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.

UltimateYouthWorker

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 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!

UltimateYouthWorker

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 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?

 

UltimateYouthWorker

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 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.

UltimateYouthWorker

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 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.

UltimateYouthWorker

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 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???

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UltimateYouthWorker

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 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.

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UltimateYouthWorker

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 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!  

UltimateYouthWorker

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 and son Ezra.

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Youth workers need to do more than just support young people.

As a youth worker I have worked in a number of settings. I have learnt new skills and tried new things. One thing however that has stayed the same through all of those settings is that youth work is not all I have done. I have been a plumber, a carpenter, a painter, an envelope stuffer, a mechanic, a teacher, a chef, a guitarist, an accountant and many others. For most of my job I do all this other stuff and use my youth work skills to engage with young people and expand our service.




MItchell Youth Centre
 
Some of these skills I have gained over my lifetime. Others I learnt on the go. All of them are secondary to my youth work, however without them I would be little more than a counsellor. Recently I have been developing a youth centre for a local council and it has meant a lot of non-youth work. I have painted, cut, built and sanded to my hearts content. One of my supervisors said to me recently that I needed to be more than a Coordinator of Youth Services. I needed to get my hands dirty. All he saw was my time with my staff and when i was at my desk.
 
When people only see our work in throughput numbers or KPI’s from a position description then these other skills don’t add into the equation. My supervisor didn’t see my networking, my painting or my building skills. He didn’t see the participation of the young people in the development of the centre. All he saw was that I wasn’t at my desk. I wasn’t doing paperwork or running another useless meeting. In his eyes I was not getting my hands dirty like some of my colleagues.
 
Never let a person say you are not doing youth work when you are using these secondary skill sets. Do not let appearances ruin your work. I have built stronger relationships with young people over the last month through building tables and painting walls than had been built previously in one on one meetings. I have better relationships with service providers because I took the time to have a coffee and talk about their cars, or house building or choice in music. Youth work is all about developing relationships. How we develop those relationships often come down to the secondary skills we have. Today’s neoliberal world does not care about this. They care about numbers. They see this as ‘support’.
 
We need to do more than just support young people. At least in the way governments and funding bodies ask us to. We must build deep relationships. It is through these relationships that we can do our best work, and these relationships are built on life and the skills we have picked up while living it. Those secondary skills are just as important, if not more so, than any counselling session or group work program. Building relationships with young people where they are at is what youth work prides itself on. But more often than not these days we are berated for doing this as it does not tick the numbers box. We must strive to be more than just another ‘support’ mechanism for our young people. We must do life with them. 

UltimateYouthWorker

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 and son Ezra.

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Virtue Ethics and Practical Wisdom.

This week we are learning through video. This is a short clip of Barry Schwartz speaking on Virtue etthics and practical wisdom. Enjoy and discuss.

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UltimateYouthWorker

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 and son Ezra.

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