‘I was told I wouldn’t have time for reflective practice when I qualified as a social worker’

I recently came across this great article from Community Care in the UK through a post by the amazing Teenage Whisperer, Sam Ross. Sam reminds us that good supervision and support to reflect on the work is of extreme importance… something that as a social work student and youth worker in Australia we seem to lack as well.

Check out the post from Community Care here:  ‘I was told I wouldn’t have time for reflective practice when I qualified as a social worker’

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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Failure is only the begining in youth work.

My best friends think that I am absolutely nuts. How can I work day in and day out with people who almost ritualistically fail in life. People who are such failures in societies eyes that they do not even register as worthwhile. This is how many young people are viewed in society. As failures!
 
For some reason we see failure as bad in our society. We believe that anyone who fails is useless and that they do not deserve to try again. However as every Ultimate Youth Worker will tell you failures give us a platform from which to work from and they make success taste oh so much sweeter.
 
Truman Capote said “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour”. Many of our young people try, try and try again this in itself is a huge success. When they finally get a win on the board they are ever more excited than before.
 
Almost every long term youth worker I have spoken to has told me that those mountain top experience are not what keeps them in the field but it does make the failures taste so much better.

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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We need more youth worker show offs!!!

I have had a number of discussions lately where people told me they know nothing about youth work. The sad part was that they were professionals who worked with youth workers from time to time. I have also had these conversations throughout the years with member of the general public. We are just not as well marketed in the general public as we think we are.
We need some more people to spruik what we do as youth workers. Not just the occasional person who we all pick on from within our ranks. We need professional associations, practice groups and large organisations to get on board and change the public perception of youth work. We as individual youth workers need to let people what we do.
We need to become better at self promotion.

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 makes a great youth worker?

In one of our seminars we start by asking people to draw a picture of the ultimate youth worker. We ask them to write around the picture what make this youth worker ultimate. It is always interesting to see what is written and what the picture looks like. The picture is often of a hip, hoodie wearing young person (even if the picture was drawn by someone in their forties) with all the coolness anyone can muser. The words that are used to describe this youth worker are cool, rapport builder, knows the new music and did we mention they had to be cool.
 
For the most part the things that people place down are superfluous. They are not needed to be a great youth worker. In fact most great youth workers have little idea about the new music or could ever see themselves in the category of “cool”. What this shows is that many youth workers have brought into the popular rhetoric as to what a youth worker looks like and is. The biggest issue for me and my staff is that so many youth workers do not speak about their values!
 
When we speak to truly great youth workers and ask them this question they spruik values such as social justice, participation, human dignity, self determination and human rights. We ask them what an ultimate youth worker looks like and they paint a picture of any person walking down the street. Old, young, black, white, qualified, unqualified it doesn’t matter.
 
A strong understanding of the values base which you bring to the profession of youth work is key to the ongoing effectiveness of your work.
 
What values do you bring?
 

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 work change makers: rebellion or resurrection

Youth work is changing rapidly. Many of the changes are coming to the fore because of issues which have haunted an under qualified, under supported and minimally accountable workforce. Unfortunately the way the issues are being dealt with is with a firm hand with an iron grasp. We are setting the barrier to entry in our fledgling professional associations as high as possible. We are requiring more in every youth work position description to show how good we are and we are using highly regulated professions as a template for our own.
 
Youth work has also seen a number of people who have said that this is not good enough. However, these voices are being shouted down in a torrent of violent opposition as rebellious to the cause of professionalism. Youth work is a profession which thrives under scrutiny and leads in innovation. Why would we want to lose our innovation to fall in line with groups like nurses and social workers???

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. Albert Einstein

Youth work needs more great spirits and canny outlaws to keep it from becoming just another form of toothless neoliberal social service experiment. We need to resurrect the passion and talent that youth work has historically been known for and harness it for the future. There will be some who see it as holding the profession back… but these are just mediocre minds.
 

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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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Sucess for the Ultimate Youth Worker

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. – Sir Winston Churchill

Starting a new business comes with many risks and hopefully a number of rewards. Over the past twelve months we have definitely felt this at Ultimate Youth Worker. All of our staff got on board because we saw the need for more support in the youth sector. We have helped dozens of youth workers and their organisations to develop a more supportive environment in this time. But it was not all success!
 
We failed more times than we care to admit. We lost clients because of a lack of frameworks. We spent more time learning about business management than doing our business. We left, lost or were encouraged to leave well paying jobs to get Ultimate Youth Worker off the ground. Our first six months we made a total profit of $80. But we were always enthusiastic.
 
So often we work with young people who have failed more times than they can even remember. They are downtrodden and feel about two feet tall and one more failure might just tip them over the edge. Our job as youth workers is keep them enthused. In their enthusiasm their wildest success will finally come.
 

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 post-qualifying education might look like!!!

I have been thinking a lot lately about the need for ongoing professional development and post-qualifying education for youth workers. for us to be the best, the Ultimate Youth Worker’s, we must continue to learn and develop as we progress through our career. However, in Australia there is no requirement for a person who works with young people to hold a qualification, let alone attend professional development!!!

In Australia there is currently no national professional association and very few states have fledgling professional associations for youth workers. Currently, these associations have limited memberships and do not require their membership to have ongoing professional development to maintain their membership. My wife is a psychologist and as such is required to meet a level of ongoing professional development to maintain her registration with her professional association. Some of my mates are social workers and they too have to meet a level of ongoing professional development for registration. Why not youth workers???
One of the main difficulties is pitching the professional development to a sector that has such a wide range of qualifications. In Victoria over %50 of “Youth Workers” hold a Certificate IV (a one year TAFE qualification) or less. There is a smaller percentage who hold a Diploma (2 years) and an even smaller percentage who hold a degree (3 years) and an almost unmentionable number who hold post-graduate qualifications. What often happens is that training groups pitch their training at the lowest common denominator or bastardise their training to meet the needs of a select few… meeting the needs of only a small proportion of workers. In effect most professional development courses rehash knowledge from TAFE level courses which does not bode well for CONTINUING professional development. 
Another reason is that it is easier to rehash old course material than to think outside the box and develop good ongoing training. There is a train of thought which states that if you have done your course and passed then you are competent and therefore do not need to learn other techniques and ideologies. The problem with this is that the profession stagnates. Imagine if doctors did that??? We would still be curing infection by chopping limbs off and alienating people with skin conditions like leprosy. We need fresh ideas thrown into the mix for the profession to grow and flourish. We need them for workers to gain a clear foundation for their practice.

But what would this continuing professional development look like???

First of all it means a minimum level of education for all Youth Workers. This is a contentious subject in Victoria as what would the minimum level be??? Many want a degree level qualification to be the minimum. However, those with TAFE qualifications are livid about the prospect of being excluded. However the idea of being professionals means stating that there is a group of people who can do a certain job and a group that can not. (see Jethro Sercombe Part 1 & Part 2).
Second, it means that Post-Qualifying education and continuing professional development must be more than rehashing old course material. We need researchers devoting themselves to the future of youth work. We need academics looking for the newest best practice theories to guide our practitioners. We need practitioners brave enough to challenge the status quo and say that we need to be better for the sake of our young people.
Finally, we need to develop a culture of excellence in the face of mounting Neo-Liberalism. When governments say it is better to have more people who are less qualified than having the best qualified workforce we need to say ‘Not good enough’. When employers skimp on professional development because their budgets are shrinking we need to say ‘Not good enough’. When our colleagues say to us that they won’t go to training because they don’t need it we need to say ‘Not good enough’. When professional development groups put forward substandard training at top dollar we need to say ‘Not good enough’. Expect more of our profession, our colleagues and ourselves! Do not settle for mediocre, it is not why you got into this work. Be the best you can be and expect it from others.
Youth work is an honourable profession. It requires passion and skills to be balanced for the best outcomes of our young people. I know you have passion, it is why you began the journey. Lets gain skills that will take youth work into the next century as a leading force in social services and community 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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