When a youth worker gets his or her first voluntary placement or paid placement, they are in a state of transition their late teens, early, mid-late 20’s or even early 30’s. There is already a sense of giving back and wanting to help others prepare for the road ahead which for the young person is daunting and could likened to a fairytale where the young adventurer traverses a path through a darkened wood. Where all sorts of challenges and unsightly creatures may lay in wait to devour and capture the innocent heart and engage them in slight of hand activities that if they’re not careful can take them away from their path become lost and never return to the innocent place where they once were.
The trusted youth worker who has already been subject to some of the journey and knows how confusing things can get especially when the journey presents itself with crossroads and presents the traveller with difficult choices, such as which direction should I go, and questions such as if I go that way will I be able to find my way, will I be alright on my own; and what happens if it doesn’t turn out alright, how will I feel if I make the wrong choice. What sort of future will I have?
The trusted youth worker who has already experienced this confusion and in part come to terms with and worked through these feelings, seeks to use his or her own experience to fortify the young person at their new place of work in their new role. They have the advantage of already going through their own adolescence, made choices about who they think they are, and what they see themselves doing, or would like to do. They already have their experience of the education system and have suffered or benefitted the affects of choices that they may have made on a whim. They already have experienced being involved in friendship groups either positive or negative, or have lived around the way as part of an extended community that has experienced high unemployment, lack academic success and has a negative outlook on life in terms of future economic success. Or it could be the reverse they may have been a high achiever, had a more privileged background where they have found negotiating the system, i.e. education, getting a job, finding a home quite easy because they had the aptitude, the connections or just understood how to go about things.
The trusted youth worker maybe a young parent or have brother or sisters who are young parents. The same trusted youth worker might have smoked cigarettes, weed, taken crack, and other recreational and maybe hard drugs; even been involved in the informal drug economy to make a change or at one time saw it as a possible solution to their own chances of economic survival.
The same trusted youth worker will also have experienced going to the jobcentre, to claim jobseekers allowance, the local council housing department to apply for housing benefit, the magistrates and crown court, had beef with other crews, arguments with boyfriends, girlfriends, baby mothers, baby fathers etc.
Now we have an idea of what our trusted youth worker may have been through on that fairytale path, our trusted youth worker will also have fond memories of the youth provision that they themselves accessed back in the day. The one’s outside of school hours, and how they found going down to their local club and taking part in the activities fun and exciting when they were younger, and have romantic thoughts with warm feelings in the heart about where they used to live, where they felt secure, had pure laughs and good times their friends. It was there they also came across something, which we will call the significant other. An adult figure or adult figures who showed compassion to them as young people, held the boundaries and helped them interpret what was wrong and right in society and in the club; but was less judgemental and facilitated spaces, trips and questions where as young people they could explore their thoughts and feelings about the world around them.
This significant other was the trusted youth worker of their time. And it was these trusted youth workers that inspired the trusted youth worker of today.