ranged from a lack of time and money to not knowing where to start and lack of support from management. Many of these excuses are baseless and push focus away from the workers who should have been more involved in their own care. However there are a number which have a base in dodgy policy and even worse practice.
First amongst my pet peeves is the youth worker who believes that they can trod through their work without supervision, professional development and support and still provide exceptional support to their clients. YOU CAN’T! It is one thing that it is not given to you as a youth worker, it is completely incompetent to not actively seek it out in your own time on your own dime. It is an ethical requirement that youth workers perform at their best, Which means youth workers need to have training and support to deal with the load that we carry. It is an ethical requirement for ultimate youth workers.
Self care is an ethical requirement
The second and even more repulsive is when managers put ticking boxes above the health and wellbeing of their staff. Over the years I have worked in a number of different organisations and have seen great managers and woeful ones. The ones who put the funding agreements above their staff have revolving doors which spit those staff out when they are all used up. They rarely send staff to professional development that is worth going to and don’t know how to supervise their staff apart from the administrative graces of checking their case load is up to scratch. These managers vehemently defend the ethical need to reach targets and quash those who speak of self care being just as ethically required.
Good self care is an ethical requirement not something that can be forgotten. Exceptional youth workers need great support and training. There is no excuse for lacking self care.

 Leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

 If you haven’t yet, sign up for our newsletter to find out all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker. (Sign up here)

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 is youth work without innovation and risk?

As a youth worker in the current neo-liberal regime we are told to play it safe, cover your arse and don’t do anything that could get you in trouble. We are living in a world of risk aversion! We see our young people as always at risk. We are at risk of losing our job. Our organisation is at risk of losing funding. There are risks everywhere and it is our job to minimise these risks.
 
When I began as a youth worker camps and daytrips were a staple of almost every youth service. A bit of a wrestle at a Friday night youth group wasn’t unheard of. Leaving a male youth worker alone with a group of young people was seen as ok. I remember going on a snow camp where the campsite we were staying at unexpectedly ended up with a mud pit after a torrential downpour. That mud pit ended up as our very own wrestling ring and young people and leaders alike wrestled to their hearts content and washed it off with a dip in the local dam. 
 
 
In our current risk averse way of doing things we are at-risk of doing nothing to support our young people lest we end up getting in trouble. Its a vicious cycle. Youth work was innovative and ahead of the curve. Today it seems sterile and unimpressive. Aside from a few canny outlaws the whole service sector is becoming bland.
 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

Youth workers are innovators! We improvise, adapt and overcome. We have big ideas and some of them require risk. Calculated risks can bring great rewards. I don’t want any youth worker I work with to get twenty years into their career only to look back and believe they haven’t achieved. I want explorers. I want dreamers and I want discoveries. We are in one of the most exciting times known to the human race and if our work is bland we have no one but ourselves to blame. Make your work exciting!  

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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