Challenge Support Matrix for youth work

Over the past five years we have worked with hundreds of youth workers who are struggling in the field. We have searched for a model to explain this to no avail. We heard stories of the challenge of youth work and we heard stories of the need for support.We have done the research and we can tell you why people leave the field. We can tell you how to keep people in their jobs. However, there was no neat package that we could use to help managers understand what was going wrong and frontline staff to recognise where they were at… until now.

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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7 signs you need more supervision

7 signs you need more supervisionYou need more supervision!

When we tell people what we do at Ultimate Youth Worker and that youth workers need more supervision we often hear “But I get supervision at work?”. When we unpack this with staff members what they mean is that their boss knows something about their caseload or program and occasionally allows them to do some professional development. When we ask how often they get this supervision most say that it is sporadic at best. In the AYAC National Youth Work Snapshot 2013 a survey of youth workers showed that 8.4% of surveyed youth workers had never had a supervision session and around 51.7% receive it less than once every three months. As an industry that claims professional status this is appalling. It is no wonder that the sector in Australia turns over staff at 23% every year. Supervision is important to staff retention.

The most unfortunate part of this is that the average youth worker doesn’t know what a good supervision framework looks like and so they do not see a problem until it is too late. With this at the forefront of our minds here are the 7 signs that you are not getting enough supervision.
  1. You are bored at work. One of the most damaging things that can happen to a youth worker in their role is boredom. I know what you are thinking. How can I be bored when I am up to my eyeballs in trying to meet KPI’s. When we meet youth workers for external supervision one of the biggest issues we see is that they are not being challenged. At least not in the right ways. We all need to be stretched just a little bit to be our best self. We need to try new things. We need to find new solutions. If you do the same thing day in and day out you get bored. If you are bored in your role you need more supervision.
  2. You see supervision as punishment rather than development. Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice”. If you see it as a chore in which you will be rebuked for doing the wrong thing rather than encouraged towards best practice then you need more supervision.
  3. Your boss only talks about tasks in ‘supervision’ sessions. If like most youth workers your boss is giving you their version of supervision which most likely is checking in that you are completing all your tasks then you are not getting supervision. You are getting the administration part of good supervision. Making sure your cases are going well and your paperwork is done is only a small part of it. Tasks take up less than a third off good supervision practice. Hence you need more supervision.
  4. You have less than one hour once a fortnight. Best practice in supervision says you should be getting at least one hour of reflective supervision every two weeks. If you are not getting the opportunity to develop you as a person and as a practitioner as well as to deal with the admin side of your job then you are not developing as a youth worker. This takes more than one session a month or God forbid one a year. Supervision takes time, but it also pays dividends. In our experience, for every hour spent in supervision it gives you an ROI of 24 hours of exceptional practice.
  5. You have started to look for a new job. You don’t necessarily hate the job you have but you are starting to feel that if you don’t move on the job will eat you alive. This sense of needing to begin a career search is often where we see most of our clients. Either they or their manager refer them on in an attempt to keep them going. But its hard to stop the Titanic sinking with a bucket. In short if you have started to look for a new job it may be too late. This is always a clear sign you need more supervision.
  6. You are not up to date with youth work theory and practice. One of the key reasons for youth work supervision is to keep up to date with best practices and current research. If you are not getting this then you are not getting supervision. If you are not being moulded into a better youth worker every session then something is not right. Your supervisor must grow your knowledge and help you to critically reflect.
  7. You don’t remember the last time supervision looked like this. If your supervision seems lacking after reading this you are not alone. most youth workers we speak to feel the same way. Most managers and team leaders wish they could provide this level of support too. The key is to recognise it and move forward. If you feel like you need more supervision then get it. If your organisation won’t provide it Then get an external supervisor who will.

If you have read this post and you are now wondering what to do then we suggest you look at the links throughout the post as they are a rich source of wisdom in this area. If you can’t find a supervisor in your organisation that is able to provide good supervision then you really only have a few options. Stay and suck it up. Stay and find an external supervisor. Leave the organisation you are currently at for something better. Unfortunately, the stats would say they are few and far between.

At Ultimate Youth Worker we want to see a well supported youth sector. It is why we began back in 2012 and why we started providing supervision from day one. If you need a benchmark then use the resources on this site. If you want us to supervise you we do face to face in Melbourne and Skype throughout the world. Our biggest wish though is that your organisation will provide you with the best supervision.

Let us know if you think we are on the money.

Leave us a comment below.

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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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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Why should a youth worker have supervision?

In the AYAC National Youth Work Snapshot 2013 a survey of youth workers showed that 8.4% of surveyed youth workers had never had a supervision session and around 51.7% receive it less than once every three months. As an industry that claims professional status this is appalling. It is no wonder that the sector in Australia turns over staff at 23% every year. Supervision is important to staff retention.
 
The best supervisors I have had came from both ends of the qualification spectrum. One was a qualified Social Worker with over a decade of experience who regularly attended courses on supervision. The other was a Youth Worker who had no qualifications but was an avid reader of supervision texts and attended every professional development opportunity focused on supervision. The skill set that both of these supervisors had in common was an eager appetite to better their own practice as supervisors and a great ability to listen and reflect. The styles they used were different, the theoretical focus wide and varied and the outcomes specific to the needs of myself and my clients. Supervision is important to staff development.
 
But why should we have supervision sessions in the first place?
 
Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice”.
 
The short answer is supervision gives us time to reflect and develop our skills to become the best we can be!
 
The longer answer is that there are at least three distinct spheres to supervision that need to be addressed in each session for effectiveness: understanding the field of practice and how it applies to your tasks, personal support and affect regulation, and the administrative elements to your work within your organisation. As an external supervisor we add the element of professional skills development to this as well.
 
The largest cause of burnout within our sector is that of psychological distress. Using supervision sessions in the formats above creates an opportunity for minimising the distress and maximising longevity in the field. Supervision provides a conduit for communication on specific issues relating to the causes of youth worker burnout. It asks us to be open and responsive to the issues while learning and developing our skills.
 
Supervision is key to success and longevity in youth work.

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 work supervision environment: importance of neutrality

The supervision environment is important to staff uptake

All to often I hear from youth workers that they don’t want to do supervision sessions. The concerns range from the classic ‘it would breach confidentiality‘ to the obscure, ‘it doesn’t fit well with my existential philosophy‘. The main reason we hear is that staff don’t feel comfortable. Whether meeting with their manager or an external provider the staff member must feel comfortable with the supervision environment. 

Many staff feel that supervision sessions with their manager are really uncomfortable. The meetings are usually had in the managers office with all the managers stuff on the desk and a mountain of paperwork which needs to be dealt with beside the computer. The manager says they are 100% engaged in the session while looking over the pile of paperwork and listen to their staff intently while the email toast pops up on their computer screen.

In the case of external supervisors if they come to your office to work with you or your staff, using the store room as a spare office does not make anyone feel like this is a worthwhile session. If you go out from the office you have issues of privacy and confidentiality. If you go to the external supervisors office they should have a space which is dedicated to sessions like this.

Your environment for the supervision session is really important! If the staff member does not feel comfortable then they will not be open to challenge and change. It needs to be an area that does not have too many distracting qualities and gives the person attending a feeling of safety and warmth.

A bad supervision environment
Would you prefer this?
A good supervision environment
or this?

 

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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Seven things a manager needs to know about internal supervision?

You should be doing internal supervision

As a youth worker who managed staff one of the areas I spent a lot of my time doing was internal supervision sessions. I saw that my staff needed the opportunity to discuss cases in depth, gain professional skills and a framework for organisational administrative procedural work. These staff liked the idea of having an open door but the most productive work happened through our supervision sessions.
Unfortunately, many youth work managers have been promoted into management without gaining any training in supervising staff. They remember the support they received and then give the same to their staff… nothing. But if no one has shown them what to do we can forgive them for not supporting their staff. But no longer. Here are the top seven things a manager needs to know about supervising their youth work staff. 

  1. More communication is better. These sessions are a way of not only speaking about their practice but building a relationship with your staff member. Many managers believe that they are communicating a lot with their staff… you could triple it and it still wouldn’t be enough. In the words of Steven Covey, ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood’. 
  2. You speak for the organisation in all things. As a manager you have role power. It is written all over your face. When you speak to your staff you are speaking with all the authority of your organisation. When you encourage it is like the board has given encouragement. When you admonish they see the CEO getting ready to fire them. Be aware that in their eyes you are the organisation!
  3. Have a best practice framework for the session. In youth work there has not been a lot written about frameworks for professional supervision. In the social work setting there has been quite a lot. Whether you use Alfred Kadushan’s model or another… use a model that has been tried and tested. 
  4. Have an agenda. This is a business meeting like any other. It requires an agenda! What case do you want to work through? What policy do we need to analyse? Is there an organisational framework for the work we do? Whatever you choose as your model for practice will frame your agenda.
  5. One hour EVERY fortnight. Consistency is key. You need to do these sessions regularly with your staff. We recommend every fortnight. when you start it will seem like a lot… but give it time. Even if you are travelling for work use Skype or the phone tot have your session. I was a way at a conference not long after taking on my first managing gig. When I told my staff that we would still be doing our sessions they were amazed. It shows that you care about them.
  6. Its about your staff member. These sessions are not a time for you to reminisce about the good old days when you were on the frontline. They are not for you to sprout from the font of all knowledge. They are all about your staff! What are they struggling with? What do they need to know? What is the best way to deal with the issue they have? Overarching your model of supervision is the fact that it is all about your staff development.
  7. You need to be more knowledgable than your staff. If you know less than your staff then you are in trouble. Read a book. Do a course. Get your own external supervision. In the sessions your staff will expect that you can lead them through the maze of case work to pop out the end with their objective well in hand. You need to know what you are doing! If you don’t you may want to look at contracting an external supervisor.
If you follow these seven steps you will be more effective than the average youth work manager by leaps and bounds.

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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8 tips for amazing youth work external supervision.

External supervision

Two years ago when Ultimate Youth Worker began we started as a small external supervision service for youth workers. We started this because we saw the lack of supervision given to our friends and colleagues as well as the lack of qualified youth workers providing external supervision. We wanted to see youth workers supported by youth workers to develop their youth work practice. Over the past two years we have supported dozens of youth workers to do just that. However, we still hear of people offering supervision to youth workers which cause more trouble than support. These well meaning people, often social workers and psychologists, do not understand the intricacies of youth work theory and practice. They begin to make their supervisees more like them.
Youth workers deserve better. We deserve supervisors who understand youth work theory and practice and how they interweave. We deserve the best possible support to do the work we do.
So what should we look for when choosing an external supervisor. Here are a few thoughts we have on the expectations of a good youth work supervisor:
  1. They must have a youth work background. It should not come as a surprise but many other professions do not work with young people. There are also issues which youth workers face which are not covered by other professions. I have heard of social workers, psychologists, OT’s and nurses supervising youth workers when they have never worked with young people. A great external supervisor will have extensive youth work experience… at least five years direct practice is a minimum.
  2. They must be qualified. They must hold a qualification in youth work. Minimum of a diploma level however we recommend the degree. They must also have some qualification in supervision. The minimum standard should be one of the five day courses available by many professional associations.
  3. They must have an articulated best practice framework of supervision. If they cannot articulate the framework they use and why then do not hire them. They must address how they will work with you and the areas they will cover with you.
  4. They must have a track record of other clients. If it is the first time they have supervised people you don’t want to pay to be a guinea pig. If they are genuine they will have a record of staff they have supervised.
  5. They must be a member of a professional body. Whether it is a youth work professional association, a peak body or another professional body. You want to know that they are being kept accountable for the work they are doing within the youth sector.
  6. They must be accessing supervision themselves. Good supervisors have to talk things through too. They need to make sure they are supervising well and ethically. They need to unload the traumas they hear as much as their supervisees.
  7. They must hold professional indemnity insurance. While you should never need it, if you get advice and you use it and something goes wrong you need to be aware that they are insured.
  8. They must be a fit and a challenge. This one takes time and why we recommend a review after the first few sessions. They must fit you personally. Your personality and where you want to be going. And, they must be able to challenge you. to help you step outside yourself and try more.
If you ask your potential external supervisor these questions then you will be assured to have a great supervisor to help you trek through the ups and downs of youth work. If you want a supervisor who ticks all these boxes contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

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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We need to do better: Critically reflective practice and supervision in youth work

This evening I sat in on a class preparing students for a masters degree placement in the human services. The topic for the class was supervision and particularly reflective supervision. As a company that believes we need a better class of reflective practice and supervision I was really keen to see what they would tell students. Sadly it was a waste of time.
 
The students were shown an article about a critical supervision model and were told to role play a scenario using the model. Then the class ended! This was the only class these students ever had about critically reflecting in supervision. I was shocked!!! The students had a model for critical reflective practice, however it was clear that very few of their placement supervisors really did critically reflective supervision.
 
We need to spend more time on the idea of critical reflection and supervision especially in higher education. What more can we expect when  our students have a two hour class on the subject. We believe that for our sector to really become critically reflective it needs to be taught from the first class in our qualifications. For supervisors to be able to supervise well they need better training than a two hour class.
 
If you are an educator, a supervisor or a coalface worker we need to do better at critically reflective practice and supervision. Join with us to make this a part of your practice.
 

 

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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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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.

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I’m a Slut…No one will love me!!!

Hard conversations are bread and butter for the average youth worker. I always love walking into a new youth work environment and seeing what the young people will try to shock me with. I remeber taking a volunteer into a residential care facility for her first meeting with a young person. On the driveway we meet a twelve year old boy who with a blank stare and an unwaivering voice asked if my volunteer was a lesbian, a paedophile or just a whore? My normal very assertive and chirpy volunteer turned white as Casper the friendly ghost and struggled to have a conversation for the next hour. I have often said to my volunteers, other youth workers and especially the young people that if they could tell me a story that would shock me I would be surprised. I often follow it up by saying that there is nothing they could ask me or share with me that would shock me enough to walk away…If there was I wouldn’t be in youth work!
 

My seeming inability to be shocked has grown through years of working with some of the most abused young people in Victoria. Whether young people in residential care, sexual abuse victims or children of prisoners I have heard stories that make my stomach churn. On the outside though I am calm and cool. It takes a lot of composure sometimes to stay calm when the stories are so in your face or you are being vilified by a twelve year old.
 
I remember speaking to a young woman earlier this year who had been through the wringer. Family issues, school issues, legal issues and to top it all off she was being pimped out by her uncle. After a conversation that lasted about half an hour she stated matter of factly “I’m a Slut…No one will love me!!!” My hard exterior almost broke. It took me a full minute to regain my composure. She continued to tell me how she had been her uncle’s ‘girl’ for almost two years and then how he had sold her to his friends. What really shook me was that she had just had her birthday.
 
Even the seemingly heartless stone cold dominant folk have a pulse. It may just be a little deeper than the rest. I was propper shook. I was able to hold it together enough to get back to my office then I was overcome by anger I couldn’t think straight, I was narky with everyone and I was ready to do some damage to someone. I knew I was in a bad way. Some days it just gets bad. I told my boss What had happened and that it was getting to me. My boss got me to call my external supervisor to tee up a time to catch up that week and then sent me home. I still wasnt great and when I got home I blew up at my wife over something trivial. It was not a good night for me.

 

My wife is a wonderful woman who is very intuitive and she quitely told me to get into my plan. I called one of my mentors, spent some time out for a walk and spent some time contemplating the future of my work with the young lady. Her words kept ringing in my ears “I’m a Slut…No one will love me!!!” How can we show love (genuine care and affection) to such broken young people??? How can we do it when all we want to do is take vengence for them?
 

Two things come to mind:

 
First, centre yourself. Spend some time regaining balance. Look to your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual; and get some balance in life. The first rule in any form of rescue work or first aid is look after yourself and do not become a casualty yourself. Whilst dwelling on the situation breeds more interesting ways to cause pain to those who have hurt our young people, it also tears us apart.
 
Second, plan your next engagement. You have likely heard the most intense barrage you are going to hear. Now it is time to prepare yourself for your next encounter. Get ready to ask the questions you need to, spend time practicing with a supervisor or colleague and have a list of the other people or agencies you might want to refer the young person to.
 
I have been called a lot of things in my life and career, but it is when young people have lost hope in themselves and the world that gets under my skin. It does take a lot for me to get angry when people aim at me, but when they take on a young person my protective righteous anger boils to the top. To be the best I can be for my young people I can not let my feelings get in the way of good practice. Our emotions are important, but our control over them is critical. If we get antsy about a term like slut, or the story of abuse then our work is compromised. We must be aware of the effects of trauma on us and how to best deal with it in our own way. Looking after our young people means we need to have a thick skin…for their sake as much as ours.

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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