This post started as a bit of tongue in cheek discussion with a good friend about what youth workers can’t live without that led to a facebook question (which became very real, very quickly) and ended with me writing this down. What do you think about this list? What are we missing?
Coffee (or Tea)
Many years ago I stated unequivocally that Ultimate Youth Workers drink coffee like it is our life blood. The avalanche of vitriol that came my way from our friends in the United Kingdom was phenomenal. So from then on I have begrudgingly allowed tea in the mix. To be sure I have often wondered how youth workers would get anything done before we have our first cup of love.
A good compendium
Youth workers are often seen as less professional than others when we arrive at meetings. We dress like young people, we usually have a cup of coffee in our hand and when we sit down at these meetings we have a crappy note pad and a ten cent biro in our hand. Well if that doesn’t scream professional, nothing will. Buy a good compendium, it holds a legal pad, there are good ones for $30 on amazon (and don’t forget a decent pen… spend at least $2).
I was reminded of a post by our good friend James Ballantyne at Learning from the Streets and some of the stuff that clutters up a youth workers car. In my own car I have two frisbees, a basketball, a tennis ball or three, a cricket bat, multiple decks of cards (including a 500 deck, Uno and Skip-Bo), a few empty water bottles, a ream of different coloured paper and every colour Sharpie you can imagine. With these tools I can create the most imaginative games under the most extreme circumstances.
A go bag
In military terms a go bag is a bag of goodies that will sustain you in a crisis. When I worked as a casual residential worker I would get a phone call an hour before they needed me. I still have a go bag in my car for just such an emergency. My bag is a basic duffle bag (similar to this) and has in it:
A full change of clothes
a few snacks, a couple of meals, a few sachets of coffee
A towel and a toiletry bag with all I need
A small first aid kit (With any medication I might need)
I also keep a sleeping bag and a pillow in my car so if I need to do a sleep over shift I am always ready to go.
Someone to download with
You need to be able to debrief in this job. If you don’t you are on a slippery slope to burnout. You need to have a mentor who you can go to and just ask any questions. You need a supervisor who can support you as a person, a practitioner and a professional. You need to have someone who understands the job, you and the pressures you are under.
When I started as a youth worker I had no qualifications. I didn’t know anything , I didn’t know any better and my bosses didn’t really give me any training to bring me up to speed. I had to work it out myself. That is the worst possible position for a new youth worker to be in. I made dozens of stupid mistakes that could have been avoided.
In 2005 I began a degree in youth work almost four years after I started as a youth worker. What I learnt over the next three years set me up to provide the best service possible to young people. Since that time I have gone on to do many more qualifications, I taught in TAFE and in Higher Ed and I have come to the conclusion that the best way for youth workers to learn how to do the job.
One of my mantras for my students is build your network. I say it so often some of my students will joke that I have a network for everything. The simple fact is that youth workers get things done because of the people we know. Join LinkedIn (you can add me first). Every time you meet someone get their card and add them to your contacts. Join some groups on facebook.
A Self Care Plan
You must, YOU must, YOU MUST have a self care plan if you want to survive in youth work. It isn’t something that you can just wing. You must have a plan that covers the main areas of life and it must be written down. You need to review it ever three to six months to see how you are going.
We believe in this one so much we have dedicated a vast number of blogposts and our first podcast episode to having a self care plan.
A hobby outside Youth Work
Youth work can become our life. We love it. It’s rewarding. But it can also suck the life right out of you. In my career I have seen a bunch of youth workers run themselves so hot that they burnt out. If your life is only about one thing you are in trouble. Youth workers need to have a hobby outside of youth work. Something that has nothing to do with youth work in any way.
A good book
Youth workers are readers, at least we all should be. In our bags we should have with us a good book every day. When I was in direct practice on a daily basis I lost count of how many hours I lost sitting in waiting rooms with young people. After a good 30 to 45 minutes we would end up sitting staring at a wall or if we were really lucky a tv. Have a book with you. Read, Read, Read.
A good suit (or equivalent)
We do love a snug pair of jeans and a sweet hoodie as youth workers. It’s our uniform. However, there are times that our uniform doesn’t work for us or our young people. When I worked with the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner i spent much of my time with young people in residential care, resi workers and volunteers who would have thought a three piece suit was out of character. I would then end up in Meetings with senior public servants and managers from not for profit organisations where a suit was the uniform.
You will go to court for your young people, you will attend funerals and if you are really lucky you might get invited to a wedding. You need a suit.
Well that is the list. What do you think? What else should be added?
In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Practising Critical Reflection’ Aaron speaks with us about the importance of critical reflection and the model put forward by Jan Fook and Fiona Gardner.
This episode explains the three part process for practising critical reflection. This multi-disciplinary model is used across the human services sector world wide and is one that youth workers should be familiar with.
We hear every day that youth workers are feeling a sense of powerlessness, that they fear risk and the consequences of risk, and that they are faced by increased complexity. We want to be the best, but we feel overwhelmed by the job.
Critical reflection is spoken about extensively in youth work education courses however when youth workers enter the workforce we hear that there is no time for it, there are no structures in place to do it and there is minimal if any support from management to start running it. For a profession that quite literally deals with life and death critical reflection is a must for all youth workers.
You want to provide the best service to your young people, you want to have a long and successful career in youth work, you do not want to be burnt out by the job, then begin to implement this model into your practice. If you do, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the average youth worker.
The most exciting part about looking to the future is you can make it anything you want. You dream a dream in time gone by… and then you look towards the amazing future you have created. The hard part is going out and creating it. You actually have to spend time and resources in the pursuit of your dream. At Ultimate Youth Worker we have a dream to see youth workers be the best they can possibly be, and 2019 is the year that our dreams and yours collide!
You keep telling us that the support you receive in the sector is limited at best, most of you have not had a proper supervision session in the last year. You have told us that the training you attend has little to do with youth work and if it does its stuff you already know. You tell us that when poop hits the fan and you need critical incident debriefing you end up talking to psychologists that don’t understand the youth sector or the work you do. In short you have told us that you don’t feel supported to do the job.
You have told us that you love the work you do. If you were better supported, trained and cared for youth work would be the perfect job.
We have heard you and we are the organisation who is looking to meet all your needs. In 2019 we are focusing in on the support you need to be the best youth worker you can be.
Around 90% of youth workers do not get adequate support and debriefing for the work we do. At minimum that is a one hour supervision session once a month. A space where you get to talk about how you are going, the work you are struggling with and the steps you need to take to become a better professional.
In 2019 you will be able to get external supervision from youth workers with over a decade of experience and holding masters degrees. You asked for individual supervisors who are qualified and experienced and you got it. You can gain individual or group supervision to meet the needs you have as a youth worker.
We have been to more than our fair share of “professional development” over the years and quite honestly we want our money back from most of it. Dull, uninteresting, topics based at those with no knowledge of the sector, outdated, and most of all… boring!!! We have spoken to many of the youth workers in our community and the first few years of your career appear to be the most challenging.
To that end we have created our ‘Tier One‘ training for youth workers in their first few years of youth work. Much of this training is aimed at areas youth workers tell us they need more support in, and is built on the idea that you could do it to compliment a degree program.
There is a disappointing trend in the wider human services sector to leave critical incident debriefing to psychologists who have very little experience in the sector. While well meaning and highly qualified they don’t know youth work or the context youth workers work in. We have provided Critical Incident Debriefing for the last few years as a side to the main work of Ultimate Youth Worker. In 2018, we have been approached by a number of youth work organisations to provide debriefing for their youth workers. In 2019, we will provide this service as part of our core business of supporting youth workers.
Research is more important now in the youth and community services sector than ever before. Evidence based practice is here to stay and if you want to meet the challenges of this century and all its funding issues you need good research. Ultimate Youth Worker researchers come from a diversity of disciplinary backgrounds including social work, psychology, youth work and education. Our research approaches like our staff are diverse and complementary to the sector. The types of research and practice development we undertake have included:
Development of models of best-practice
Face-to-face and online training modules
Qualitative and quantitative studies
Our staff can help you with everything from literature reviews to major projects. Whatever your need contact us for a confidential discussion as to your requirements.
The Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast is the leading youth work podcast on the internet. Expert interviews, mini trainings, and intimate behind-the-scenes secrets from our team of expert youth workers… all tied together by our mission to make EVERYTHING you listen to as actionable as possible. We guarantee that you will find this podcast the most helpful tool in your youth work toolkit.
In 2019 we will be reaching out around the world we bring together the most experienced practitioners, the most published academics and the most renowned policy makers to help us to gain a depth of wisdom that will make us all Ultimate Youth Workers. Bringing evidence based practices, journal articles, books and the best practical wisdom together to inform our interviews you get the most up to date thinking in the sector… all at the touch of your favourite podcast player.
In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast Aaron speaks with Jessy Hall, Community Engagement Coordinator about his work with Ultimate Youth Worker focussing on building our community and a few awesome adventures coming his way.
Let me introduce you to Jessy Hall. Jessy is a young man born on Wurundjeri country in Melbourne, Victoria. Jessy holds a Diploma in Youth Work and a Certificate IV in Child, Youth and Family Intervention.
Jessy has been working as a youth worker since 2014 in a variety of different roles. His passion for youth work began whilst volunteering on a YMCA program for young indigenous leaders
Jessy is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Ultimate Youth Worker. Writing articles, joining the podcast, engaging with members of the Ultimate Youth Worker community and generally being an all round nice guy, Jessy is our go to staff member for turning our frowns upside down. If you want to know about the goings on in our community then our community engagement coordinator is the go to guy.
Jessy has just embarked on the journey of a lifetime, to drive around Australia in a four wheel drive with his partner. He plans to work along the way and explore the different opportunities available for youth workers in Australia. During his trip Jessy will add videos, pictures and podcast of the amazing youth workers he comes across. If you have a great project that you are involved with let us know and Jessy might be able to pop in for a visit.
The height of professional youth work in Australia is the humble degree program. Three years of your life where you get to learn all the ins and outs of the profession of youth work in Australia. There are currently six youth work degrees in Australia, each with their own distinctive points.
If you are considering studying a youth work degree in Australia then you need to weigh up the pros and cons. A helpful first step is our podcast “How do I become a youth worker“. Another point to make is that all youth work degrees in Australia a regulated by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) which assures the quality of Australia’s higher education sector. All the courses have had to meet rigorous and exacting standards to be able to be endorsed including a review by industry experts and academics. So whichever course you choose, know that you are getting a comprehensive course which has been developed to meet the highest standards of education.
So here is a breakdown of the courses (in alphabetical order) which are available to you if you are after youth work degrees Australia:
Australian Catholic University
Australian Catholic University runs a Bachelor of Youth Work from their campus in Melbourne. This is what they say about the course:
Youth Work is an exciting and challenging career involving working for and with young people in a variety of fun and rewarding ways. The key thing that differentiates youth workers from other community service workers is that young people are their primary concern. Youth work acknowledges the social and cultural environments within which young people live and helps foster young people’s emotional and social development.
In addition to the core youth work units, students can choose between minors in counselling or sociology. You will receive valuable practical experience in working with young people, in addition to the theoretical insights and practical competencies needed for dealing with the needs, problems and aspirations of young people.
Eastern College Australia runs a Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work) from their campus in Wantirna in Melbourne's Eastern Suburbs. This is what they say about the course:
Youth workers improve the life outcomes for young people. We encourage their personal and social development while helping them to become active citizens.
In our Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work), you will gain a strong foundation for working with young people. You will gain specialist knowledge to support young people experiencing difficulties from a trauma informed care perspective. To get you ready for a challenging and rewarding career you will spend 70 days on professional work placements.
Our degree is taught from a Christian worldview perspective, and is delivered by experts in the field of youth work. You will receive guidance from specialist youth workers and experienced sociologists, community development workers, social workers and other relevant areas. You will graduate with the knowledge, skills and experience to support young people as a reflective practitioner.
Edith Cowan University runs a Bachelor of Youth Work from their campus in Joondalup, Western Australia. This is what they say about the course:
Provides a comprehensive program of study in the essentials of youth work as an embedded practice within community work. The course includes specialist units in youth work, plus complementary studies in community work.
Students can choose complementary areas of study such as Aboriginal and Intercultural Studies, Addiction Studies, Community Work, Criminology, Psychology, Counselling, Visual Arts, Media and Communication, Events Management, and Outdoor Adventure.
Tabor runs a Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work) from their campuses in Adelaide and Perth. This what is they say about the course:
Young people are actively involved in shaping our world. So, what will this world look like for all of us in the future? How will life be better for citizens of the next century? The Tabor Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Youth Work) is developed around a central, optimistic ideology – that young people enrich society. Such enrichment requires unity and collaboration. Human experience is fundamentally relational and Tabor believes that any society is made better by the presence of multiple voices.
The Tabor program is designed to promote the critical need for a collective voice in shaping our future world. This belief, grounded in the social sciences and our own spiritual values, drives us to play a role in the ongoing struggle for justice and to help young people excel in an interconnected society.
RMIT University runs a Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies from their campus in Melbourne's CBD. This is what they say about the course:
The Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies explores complex issues affecting at-risk youth, such as homelessness, radicalisation, poverty and mental health. It encourages critical debate and investigation of youth in relation to space, digital landscapes, culture, religion, family and the law.
The role of a youth worker is diverse, with many challenging and rewarding career opportunities. This program aims to examine and foster the environments in which all young people can thrive and feel confident, connected and safe.
Can we suggest that if you are in youth work or are looking to be a youth worker and you want to be in the sector for more than a couple of years then you need to have a youth work degree in Australia. The knowledge, practice wisdom and experience you gain will hold you in great stead for many years. Whichever degree you choose know that you are going to be learning from the best in the sector.
Remember that each of these degrees have their own take on how to do youth work, but the core business of working with young people to encourage, empower and engage young people is the same.
I was in a youth advisory committee meeting for a local council last week and we asked each young person what issues they are passionate about. One of the answers really stood out to me, a young person said “I am passionate about recognising and understanding my privilege and using it to give a voice to those less fortunate than me”. How many 14 year olds do you know that can reflect so deeply on a topic such as privilege? I was astounded and inspired.
This got me thinking.. when have I been required to be critically reflective about myself and my work? Whilst there is some reflective practice involved in team meetings, supervision (that’s a whole other story in itself) and trainings, I don’t recall a time where the main focus was on critical reflective practice. With this in mind I decided to get in touch with you, our Ultimate Youth Worker community, and find out what your thoughts are on reflective practice.
Here are some of the responses:
“Youth Workers should use this process to talk about the things that are affecting you personally. What has been a situation with a client that are made you uneasy, or made you frustrated or angry, or made you nervous, or that you have ‘hit the wall’ with a client. You should unpack that and get in touch with what is going on, it will help you.”
– Paul McDonald, Anglicare Victoria.
“Reflective practice is extremely important in youth and social work to avoid experiencing vicarious trauma. A few years into my career, I worked with a particular family that caused me to suffer vicarious trauma. I was young myself and their story was particularly harrowing and frustrating. I wasn’t in the headspace, both professionally and personally, to truly acknowledge how this situation was affecting me. I had one-on-one supervision but at that time it wasn’t adequate, and I would stay late every day, long after everyone else had gone home. After many months of this, the trauma seeped into my personal life and eventually I realised what was happening. As my career has progressed and I have now managed a team, I see the vast importance of reflective practice, both individually and as a group/team.
Within our team and site, we have one-on-one supervision, group supervision with a child psychiatrist, group supervision with an occupational therapist who is a child trauma specialist, as well as practice reflection as a site. These are absolute non-negotiables now and are compulsory for all required staff to attend. The work we do is tough, and without these safe spaces to be able to reflect on what we do and how we do it, as well realise how our work affects us, we cannot do the best work for the people we support.”
– Sammy Hoppe, Launch Housing.
It’s great to see positive comments on reflective practice, it goes to show that there are some structures and processes out there that work really well to support staff in their personal and professional development. However I have come across a large number of youth workers who express the opposite concerns about the support they are getting with regards to reflective practice. In our experience at Ultimate Youth Worker, we find that this is partly due to a lack of a clear model for critical reflective practice for youth workers. One particular model that we find effective in our practice is Jan Fook and Fiona Gardiners framework for critically reflective practice, outlined in their book ‘Practicing Critical Reflection’.
In short, the framework is broken down into three phases and is usually facilitated in small groups, but it can also be used in a one-on-one setting. Firstly, the participants are asked to go through the process of ‘unsettling assumptions’. In this stage, the participant is asked to reflect on their practice and how it is affecting them, but they are also asked to unpack their assumptions based on their social and cultural context. The reason the term ‘unsettling assumptions’ is used is to ‘shake up’ the thinking of the participant in a way that they start to experience a degree of discomfort and explore hidden assumptions that they normally wouldn’t. Which in a supportive and clinical environment can foster greater and deeper learning. The second phase focuses on linking the learnings from the previous stage with theory and practice relevant to the individual and their work. In the third phase, which we argue is potentially the most neglected part of reflective practice, the participant goes through the process of linking their changed awareness with changed actions. This third phase is the most important part of reflective practice.
In their book, Fook and Gardiner state that “The climate and culture of the critical reflection process are probably as important as the tools and techniques used.” They continue by describing how important it is for the facilitator to create an environment where participants acknowledge the potential pain, risk and vulnerability involved with reflecting. I would love to say that I’ve had such a detailed and structured reflective practice session in my years as a youth worker, but unfortunately this is not the case. A story that I’m sure is all too familiar. What are your thoughts on this model? Would you want it to be implemented in your workplace? Share your comments in the section below.
I remember when I first started as a youth worker. I knew that ethics were important, that they underpinned the work that I did and that a youth work code of ethics existed in Victoria. However, being the gung-ho youth worker that I was, I was more interested in diving head first into the nitty gritty stuff rather than sitting down and dissecting how a code of ethics might better inform my practice. Over the years I have spent a lot of time reflecting on and refining the work that I do and this has led me to spend a lot more time developing a more rounded and ethical approach to my work. Whilst I would argue that I naturally act within an ethical framework, it can be helpful to know the “guidelines” set out by the industry professionals in your area. This is where a code of ethics comes into play. Having a code of ethics can guide you in the right direction with regards to professional development, increase your longevity in the field and help you to fully understand your roles and responsibilities on a micro and macro scale.
Earlier this year we spoke with Professor Howard Sercombe about his work developing a youth work code of ethics in Australia. I’ve listened to it and summarised a few key learnings that I drew from it, however I do encourage you to listen to the podcast and then have some discussions with your colleagues about the information raised. Here is what stood out for me;
Whilst we can perform our job ethically without necessarily having a code of ethics written down, having it written down allows us to be more conscious of the work we do and why we do it.
It gives us a common language to use with each other and allows us to define ourselves and our role to other professionals.
There is no nationwide code of ethics. Some states are opposed to a code of ethics, however those states that do possess a code share ones that are similar in their makeup.
A code of ethics is not a list of rules. Youth Work is such a broad field and the circumstances we face are so varied that having one set of rules would not work.
A code of ethics can be described as “terms of engagement”; core principles that govern our overall approach to working with young people.
With this mind, I have taken some of the key responsibilities from “The Code of Ethical Practice for the Victorian Youth Sector” and outlined ways in which they inform my day to day practice as a youth worker. The Victorian Youth Work Code of Ethics states that “The youth work practice responsibilities describe key elements of what youth workers do when guided by the youth work principles. They are the essence of youth work practice and are important in youth workers fulfilling their responsibilities. The youth work practice responsibilities are not placed in order of importance, but are all of equal value”.
Young People as the Primary Consideration.
“This means thinking about, then doing, what is best for the young person. So even if other people are involved in your work—like the young person’s parents or another worker—you always make decisions in the best interest of the young person”.
I hear all the time “we have the young person’s best interest at heart” or many other variations of the same sentiment. But what does it actually mean in practice? I regularly try to think back to when I was their age and how I would have responded to certain situations, then put myself in their shoes. Being able to understand a young person’s situation from their point of view allows you to truly consider what is best for them at that point in time. From this point of view, you can connect with them on their level and act as an advocate.
As a residential youth worker, a prime example of “young people as the primary consideration” is the Looking After Children documents (LAC). The Department of Health and Human Services states that “Looking After Children (LAC) is an outcomes-focused approach for collaboratively providing good care for children placed in out-of-home care. In Victoria, LAC provides the practice framework for considering how each child’s needs will be met, whilst that child is in out-of-home care. It is used for managing out-of-home care in accordance with the Best Interests Case Practice Model cycle of information gathering, assessment, planning, implementation and review”.
Parts of the document are completed by the caregivers, and parts are completed with the young person to ensure they have a say in the outcomes they want from being in out-of-home care. The goal setting element of this document is extremely important and can be an empowering process for the young person if done correctly.
“The youth work relationship is strictly professional. Professional boundaries intentionally protect both the young person and the worker. Youth workers will maintain the integrity of these limits”. Some of the young people I work with make it their mission to find me on social media. For the most part they are successful. This has led me to finding ways to conceal my online identity and I have even deleted some accounts to avoid causing any issues. For the most part this is not a real issue though, as the boundaries are very clearly set out in the beginning.
This is such an important responsibility to adhere to when working with young people. Depending on the service and your role, you have to walk a fine line between between being a “friend” and being a “worker”. Professor Howard Sercombe states that the relationship between a youth worker and a young person creates a space of safety and security that can make it easier for them to disclose. As a youth worker you connect with the young people on their level and form a close and trusting relationship, but you must also make sure that they understand your role and the responsibilities you have. For instance, the legal responsibilities you have in terms of mandatory reporting. As stated above, this is for the protection of the worker and the young person.
Cooperation and Collaboration.
“This means you work together with other people to get the best results for young people. For example, you might involve another service or the young person’s family if it’s appropriate (and the young person gives consent)”.
To practice this responsibility ethically would involve putting differences aside and always having the child or young person’s best interests at the forefront of your practice. As the age old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child”; the same applies for the social services sector and the young people and children we support. We are constantly liaising with family members, other services and government organisations to ensure the best possible outcomes for the people in our services.
I am currently involved with a program that is a prime example of cooperation and collaboration. Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO); a foster care based program, includes four key professionals that are working with and for each young person around the areas of individual therapy, skills coaching, family therapy and education. Every week, we meet with the young person, their carers and their family, as well as have a clinical meeting. In this meeting, professionals share ideas, make sure we are all working towards the same end goal and develop a fully collaborative plan for each young person’s time in the program and beyond. This model displays transparent regard for the young person, what they want to achieve and how. This is extremely important when working with other professionals and / or other organisations, as the young person must firstly give consent but also have ownership over their case plan.
Recognition of Indigenous Peoples.
“Youth workers recognise that we live on the traditional lands and waters of the Indigenous peoples of Australia. They recognise that culture and connection to land and community is a right for Indigenous young people and that they have a right to cultural safety. Youth workers will be respectful of Indigenous culture at all times and recognise the importance of culture as it relates to Indigenous young people’s self-esteem and sense of identity”
“In 2015-16, Indigenous children aged 0-17 received child protection services at a rate around seven times that for non-Indigenous children, and they were 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care” (Australia’s Welfare 2017: in brief, AIHW).
The above statistic is alarming. In my work I am ten times more likely to work with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) child or young person than a non-ATSI child or young person. This highlights how important it is to have a deep understanding of how to appropriately and ethically work with ATSI people.
I was lucky enough to begin my journey as a youth worker within an ATSI leadership program in Melbourne. Through this I was able to learn a lot from local ATSI young people and elders about the importance of culture, not only in their lives, but in the lives of non-ATSI people too. One important lesson I took from this experience was that ATSI culture is so expansive and differs all over Australia. So in order to be culturally sensitive in my practice I have to familiarise myself with the history and customs of each different community I am working with.
There are many ways in which having an ethical practice with regards to recognition for Indigenous people can be achieved. A few simple but important things that can be done are;
Knowing the traditional owners of the land you live/work on and display a flag or sticker to show your acknowledgement.
Perform an acknowledgement of country at the beginning of meetings/events.
Participate in cultural awareness training at your workplace.
Know the history of Australia and the details around its’ invasion.
Know the appropriate language and terms to use when talking to and about ATSI people.
Attend events in support of ATSI rights and recognition.
“This means you commit to ongoing learning. For example, you might read new research or take special training. Self-care means you’re aware of and take responsibility for your own physical and emotional wellbeing. This is important because you help young people best when you feel well yourself. Your organisation also has a responsibility to support your professional development and self-care”
At Ultimate Youth Worker we have spent a lot of time speaking about self-care. Our last blog post was entirely dedicated to self care as it is such an important part of ethical practice.
Knowledge is also part of this section of the code and is just as important. Within all the work that I do, knowing the legal boundaries and expectations of my role is just as important as knowing organisational ones. Trainings such as those from Youth Law have formed an integral part of my understanding around mandatory reporting and age of consent laws. As these laws can change, it is your ethical duty to ensure you are up-to-date with the laws that affect your role.
As part of my own quest for knowledge, skill and self care, I participate in the World Youth Worker Network. It is a facilitated peer support network run by Ultimate Youth Worker solely dedicated to the longevity of youth workers through personal and professional development. The network has given me a deeper understanding of my core values, my purpose and goals in life. It has played an integral part in ensuring that I have the best ethical practice possible.
The other responsibilities in the Victorian code of ethics are privacy and confidentiality, duty of care, social context and anti-oppressive practice: non-discrimination, equity and self-awareness. As stated at the start, no single responsibility is considered more or less important than the other, and most of them are overlapping in how they affect our day to day practice. Are you familiar with the code of ethics for your sector? Do you think it’s important to have a code of ethics and apply it in your everyday work? We would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this topic. Leave a comment on our socials and get the conversation started!
If you would like to read more about different codes of ethics in Australia, you can access them in the links below:
In my experience, “self care” in the Youth Work industry can be used as a “buzz word” or just a box to tick on your supervision notes. In my first year as a youth worker that was exactly how I thought. But after a while I began to experience mental health issues as a consequence of not looking after myself. This is when I started to look for a guide to self-care more seriously. I have benefited enormously from putting time and effort in to my self-care and that’s why I have created this guide to self care. With more dozens of articles in the Ultimate Youth Worker archives dedicated to self-care, I have found some of my favourites and compiled a five step guide to self care to help you stay on top of your self-care.
Step 1. Make a plan.
Step one is nice and easy; settle in to a cosy chair somewhere with a beautiful view, find a pen and paper, get yourself a nice warm cup ‘o tea and listen to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001.
In the podcast Aaron & Kat talk about how to live a balanced life. They go through a step-by-step process of how to create your very own “self-care stool”, each leg of the stool representing an integral element of life that needs to be tended to in order to live a balanced life and reduce vicarious trauma. If one leg of the stool is weak or off-balance, then the whole stool is unstable.
It’s no coincidence that the first step in this self-care guide is the topic of our first ever podcast!
If we think in terms of first-aid, the very first thing you are taught is to prioritise personal safety over everything else, even the casualty. The same applies for Youth Work. You can’t provide best care to another person without caring for yourself properly first.
Take the first step, listen to the podcast below and create your self-care plan.
“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” – Will Rogers
In response to my self-care plan, step two for me was finding out how I could keep myself composed during times of stress and how I could deal with the aftermath of stressful situations at work. The answer was meditation (as well as adequate follow-up and supervision of course). But it wasn’t just one short meditation course, it was several courses backed up with a consistent daily practice. Hard work and effort, but the reward was well worth it.
Meditation worked for me because I found calm in the process and the results were fruitful. But not everyone finds meditation helpful. In that case, start to put your self-care plan in to action and find out what will help you fulfil the different elements of your self-care stool.
In the article below, Aaron talks about the many benefits of meditation and expresses his regret of giving it up too easily when he first tried it.
Step three is about recognising when you need to seek the help of others. In your self-care plan you would have listed a few people who are responsible for keeping you accountable. We work in a tough industry, we are often verbally and sometimes physically abused, we see and hear things that can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and we are really good at brushing it aside as “part of the job”. Vicarious trauma is a real threat to the longevity of Youth Workers and we need to make a concerted effort to seek help when we are showing signs of burn out.
This may involve sitting down for a chat with a mentor, a friend or a partner. It could even mean using your employee assistance program to see a Psychologist. Find someone who can assist you with finding your centre and then work together to put a plan in place to minimise the likelihood of burn out in the future.
In Aaron’s story below he talks of some of the signs and symptoms he was experiencing that led to him seeking help.
Circumstances can sometimes get in the way of taking holidays, but when it starts to effect the quality of your work then you need to prioritise a break. After one year as a full-time residential care worker where I was picking up extra casual shifts and taking every personal development opportunity possible, I was burning out pretty fast. It was time to bite the bullet and take a break.
How are you going to recharge your batteries enough so that you can come back refreshed and more prepared to deal with the job? For me it was in my self-care plan, spend time in nature. This, coupled with meditation and having a clear mind from not being at work for a while gave me a strong platform to return to work and give my all to the people I was working for. So, it is time for you to take a holiday?
Ive said it three times because it’s one of the underlying and most important principles of self-care. As discussed in the podcast in step one, having someone to keep you on track and accountable for your self-care is the best way to do it successfully. Your self-care stool relies on it. Sit down with a friend and do your self-care plans together, then set a date for a review and do that together as well. Good luck!
To read more articles and insights into self-care from the Ultimate Youth Worker team, click the link below.
What drug is that? The top 5 youth drugs in Australia.
In todays post we have scoured the depths of Youtube to find some great videos with information to help you answer that annoying question ‘what drug is that?’ We have found info on some of the most common drugs that young people use and will link you in with some resources that you can use in your practice with young people.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 gives some valuable information about drug use and patterns in Australia, we have used this as a guide to choosing which drugs to look at today. You can download the report in the link below:
What better way to start than with a light hearted look at the possible drugs our young people have access to in todays world.
Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia and for a lot of young people it can be a rite of passage and an important part of social inclusion in the adolescent years. With the adolescent years being an integral time for brain development, the neurotoxins in alcohol can potentially cause significant harm if not used safely. That is why it’s important to make sure that young people understand the effects of alcohol and are armed with as much information as possible to consume safely and look after each other when they do. Headspace have created this video and an information page that is easily digestible for young people, albeit a little cheesy. But who doesn’t like cheese.
Next up we have Cannabis, or Marijuana, Weed, Choof, or a myriad of other street names that we would all be familiar with. Also one of the most common drugs used within Australia, with under 30’s being the highest users. If you aren’t familiar with the below video, it was a $350,000 (failed) attempt by the NSW government to raise awareness about the effects of Cannabis on young people. Whilst it did provide us with a few laughs, there are questions about its’ effectiveness of informing young people.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 states that young Australians (aged 14–24) first try cocaine at 19.2 years on average and it is the second most commonly used illegal drug after cannabis. So what is cocaine? In short, cocaine from its’ original form as a coca leaf, goes through about 8 processes and is mixed with at least 11 harmful and poisonous ingredients along the way, including gasoline and cement. It is also common to mix cocaine with other drugs including amphetamines. By the time cocaine reaches the street there is no way to know what has actually been used to mix and cut the drug. The above video gives a brief overview of what is in cocaine.
If you would like some information about the effects of cocaine and links to services’ head to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website provided below.
Methamphetamine is a man-made stimulant drug and it is a more potent form of the drug amphetamine. When it is in its crystalline form, the drug is called crystal meth or “ice”. Whilst both drugs cause similar symptoms, methamphetamine has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with high potential for widespread abuse. Consequently, it has been thrust in to the public eye on a large scale in recent times due to the devastating affect it can have on the individual and the wider community. In 2016, the Australian government launched the Nation Ice Action Strategy as an attempt to reduce the supply and demand and to increase education, prevention, treatment, support and community engagement. There entire strategy is funded for just under $300 million which will be divided amongst different programs working towards tackling both alcohol and drug problems Australia wide.
MDMA is the main ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy and the most common form of ecstasy used comes in either pill or tablet form. The average amount of MDMA in a “pill” is 70-125mg. When ingested, MDMA causes the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a vital role in mood regulation and helps defend against mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. If our serotonin stores are depleted it can have a debilitating effect on our sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behaviour. In Australia, there is currently a big push for “pill testing” to become legal at music festivals as a harm reduction method. Due to the amount of unknown and potentially dangerous ingredients used in the production of MDMA, especially pills, this method is seen by some professionals as a step towards reducing drug related deaths and overdoses at festivals. For further information on this and MDMA visit the links below.
For further information on the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey as well as a detailed summary of what you can do to support young people in accessing treatment options for alcohol and other drug related issues, read the article below by Ultimate Youth Worker Executive Director Aaron Garth.
In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Faith and identity’ Aaron speaks with Dr. Julie Morsillo about her work focussing on youth identity development and what impact faith has on this.
Julie grew up in Sydney, spent a year in Papua New Guinea with her parents where she was an assistant primary school teacher and piano teacher. She went to the Bible College of South Australia in Victor Harbour. Then moving to Melbourne Julie has been involved in church leadership, a foster parent and cottage parent, she worked for the North-West One Stop Welfare Centre, Victoria Equal Opportunity Commission, Victorian Public Service Commissioner, International Commission of Jurists, International Red Cross and Whitley Theological College. Julie has also been an adjunct lecturer in psychology and community development at Victoria University, the counselling co-ordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, researcher in the Public Interest team at Australian Psychological Society (APS) and has had her own private practice as a counselling psychologist and supervisor of provisional psychologists.
If you are wondering how to best implement what you hear on the podcast we think getting supervision is one of the best ways. Having the opportunity to critically reflect is the best tool for career longevity we know of. If you don’t currently have a supervisor who looks to grow you as a person and as a professional then its time to get an external supervisor. We can help with that!!!