Mental state exam for youth workers: Perception

Well there are only three more posts left in this series. We have been building an understanding of the core components of a mental state exam so that we can support our young people as best we can. This week I was speaking with a youth worker in one of Victoria’s largest Christian denominations about a mental health conference he was at. I was reminded about how important it is for all youth workers to have a strong understanding of mental health. So far we have discussed how a young persons appearance, behaviour, speech and language, mood and affect and their thought process and content can provide indicators as to their mental state. Today we discuss how a young persons thought content can provide insight into their current mental health status.
 
Today we look at perception. Perception in the broadest sense of the world is how we sense the world through our five major sense: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. The three categories of perceptual disturbance are hallucinations, pseudohallucinations and illusions.

A hallucination is defined as a sensory perception in the absence of any external stimulus, and is experienced objectively by the young person eg. they see it and you don’t. Hallucinations occur in any of the five senses, although auditory (hearing) and visual (sight) hallucinations are the most frequently observed. Auditory hallucinations are typical of psychosis and symptoms such as ‘voices talking about the young person’ and ‘hearing one’s thoughts spoken aloud’ are indicative of schizophrenia, whereas second-person hallucinations such as ‘voices talking to the young person threatening or insulting or telling them to commit suicide’, may be symptomatic of psychotic depression or schizophrenia. Visual hallucinations are more likely suggestive of organic conditions such as epilepsy, drug intoxication or drug withdrawal.

An illusion is defined as a false sensory perception in the presence of an external stimulus, in other words a distortion of a sensory experience, and may be recognized as such by the subject. The best example I can think of is mime artist or the visual illusions of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. The old adage that your eyes play tricks on you is no more true than when we think of illusions. Illusions in themselves are not necessarily an indicator of mental illness but could mean a physical disorder or intoxication.

One of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s illusions
 

A pseudohallucination is experienced in an internal or subjective space such as ‘voices in my head’ and is regarded as akin to fantasy. Other sensory abnormalities include a distortion of the young persons sense of time, for example déjà vu, or a distortion of the sense of self (depersonalization) or sense of reality (derealization). These symptoms could be suggestive of dissociative disorders, epilepsy or brain damage.

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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I %^&*ing HATE school: I’m going to be a drug dealer!

Not long after starting my youth work career I went back home to spend a weekend at my mums house. my youngest brother was having a party and after chatting with a few of his mates a pattern started to emerge…they all hated school. The stories all seemed the same, struggling at home, lost in classes and teachers who just seemed to get on their case. Most of these kids were lucky if the bottom rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was met in their lives and many of the teachers were asking them to work in the self-actualisation region.
 
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
The more I listened to my brothers mates, the more I was appalled at the education system and the teachers lack of empathy. Conversely, at the time I had a number of friends who were studying education so I began a witch hunt. Teachers were evil I just needed the proof. My own dislike of school and my own run ins with teachers who knew about as much about adolescent welfare as I know about thermodynamics (which to be sure is only how to spell it) may have been clouding my judgement. As my investigation progressed however I began to realise that it is not teachers fault that they seem empathetically impotent, their course structures do not really teach them anything about the welfare of their students.
 
My friends who completed their secondary teaching degrees had one subject on student wellbeing. Most of them either slept, drank or played snooker through the classes and those that did attend found that the content was unhelpful when it came to actually helping their students. As people who are spending 30+ hours a week with young people it blew my mind to realise how little they are taught about young people in their courses. Realistically if you don’t do electives about young people you would only have two subjects which relate to youth development and wellbeing.
 
 
A couple of years later I got to go to the school my brother and his mates attended to do a guest talk. As a former student there who had finally gotten life in order I was asked to inspire young minds to greatness. All I could think was it would have been great if any of my teachers could have inspired me to greatness…instead they inspired me to drop out of secondary school. I did my best and spoke like a true salesman for half an hour and at the end the students had a chance to chat with me. Many of the students were in similar situations to my brothers mates and all of the ones I spoke with told me that their teachers had no clue about their circumstances outside of school.
 
When I got home I reflected on that night years ago and something one of my brothers mates said after I tore him a new one for thinking of dropping out of school. He said “I %^&*ing HATE school: I’m going to be a drug dealer!” You know what…that’s exactly what he did. More and more these days schools have become the central welfare point for young people and their families, however the people they are turning to have minimal training and resources at best. This does pose more difficult issues for youth workers in schools.
 
As the most trained and equipped people to deal with the issues young people are facing, school based youth workers have a huge role to fill. We need to be supports and referral points for young people, supports and trainers for teachers and most of all advocates for the young people while they are going through their storm and stress. We need to give teachers their dues, they are great educators, and we need to help them gain a better understanding of adolescents and how to improve their welfare.

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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What can youth worker’s learn from ANZAC day?

Today Australians throughout the world stop to pay tribute and remember those who lost their lives in World War One and subsequent conflicts. We remember that these young men and women fought for the cause of freedom and lost their lives to help us live the lives we live today. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten. Lest we forget.

As a youth worker I was reflecting recently on the role of youth workers during both world wars. In many ways it was the height of youth clubs. Whether groups like Boy Scouts, the Hitler Youth or the Boys Brigade they all had a surge during those world conflicts. In most cases the youth workers who were involved sought to bring the best in their young people to the fore through skill building and service. However, they also became recruiters for military service.

Youth workers even today find themselves in this role. How many young people have joined military service instead of going to jail after a well meaning youth justice officer persuades a judge that this would be a good option? How many young people have met recruiters in their schools after the welfare team set up a careers day?

Military service is not a bad thing at all. In fact I know many young people who without the military would have ended up in really bad places. The question for youth worker’s is about transparency and role power. There were a number of youth workers on all sides of the wars who used their influence and role power to insight young people to join up and train with malice in their hearts. There were a majority Who supported young people to join up for the cause of freedom and peace. The difference was transparency and use of their role.

Today we are less likely to see a world war than in years gone by. However we are still recruiting young people to fight in conflicts throughout the world. As a youth worker we have a lot of power and influence over young people. We must make sure that our actions are clear and transparent and bring about good.

What do you think???

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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Youth workers need to do more than just support young people.

As a youth worker I have worked in a number of settings. I have learnt new skills and tried new things. One thing however that has stayed the same through all of those settings is that youth work is not all I have done. I have been a plumber, a carpenter, a painter, an envelope stuffer, a mechanic, a teacher, a chef, a guitarist, an accountant and many others. For most of my job I do all this other stuff and use my youth work skills to engage with young people and expand our service.




MItchell Youth Centre
 
Some of these skills I have gained over my lifetime. Others I learnt on the go. All of them are secondary to my youth work, however without them I would be little more than a counsellor. Recently I have been developing a youth centre for a local council and it has meant a lot of non-youth work. I have painted, cut, built and sanded to my hearts content. One of my supervisors said to me recently that I needed to be more than a Coordinator of Youth Services. I needed to get my hands dirty. All he saw was my time with my staff and when i was at my desk.
 
When people only see our work in throughput numbers or KPI’s from a position description then these other skills don’t add into the equation. My supervisor didn’t see my networking, my painting or my building skills. He didn’t see the participation of the young people in the development of the centre. All he saw was that I wasn’t at my desk. I wasn’t doing paperwork or running another useless meeting. In his eyes I was not getting my hands dirty like some of my colleagues.
 
Never let a person say you are not doing youth work when you are using these secondary skill sets. Do not let appearances ruin your work. I have built stronger relationships with young people over the last month through building tables and painting walls than had been built previously in one on one meetings. I have better relationships with service providers because I took the time to have a coffee and talk about their cars, or house building or choice in music. Youth work is all about developing relationships. How we develop those relationships often come down to the secondary skills we have. Today’s neoliberal world does not care about this. They care about numbers. They see this as ‘support’.
 
We need to do more than just support young people. At least in the way governments and funding bodies ask us to. We must build deep relationships. It is through these relationships that we can do our best work, and these relationships are built on life and the skills we have picked up while living it. Those secondary skills are just as important, if not more so, than any counselling session or group work program. Building relationships with young people where they are at is what youth work prides itself on. But more often than not these days we are berated for doing this as it does not tick the numbers box. We must strive to be more than just another ‘support’ mechanism for our young people. We must do life with them. 

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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Young people in a group

sometimes even seasoned youth worker’s need to re-learn a lesson.

Today I was forced to re-learn a lesson I had learnt as a young youth worker. I was cocky. I thought I had it all in the bag. I forgot the cardinal rule of running a group… Deliver what you say you will. I could say it wasn’t my fault. I could pass the buck to my staff. If I really wanted to I could blame the partner organisations for not being clear about to goals and objectives. In the end though, as the coordinator of my program I was responsible. I had gone from unconciously competent to consciously incompetent in a heartbeat.
 
Recently, my council was approached by neighbouring councils to run a music program. The program was for two days and was designed to help young people to write their own song and have it recorded. It was being facilitated by renowned music teachers and support people. All we had to do was get 30 young people to go. My team and I set about recruiting potential participants from every nook an cranny we could think of. We asked other youth organisations to help and even re-composed the flyer that we were given to make it more appealing.
 
 
Today, on the first day of the program over half of the young people did not show up for the bus. Within an hour of arriving there was a swell of discontent amongst the 13 young people who attended. Apparently whilst we were advertising the program we had not mentioned that there would be dancing involved and that we would be doing a pop song. For a bunch of hardened metal heads this was just too much. For one young man it was a deal breaker. It took all of my youth work savvy to keep him from hitching a ride back with the first trucker he saw.
 
Much of my day was spent putting out spot fires and making sure my little brood didn’t mutiny. Needless to say, this also put a strain on our relationship with the program facilitators as well. It wasn’t the program at fault… at first I thought that it was their lack of facilitation skills. That wasn’t the case, they were great facilitators. Even I came to conclude that actually we had just marketed the program as something it wasn’t.
 
 
As a seasoned youth worker it is hard to admit that you still sometimes make rookie mistakes. It takes away some of the mystique that you hold as a miracle worker. But I made one! If you are not crystal clear about the intent of the program you are running you can not expect buy-in from your young people. Sometimes a stumble reminds you of your humanity. This was a little mistake in the grand scheme of things. But it is one I won’t soon forget.
 
Don’t get so comfortable that you forget the lessons you have learnt… it is painful re-learning them.

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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Get out of youth work: how to know when its time to move on.

Over the years I have had the privilege of working with a number of amazing youth worker’s who epitomise the values of Ultimate Youth Worker’s everywhere. Conversely, I have met a number of youth worker’s that should never have begun the process of working with young people. I have met a number that if it were up to me would have been fired immediately after I met them, and a number who are so damaged that they should be black banned from ever working with an adolescent. Whilst most people who become youth workers do it because they want to help, there are also a number who for all their knowledge or passion just cannot help anymore.

I have seen to many youth worker’s walk the line of burnout or self destruction and not being supported by their orginisations they fall and fail their young people. Orginisations have a responsibility to watch their staff health and wellbeing for their staffs wellbeing as well as the clients. However, good youth worker’s also have a responsibility to know when to call it quits.
 
When I worked in family services I came across a number of situations which slowly ate away at me. Families who fought about everything, young people who had to take care of their families as their parents were unable or unwilling and more abuse than I care to remember. About six months into my stint I began to see my clients as merely client numbers rather than people. There were a number of reasons that I began to disassociate however the worrying thing to me in hindsight is that neither my supervisor or my colleagues noticed.
 
About nine months into it my wife noticed something was up. I was working a particularly ugly sexual abuse case that was pushing me to breaking point. my wife confronted me and I had to make a choice… Stay or Go. I spoke to my supervisor and was removed from the case. Less than three months later I had left the orginisation. Partly due to my being on the edge of burnout, partly due to my orginisations lack of empathy.
 
What I learnt from that debacleI share with you:
 
  1. If you stop seeing your clients as human its time to go. Wether it is a particular case or the orginisation or the entire career path will be determined by how jaded you have become. You will only do damage to your clients and in turn to yourself. It is a self fullfilling prophecy and it only ends bad.
  2. If your orginisation will not support or is unable to support you, jump ship. Better to take your chances finding another job than being fried. Your health and wellbeing is more important than making quota or your CEO feel better. Needless to say, an  orginisation that does not support its staff is not really supporting its young clients either.
  3. Having significant people outside of your career is crucial to providing clear insight into you and your level of strain. I mentioned my wife, who was an amazing support during this time, however I had friends, family and mentors who also provided much needed respite and assurance.
  4. It can only end bad if you keep gutting it out. The more you invest the more likely you will fall. If you are not getting good supervision and support gutting it out is like playing russian roulette. The question is not if you will get shot , but when.
 
If you notice the symptoms, get out now. I took five months off and reflected on my calling. I found a great job and was well supported. I am still getting past the jadedness that comes with an unsupportive orginisation…but who’s perfect?
 
Do yourself and your young people a favour, If it is starting to go pear shaped get some support…and if necesary abandon ship.

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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Celebrate

Become more than you are right now: A youth work specialist

As a parent I want to see my children have more opportunities than I did as a child. I want to see them become more than I became. I want to see them reach their fullest potential. As a youth worker I want to see the young people I work with reach their fullest potential as well. Becoming more than the sum of their parts. As a youth worker though, there was a time I was happy just to have finished my degree and been in a job I enjoyed. I did not want to grow, be challenged or reach for anything. I just wanted to sit still and ponder on reaching the top.
 

 

What I realised rather quickly was that you can never reach the top. Government policies change the landscape of practice. Our own yearnings lead us in new and undiscovered directions. Jobs that were around 10 years ago for youth workers do not exist now. We can not stop to long to smell the roses because the world will pass us by.
 
I have heard over the last year or so a number of youth workers express their satisfaction with where they are in their career journey. I must confess it worries me. It worries me to see 40 year old veterans still on the front with no leadership or mentoring responsibilities. It worries me to see people content to be generalist youth workers in a world of complexities. It worries to see degree qualified youth workers thinking they have reached the Utopian heights of education. In short I am worried about our profession.
 
Recently, the Victorian state government has stated that it will require minimum qualifications for youth workers in child protection. I think the idea of qualifications is great. What I do not like is the idea of minimums. They set the bar so low. It is an epidemic in the youth sector. Government, organisations and youth workers seem to set the bar extremely low. As a profession we rarely use words like excellence, outstanding or superior to describe our outlook. Imagine if a job advertisement asked for outstanding behaviour or superior qualifications, wouldn’t you be interested in looking a bit further???
 
I was speaking to a really passionate youth worker recently who was explaining that her work with young people experiencing issues with mental health was so rewarding but that sometimes the issues they were facing seemed to go beyond her skills. I asked if she had considered doing some more study like a grad cert in young people’s mental health or a bachelor of social work to gain some new skills. She bluntly replied that she was a youth worker and those courses would not be of help. It was if I had asked her to stop being a youth worker and become a monster instead. I often hear of youth workers who are counselling young people say that it is beyond them. Many of the youth work course that I know of have but one subject around counselling if at all. Yet when I ask if they would be willing to do a course or attend a few training sessions they can’t find the time. I once even heard a youth worker say that they would not do supervision with a social worker because they would not understand his practice.

 

In a world that is blurring the boundaries more and more we need to be fresh and up to the job at hand. We need more than a generalist youth work degree to get through the issues we are faced with. If we work in a clinical environment learn about it. If you work in the community, develop your understanding of community development. Do you counsel young people? Read something on narrative therapy or do a short course. We must become specialists in this new world of youth work. It is all well and good to do basic training, but you need your specialist skill sets to make it through the battle. We should all be generalists. But we should never stay that way.
 
What is it that your situation needs right now??? Counselling skills, supervision skills or maybe even community building skills. What does your next career step need? Management skills, financial skills perhaps even people development skills. When you think about the next 3 years of your career do you see yourself moving forward or do you see yourself doing the same thing? If you answered the same thing perhaps you need to think about it harder. Because the job you are doing now will not be the same in 3 years.
 
We need to step up or step off. If we step up we will be future focused and developmentally minded. If not, we should do everyone a favour and move on. The time for generalist youth work being the glorified mountain top is over. We are at the dawning of the age of the specialist youth worker. What will you specialise in?   
 
 

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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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Do you have a code of ethics???

Working with young people has led me to be in some dicey situations throughout my career. I have worked with young people who use drugs like candy, who have been so abused they have no boundaries and those who have no fear of the future and live like it. I have been in flop houses, under bridges in the middle of the night, in the middle of resi brawls and in situations that would make sailors blush. It is in these times that I wonder what my lecturers would have told me about my situation and a code of ethics.
 
When the chips are down and we are in one of those situations your old lecturer told you not to get into the only thing you have to rely on is a code of ethics. Whether it is a personal code or a professional code it guides your behaviour in those sticky situations.
 
So what code do you live by??? Do you have a personal code that you live by??? Put another way, what gets you out of bed in the morning. What do you believe so intrinsically that keeps you on the right path?
 
What about your organisation? Do they subscribe to a particular code of ethics??? have a look at a few codes and see what they involve… YACVic, AASW and APS are just a few. Does your nation or state have a code of ethics your orginisation could or should follow???
 
A lot of questions this week. over the next few weeks we will unpack this a bit. In the meantime you can read some of Howard Sercombe’s work on codes of practice.
 
 

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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What will youth work look like in 2013? The finale.

Its been a month and a half in the making but we are finally there. The finale of our series looking at the next twelve months or more in youth work. We have had blogger’s and professor’s of youth work from one end of the globe to the other. We heard from Shae and Stephen from youthworkinit.com, Sam Ross from teenagewhisperer.com, Professor Dana Fusco from CUNY and Professor Howard Sercombe from the University of Strathclyde. Each had their own perspectives on the current and future trends in youth work. Each brought a different perspective on what forces were pushing and pulling youth work. Each one had a particular pearl of wisdom for us. Today’s post is a wrap up of these posts with a focus on the similarities between them all. We will also give our view of the year ahead.
 

Wrap up

Our amazing guests spoke about a number of areas in which youth work will develop over the coming year. They spoke about youth worker education, technology, the economic situation and the need to be holistic in our practice.
 

Youth Worker Education

Dana Fusco spoke of the changes developing in youth work education world wide. In the US there has been a 900% increase over the past four years in youth development courses offered by higher education facilities. In the UK and Australia These courses are in decline. Dana laments the decline in youth work education, “In 2013, it is hard to predict where those who want to study youth work and youth studies in these countries will go. If they go into existing, related disciplines, e.g., social work, then youth work will too likely become case management; if they go into education, then youth work will become para-teaching“.
 
Howard Sercombe also laments the current education setting for youth worker’s. From developing a cozy little home for ourselves throughout the sixties and seventies to becoming a mainstream course in the nineties we sold our soul to the devil of higher education. Like all good corporate conglomerates the universities shafted us. Taking a subject area steeped in the tradition of practice wisdom and narrative and turning it into a McDonaldised cookie-cutter model of research-based best-practice. However true to our history we steered away from research which ultimately is leading to our higher education downfall. Conversely, Howard states, “For the first time, I can run a course for youth workers using a selection of books on youth work written by youth workers“.
 

Technology

In her response to the question Sam Ross states that she always thinks of the new technology on the horizon. Sam speaks of the massive uptake of mobile and smart phones by young people. She shows the statistics of American young people’s use of their phone and how much of their attention it takes…Are you on social networking sites? They are! Sam speaks of the need for youth workers to use this love of mobile technology to keep the attention of young people focused on what we want them focused on.

However Sam also implores us, “So while 2013 may be technologically more advanced and our ways of connecting and engaging may expand we shouldn’t forget that good youth work was the same in the past as it is today and will be tomorrow“. Its all about the relationship.

The economic situation

There is not a person alive today that can’t attest to the effects of the global financial crisis on the hip pocket. Everything seems to cost more today than it did yesterday. Even in countries like Australia which have had some reprieve from the tidal forces of the economic collapse the financial situation is difficult.  As Howard put it “Austerity measures have required significant cutbacks in local funding and this has carried through, often disproportionately, to youth work services“. But we are not the only ones feeling the pinch. Our young people are finding employment harder to gain, University fees have shot through the roof and the general cost of business has increased significantly.
 
For youth workers this means difficulties at every turn. Shae and Stephen state, “Over the last 25 years, the cost of university education in the US has more than tripled, which has resulted in 1 in 11 people def aulting on their student loan repayments within two years of making payments“. Many of our guests stated that this cost was prohibitive and that if you are one of those who are entering a university to study youth work then you are likely to pay through the nose and then struggle to pay it back.
 
If you rely on government funding or philanthropic support to run your organisation you may be short on funds for a while. Many governments are finding their budgets significantly in the red. Many philanthropic organisations have seen their investments dip over the past few years as well and are giving out less to allow for their continuation. Its not happening everywhere yet but as Howard said, “2013 may well be the year when the expected decimation actually happens“.

The need to be holistic in our practice.

Gone are the days where youth work happens in a silo. On any given day we are expected to hold a number of roles. Sam points out that our ability to build relationships with young people is core to our work and that this foundation is what we build on in our context. Shae and Stephen point out that young people do not live in silos but have lives with intersecting and overlapping parts. Work on one without the other areas being addressed is ineffective.
 
Dana states, “In the United States, youth work is not a unified or singular practice; rather, it has been described, and still is, a family of practices“. Its not just the states, its world wide.  We work from the same base but in different contexts. Our young people need us to have an understanding of more than how to run a good game. As copious as the needs of our young people are, the knowledge of a youth worker must equal… at least enough to refer to other professionals.
 

What will 2013 look like???

At Ultimate Youth Worker we have loved the guest posts over the last month and a half and have been pouring over them and a bunch of other research and have come to many of the same conclusions.  Technology is going to be more important this year than ever before. 12 months on from the death of Steve jobs saw the smart phone war at its highest. Exponential growth in mobile, web and personal technology has meant that the ability to communicate or gain information has never been more accessible. Youth workers need to become more tech savvy just to survive. New web applications, social media and even the ubiquitous email are more important than ever to our relationship building. As youth workers we believe there will be a shift to online training, both formal and informal. Blogs, webinars, podcasts, university course and professional development groups are all starting to toy with developing a solid presence on the web. With the hardware never more than arms length from most young people and youth workers we need to be there.
 
Youth work education will need to adapt. Aside from becoming more tech enabled we need to gain more breadth and more depth in our education. Young people are changing so fast that we need to keep up with the trends. We hang our shingle on our ability to develop relationships with young people. Good. But we need to develop this skill set. We are a relatively emergent human services field and as such need to develop our purpose, values and critical approach. This is depth. We also need to gain an understanding of where we fit in the multidisciplinary field that young people now frequent.  We need an understanding of who and what our colleagues in other field bring to the table. We need to understand their language, their approach and their skill sets. It is the only way we will be able to speak into their work and intervene for our young peoples best.
 
Money has never been more important and less relevant. The affect of the financial crisis is all around us and will continue to mess with us for years to come in ways we can’t even imagine yet. IT DOESN’T MATTER. The most effective tools in our toolkit are FREE or really cheap. Building relationships takes time. A facebook page can be accessed by free wi-fi at McDonald’s. A mobile phone plan is cheaper than ever. The tools to build relationships are time, energy and interest. Most youth workers have that in trumps. But that means we need to have them around. Youth workers need to feed their families too. With lay-offs happening throughout the sector worldwide there is fear of being cut. Like Howard says, its happened before. The cycle will return. Be the best you can be with what you’ve got and you will be one of the last to get chopped. 
 
Be more!!! Be holistic. What do you do when you have that relationship? We believe youth workers need to see young people as whole people in their context. We need a biopsychoscialspiritual focus. We need to understand the person, their context and their pathways out of their situation. We need to support our young people in every way we can. We also need to look after ourselves. As the stress builds and we are asked to become more and do more we need to have the reserves to keep going.
 
We also agree with Dana and Howard, Now is the time for an international presence developing the practice of youth work. We are seeing great international youth work research, texts, blogs, conferences etc coming to the fore. We need to build on this.
 
2013 holds possibilities and risks. We have  tried to play it safe for the last decade or more and have seen the rug being pulled out from under us. No more politically light weight youth work. We must band together and do it differently or we will see the death knell of what we hold dear… relationally based critical youth work.
 

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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What will youth work look like in 2013?

It is with Great pleasure and a sad heart that we come to our final guest post in this series. We have heard from a number of truly inspirational and well qualified youth work professionals as to what they believe youth work will look like in 2013. Over the last three weeks we have had Shae and Stephen from youthworkinit.com, Professor Dana Fusco of CUNY and authour of “Advancing Youth Work: current trends, critical questions” and fellow blogger and youth work professional Sam Ross the teenage whisperer. This week we have the distinct pleasure to hear from Professor Howard Sercombe of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
Howard has researched extensively in the area of youth studies, including studies of the future of youth, young people and public space, and community development with young people. He is interested in how we think about young people, and is currently working with colleagues from neurophysiology and developmental psychology on the implications of the brain architecture research on our understanding of young people. Professor Sercombe has had a major role in the development of youth work as a profession. His scholarship around this area includes writing the Australian Code of Ethics for Youth Work which has been adopted or adapted in three Australian States and the Australian Capital Territory and is under consideration nationally. He also wrote the Code of Ethics for the profession in Scotland. He has lectured extensively across the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Zambia on professional ethics and professionalisation, and his book Youth Work Ethics (Sage, 2010) is a milestone in the field. He is currently developing approaches to research methodology that take seriously the ethical commitment to justice and development.

So Howard what’s your take on the future of youth work?

Realities, as always, are contradictory.  Mixed.  From the perspective of the UK,  things look grim. The fiscal crisis has hit the traditional funding sources of youth work hard.  For the last fifty years, local government has had a statutory responsibility to make provision for youth work, though local authorities have had a lot of latitude about how, and to some extent if, they carry this out.  Austerity measures have required significant cutbacks in local funding and this has carried through, often disproportionately, to youth work services.
But this picture is mixed.  Some authorities have actually increased funding to youth work, in recognition of the impact of the recession on young people.  Others have cut provision completely.  As a generalisation, however, cutbacks have been widespread and often deep.  In Scotland, where I live, cutbacks have been worrying but not catastrophic, at least not everywhere. 2013 may well be the year when the expected decimation actually happens. The real concern is that this fiscal crisis is not a temporary adjustment, and future cutbacks look like coming on top of the existing ones. Even when the recession is over, we face the fiscal time bomb of an ageing population. Some are proclaiming the death of youth work as we know it in the UK.
Some of us have been here before, however. Political economists in the 1970s talked about the contradiction between accumulation and legitimation: the need for the State to continue to guarantee profit and private accumulation, while reassuring the general population that the system was still working in their interests.  It is typical in the early phase of a fiscal crisis for the State to pull back from areas of expenditure it sees as optional, in order to support capital in its restructuring and rebalancing.  Youth work is politically lightweight, so we tend to fall into that category.  Then, two years in, the entirely predictable spectre of youth unemployment starts to raise its head.  That is followed by a crime wave, or a moral panic about one, and there is a panic reinvestment in youth work to deal with it.  I’m expecting the same pattern.  The London riots came too early in the process to have that effect, and was able to be dismissed by the political class in terms of a cultural moral deficit and individual criminality.  A repeat may not be as easily dismissed.
But all recessions are different, and this one different to most.  Most come on the back of an economic boom, leaving the State with at least some financial capacity to manage the recession.  The need to bail out the banks right at the beginning of the crisis meant that affected governments hit the recession already broke.  That means that the capacity of the State to reinvest is limited.  Youth work will continue to be done, but we might see a significant return to voluntary labour to get the hours in.  In fact we already are!
Youth work education is in a difficult place as well.  Youth work found a place in professional education in the universities from the 1960s, with real growth in the 80s and 90s.  In the last decade, however, the situation has shifted.  The focus on research has diminished the respect for practice wisdom in professional education, and youth work (along with other professional areas like teaching) has not kept up with the research agenda. Corporatisation in the university sector has meant more aggressive pursuit of objectives that promote the university as a corporation rather than the objectives of public service: and that means either high status or high earning activities.  Youth work is not a natural contender for either.  The poorly thought out introduction of fees in England has meant that training for low-earning professions like youth work are charged at the same rate as high earning professions like law, with a significant impact on demand.  The number of universities who have decided to close youth work courses is still a trickle rather than a flood, but some of those courses (including my own) were strategic and long-standing.
But that isn’t the whole story.
Beyond the question of funding and institutional support, there is a growing level of maturity in the youth work profession in the current environment, and a clearer assertion of identity.  Paradoxically, even while the funding base contracts, for example, the Scottish Government continues to insist that community learning and development, which embraces youth work, sits at the centre of its anti-poverty and inclusion strategies. The House of Commons Education Committee inquiry into youth services also provided a ringing endorsement of youth work, though noted the lack of a credible evidence base for its effectiveness.  The Irish and South African government has a very active division working on the professionalisation of youth work, government does too.  Several governments have established youth work in law, with more heading in that direction.
The consolidation of youth work practice through codes of ethics and other core constitutive documents has been progressing across the globe in the last decade. Professional organisations for youth workers are springing up everywhere.  Globalisation has meant an international community of youth workers, with more international conferences, policy conversations, research and collaboration.  There are more books published on youth work, by major commercial publishers, than ever before. Routledge has just commissioned a new series of books on youth work practice. Sage has taken over the locally-published Learning Matters series.  For the first time, I can run a course for youth workers using a selection of books on youth work written by youth workers. This is mirrored in journal and on-line publication as well.  Youth work is moving beyond the parochial, and is recognising its common core beyond local expressions of it.  It is becoming an international profession.
And there is a bigger picture.  The modern category of youth is an artefact of modernisation itself.  At other times and in other places, young people were much more integrated intergenerationally, and had a clear role.  Modern industry required fewer workers, and more educated, literate and disciplined workers.  What happened was the quarantining of people by age into educational institutions, their isolation from the relations of production and from contact with adult social institutions and the subsequent emergence of a (now global) youth culture.  This creates a youth population which is significantly, but incompletely contained by the school and other educational institutions.  There are also key developmental processes around people becoming autonomous and self-directed which total institutions like the school are not good at facilitating.  Youth work exists in all modern societies, under whatever guise and however resourced, because it is socially necessary.  It emerged during the Industrial Revolution, and has a continuous presence ever since.
The industrialisation and modernisation process is spreading apace throughout the world: particularly in the new economic powerhouses: the  ‘BRICS’ countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).  All of them have huge, underemployed youth populations, and are very aware of the political time bomb that involves.  In the next decade, all of them will need to make decisions about youth policy, and divert resources towards young people.  How youth work positions itself within that process remains to be seen.
Professor Sercombe is an experienced youth work practitioner, trainer, consultant, analyst, media commentator and researcher in the youth studies area.  He has primary experience in street-level youth work with homeless and street-present young people as well as a developed academic profile with expertise ranging from social policy analysis to adolescent development to professional ethics.  He has worked in urban settings as well as remote outback towns, with Aboriginal and mainstream young people, and across a range of methodologies.
Not withstanding his current position in the university, Howard sees himself as first and foremost a youth worker, as he has for the last thirty years. His current work is focuses on how youth workers can understand their role and their work, how conceptions of young people shape their practice, on the peculiar ethics of youth work as a profession, and how truth is created and translated between policy, research and practice.  He is also working on the implications of the adolescent brain research for our understanding of young people and the practice of youth work.  He rides a Yamaha 1200 VMax motorcycle with a sidecar, is married to broadcaster Helen Wolfenden, and has three sons.

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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