Keeping motivation in youth work

Life is tough, and so is youth work. Keeping motivation can be difficult. From the outside most people only see the coffees, conversations and if everything goes well a young person who appears to be well rounded. What they don’t see is the hours of paperwork, the phone calls, the parent meetings, the heartache and tears. When all of this gets mixed together with the trauma our young people experience and the lack of structured support from our organisations we come up against vicarious trauma. When this happens it is really hard to stay motivated.

This content is for Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Monthly Membership) and Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Yearly membership) members only.
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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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The Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001 A Balanced Life

Ultimate Youth Worker PodcastUltimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001 A 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!

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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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.

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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Is it time to take a holiday?

I am wrecked! It has been a long semester so far. Dozens of youth work students pushing hard to finish their qualifications and dozens more just beginning. Mixed in with this a number of our clients have been defunded by the federal government and many are considering closure and mergers. Our individual supervision clients are struggling with the insecurity of the youth sector and wondering what the future will hold. Amongst all of this our staff are looking at having an extended holiday.

When the world is falling apart around you sometimes the best thing to do is get away. Vicarious trauma affects us all differently. For me I slowly get less excited about waking up in the morning until I can’t think of anything but the negatives. For others it is the sense that their job and clients are just crap. Whatever your go to downfall when push comes to shove we all come crashing down. Thats why our employers give us holidays!

One of the biggest issues we find when working with youth workers is that they don’t use their holidays. Many of our clients have at least a years holidays accrued if not more and when asked have no intention of using them in the next three months. 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.

Your given the holidays so that you can rest and rejuvenate. If you do not use them in the year you are given them you are asking for trouble. rest and reflection are keys to longevity in a career that so easily could sap you of your care.

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 worker self-care: Meditation

Self care and meditationSelf care through meditation

I was recently looking for a little something new to add to my self-care repertoire. I was feeling a little drab in my own self care practice and as I reviewed my self care plan I noticed that lately much of my plan was practical skills based focused. I had not been doing any existential self reflective work. As I was pondering this one day I was challenged by a podcast I was listening to. In this particular podcast there was a discussion of the need for people to set goals and that meditation is one of the goals set by entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur I was intrigued and after doing a little research I set a goal to meditate.
Here are a few of the reasons I decided to check out meditation:
  • It increases the synchronicity in your life
  • It helps living in the present moment
  • It increases self-actualisation.
  • Provides peace of mind, happiness
  • Decrease in potential mental illness
  • React more quickly and more effectively to a stressful event.
  • Helps with focus & concentration
  • Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behaviour.
  • Greater Orderliness of Brain Functioning
  • Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
  • Enhances the immune system.
  • Reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress
  • Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
  • Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
  • It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.

As a youth worker, these are all skills I could use more of everyday. Meditation is one of those skills I have tried before but never implemented as a long term ritual. After looking into the benefits of meditation I can’t believe I let it go without a bit more of a fight. Meditation fit within all areas of our self care plan and affects all areas immensely. Meditation is great.

Join us on Facebook for more 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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Dealing with the down time: Youth worker patience.

If you are in anyway like me you spend most of your working days going flat out. You run from meeting to meeting, to counselling session, to games, to report writing and at the end of the day you crash only to wake up again and do it over. But when those elusive moments of nothing pop up in our diary we find it boring and hard to stay awake. Here are a few things I do when I have nothing to do:

  1. Read. Keep up to date with the sector through journals, blogs etc. It is really important for us to stay abreast of all the goings on in our sector. Sign up to newsletters and blogs of your industry groups as well. Your inbox will always have something interesting to read.
  2. Network. When you have an empty lunch date then meet with a colleague. I try to have at least one lunch meeting or coffee with a colleaague per week and when I have a spare moment it makes it easy to catch up with a member of my network.
  3. Plan. Whether it is your self care or the next step in a project, use this time to make your goals clear. We all whinge when we don’t get planning time!
  4. Tidy up. Your desk, the games locker, your resources they all need a spruice up.
  5. Take the gravy. Take the moment to relish in the fact that the world has not ended and you have time to just sit. It is not every day you have time to do something out of the box. Perhaps you have a project you have been dying to pitch to your boss… use the time to reflect.
Above all remember that it is not going to last forever and you sometimes need to idle before racing down the track.

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 worker self care over Christmas.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the youth service agency there were youth workers running around like headless chickens because they had young people who needed support.
It is a story I hear every year. youth workers who are missing out on holidays and family time because they are working to support young people who arent having that great a time either. Whether in residential services, rehabilitation and detox, street outreach or the local drop-in thousands of our colleagues will be working through the Christmas period. I myself have had my  fair share of working Christmas’s and I know how hard it can be to be away from friends and family at this time.
So here are a few tips to bring some holiday cheer to those of us who are still working:
  1. Have a special Christmas lunch. Do something different even if it is getting a cooked chook from your local supermarket and eating it out of the bag (as I did in 2006 with a great colleague at the time). If you have a few young people around it will make them feel like someone cares.
  2. Have the Christmas carols playing in the background. Now im not saying that you should have the wiggles christmas CD playing but find some good Christmas carols and let them rip. Good carols performed well are quite soothing.
  3. Find some time for you. Even if it is nicking out for a coffee for 15 minutes on a break take some time to reflect on the joy of the season and the year gone by.
  4. Say high to friends and family, even if it is a short phone call.
  5. Remember that the work you are doing is going to bring joy to a lot of young people in a season that often brings them a lot of sadness.
If you do these five things you will have a cracking Christmas even though you are at work.
P.S. once the Cristmas season is over, get a break away even if its just a long weekend… Prices are usually cheaper then anyway. 

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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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.

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Managers need support to do their job: youth work depends on it.

For youth workers to be the best they can be, they need well trained and supported management. We need to have managers who have skills in supervision, people management and an understanding of youth work. They need to have organisational support from CEO’s and Board members to develop their staff and themselves.

At a recent seminar in Tasmania I spoke with a number of managers and executives who agreed intrinsically that youth workers need better supervision and support. They believed that organisations had a responsibility ethically to provide a safe and supportive environment to staff. They all saw that the fear from staff and organisational leaders was destroying cohesive service delivery and support. Yet when it was put to the group that they needed to do something about it the room went silent.

Managers need the support of their staff and their organisations to implement great youth work practices. Get behind 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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Self care is a workplace health and safety issue

Self care is an OHS issueSelf care is an OHS issue

Over the past few months I have been reading as many articles as I could get my hands on looking at self care in the human services. One thing that keeps coming up in the literature is the issue of work stress leading to staff leaving the sector. Staff who at one stage loved their job and the sector who because of the vicarious trauma and minimal managerial support have burnt out. It is just not good enough for a sector that claims to care about people.
So why do we let this happen??? Some say it is the stigma of burning out that makes individuals fear asking for help. Others say that the organisations fear opening a Pandora’s Box of legal and ethical issues. One thing is for sure, as an issue, workplace stress does not get the time it needs at OH&S committee meetings. It is an area which can save organisations thousands of dollars if dealt with properly. Money saved in lost productivity, new hires and costly legal bills as well as higher insurance costs.
As a sector we need to surpass our fears and make self care the ethical issue it is. We need to have workplace stress as a standing item at team meetings, in supervision sessions and in organisational OH&S committees. We currently lose almost a quarter of our staff every year through turnover, if we continue to ignore this massive elephant in the room this number will only grow. In a sector that is struggling to recruit staff shouldn’t we be concerned about keeping those we already have.
What is one thing you can do to place workplace stress on the OH&S 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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