Implimenting self care in your youth work organisation.

Self care in your organisation

At a number of conference we have presented at this year we have been asked by managers about how to implement our self care strategy with their staff and more widely in their organisation. As we have spoken with these managers we have come away with more of an understanding of the needs and difficulties they have in supporting staff to look after themselves.
We often hear that some workers do not want to look after themselves, that the organisations policies are vague about self care and most of all we hear that people just do not know where to start. It is a big job to change the values of an organisation. However as a wise man once said every journey begins with a single step.

When we have advise managers where to start we often state that it should happen in one-on-one meeting with their staff to go over the process we use for individuals. After they have met with all of their staff a team meeting is the next place to push the idea. However we have found that this often only works if your manager drives the process.

In 2014 we are launching a new service for organisations to help implement self care as a whole of organisation process. This can begin at a team level however the goal is to implement self care planning across the whole organisation. We look at policies and procedures, we provide a step by step coaching plan for the manager who wants to impliment this and we work with organisations to implement self care into performance management documentation as a way of holding everyone accountable for staff care.

We are currently putting together a white paper outlining why we believe this to be the biggest issue for youth work organisations at the moment and provide a more detailed outline of how we can support you to implement a whole of organisation self care strategy.

If you would like a copy for yourself, your manager or your organisation emails us today.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Passion needs to be tempered for effective youth work.

I was recently speaking to an organisation who were going to fire a youth worker. They had a list of grievances a mile long  from inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues to inability to take constructive criticism. When I spoke to them about the behaviours it became clear that the behaviours were coming from an overly zealous youth work employee.
 
The employee had seen a number of issues in their place of employment and wanted them all fixed at once. He saw traumatic events being forgotten by other staff in their day to day work with highly traumatised young people. He pushed to forcefully for management to change procedures. He flaunted his knowledge in the faces of more experienced practitioners.
 
 
 
Sometimes when we see injustices, particularly if we are new to the sector, we forget that our passion can come across as arrogance. We get colleagues and service providers off side by our actions our effectiveness takes a massive hit. Most changes to entire sectors do not happen from the little guy in the field but by managers and policy makers at the top of the pile.
 
Passion is good, for the most part. It reminds us why we got into the work we do. Passion needs to be tempered by common sense. Otherwise we burn our bridges before they even get built.
 

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)

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Why youth workers need to take a holiday.

I was recently talking to a youth worker who hadn’t had a holiday in over five years. Aside from a couple of long weekends and the forced  week off between Christmas and New Years, he hadn’t had time away from work. When I probed more it turned out the he had marriage issues, spent next to no time with his children and was off the charts on stress tests; basically a self care nightmare. I asked why he was pushing himself and he said that he needed the money and that if he wasn’t there his clients would be in trouble.
 
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a story like this I would have a decent car brought and paid for. Recently, at the Australian Youth Affairs Conference, I was on a panel addressing self care. One of the questions I was asked was the reasons I hear for a lack of self care, really all I hear are excuses.
 
 
The main excuse I hear is that our clients need us. The fact that 100% of them were doing life fine before we got involved in their lives never enters the picture. It is like, if we weren’t there all our young people would die or end up in prison. So we run ourselves into the ground and give them sub standard service along the way.
 
I spoke to the youth workers manager later that afternoon, and after giving them a serve about not showing care for their staff I told her that she needed to send this guy on a forced vacation in the next month. The Director of the service did not know that there were staff in their service that hadn’t taken holidays in years. That service now has a policy that staff must take holidays every year.
 
You have to take holidays. Your family, career and your clients depend on you looking after yourself.
 

You can also 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)

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Youth work organisations shirk their responsibility

Organisations must care for their staff

This morning I got to have breakfast with one of my amazing mates. Over the healthiest option I could care to find (a double shot latte and a three stack of pancakes and maple syrup) we discussed the ins and outs of the youth sector. Particularly we spoke about the stress that comes with the job. We also spoke of the ability that some roles have to help youth workers burnout. anecdotally we believed that the average youth worker lasts two years and if you are in a role like resi-care you are lucky to last six months.
 
After we had chewed the fat for a while mainly bitching about how hardly done by we are as youth workers our attention turned to the organisations who employ us. There is a duty of care that organisations owe to their staff which we at Ultimate Youth Worker believe is being allowed to lapse. Many years ago unions fought for the eight hour work day. In my career I have never worked an eight hour day. Sleepover shifts circumvent OH&S legislation. Staff are exposed to vicarious trauma and poorly debriefed. Youth workers are forced to work within bureaucratic frameworks that require more work and less reflection
Self care is an organisational responsibility
The average youth worker drowns in bureaucracy and its worse if they don’t look after their self care

Many of the staff that we come across at Ultimate Youth Worker want to do their job to the best of their ability and they all say that they could use more support from their managers. Most managers we meet would love to support their staff but are drowning in paperwork and their own lack of support to be able to help anyone. Then when all hell breaks loose we crucify the staff and managers for not doing their job right. If there is not time to reflect and maintain self care what do we expect!!!

Organisations that value their staff develop them as much as they develop their young people. Managers carve out time for professional development, supervision and the overall welfare of their staff. Organisations actively develop policy and procedures to support their staff to do their job effectively and without to much vicarious trauma. Organisations REQUIRE professional development of their staff and demand that their managers support their staff as whole people not just staff.   
 
We don’t get paid enough to do the job and get treated like crap. Organisations need to take responsibility for their staff wellbeing, for sustainability of the sector and for their own reputation. Funding bodies are not immune from their responsibility either!

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Reflective practice: Why we should journal.

The team at Ultimate Youth Worker are currently developing our “Model of Effective Youth Work Practice” which will guide how we work as youth workers and how we teach youth work to those in the industry. We believe that excellence mean being effective and innovative and as such we are creating a guide for the development of practice excellence. One of the pillars of successful youth work we hold to is that of reflective practice.

 

Reflective practice is by no means a new idea in the field but it is one that is not widely implemented. Reasons for this are wide and varied but are mostly end up being because people do not know how to do it or what it would look like. In university courses there is often discussion about being critically reflective and aware of your work however when a student becomes a staff member the critical thinking is left behind an ever growing wall of bureaucracy and paperwork. This often leads to frustration on the part of the staff member and in more extreme cases a complete break down in effective service delivery.

Now I hear some of you saying ‘yeah, but isn’t that what supervision is for?’, and quite a valid point you make. in a perfect world supervision would provide an opportunity for staff to reflect on their practice. However, the world is rarely ever perfect. Many of the youth workers we speak to rarely have a supervision session if any. Those that do have them often speak of them as robotic and machinistic, or as one youth worker told us ‘just a way for the organisation to tick another box to cover their butts‘. For the rare few there are times provided for them to think critically about their practice and its effect on them and their client and learn from their experience. We believe that critical reflection should not be a little bit tacked on to the end of a supervision session for the lucky few, but a whole of practice approach to every aspect of what we do!!!
Boud (2001) states, “Reflection involves taking the unprocessed, raw material of experience and engaging with it to make sense of what has occurred. It involves exploring often messy and confused events and focusing on the thoughts and emotions that accompany them. It can be undertaken as an informal personal activity for its own sake, or as part of a structured course“. Reflective practice comes in many shapes and formats and depending on your organisation, the resources available to you and your level of expertise this can look very different in one setting over another. Over the coming months we will discuss some of the ways individuals, organisations and the youth work sector as a whole can implement reflective practices into their daily structures. However, for today we will begin by looking at something every individual youth worker can do to develop their own reflective practice… Journaling.

When I was a young youth worker I completed an internship with a small organisation that trained youth workers to work in schools. One of the most interesting aspects of the internship (and the one I most struggled with) was a forced weekly journalling session. Some of my best reflections on where I was at as a youth worker, what I needed to work on and how I practiced came during this time. However, I struggled with the exercise because I was not given a reason to do it. I struggled because I was not given a format or template to do it. But most of all I struggled because critical reflection was not something that had been instilled in me as a youth worker either in practice or study.

Moon, in her 1999 article, states the following reasons why journaling helps in the process of learning from experience:
  • To deepen the quality of learning, in the form of critical thinking or developing a questioning attitude 
  • To enable learners to understand their own learning process
  • To increase active involvement in learning and personal ownership of learning
  • To enhance professional practice or the professional self in practice
  • To enhance the personal valuing of the self towards self-empowerment
  • To enhance creativity by making better use of intuitive understanding
  • To free-up writing and the representation of learning
  • To provide an alternative ‘voice’ for those not good at expressing themselves
  • To foster reflective and creative interaction in a group

Journaling provides a great base for the individual worker to begin to develop their reflective practice. Here is one template i have come accross that has worked over the years to help me reflect on my practice.

  1. Identify and describe the experience/issue/ decision/incident
  2. Identify your strengths as a practitioner
  3. Identify your feelings thoughts; values, feelings and thoughts of others involved
  4. Identify external and internal factors; including structural/oppressive factors etc
  5. Identify factors you have influence or control over and those you don’t ( do others?)
  6. Identify knowledge used:
    1. factual
    2. theoretical
    3. practice
  7.  Develop an action plan: what do I need to do first, second and third and so on
 Impliment your action plan, then do it all over again.

Let us know how you go on facebook and twitter.

 

References

Boud, D. (2001). Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice. In English, L. M. and Gillen, M. A. (Eds.)Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education. New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education No. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 9-18.
Moon, J. (1999). Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page

Let us know how you go on facebook and twitter.

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube