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.

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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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