Youth Workers Need a Peer Network

Young people in non-metro areas deserve quality youth development beyond the school day.

Therefore, youth workers that provide services in those areas need connections to the larger field, and peer support to stay engaged and effective without having to travel to big cities.

The challenge is the lack of a peer-run network for a unified field, complete with uniqueness and difference, agreements and disagreements, strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately, a shared mission and vision for the future of youth work.

If we don’t build our own future, I warn you, we will soon be told what to do and how to do it from people further and further from the youth themselves.

Yes, there are statewide and national conversations being had right now about how work with young people outside of the school day, across service areas, should be run and by whom.

There are people saying we need to require that funding for programs only occurs for programs who are able to hire college graduates for their front line youth workers. There are people at the national level advocating strongly that United Way and other program-lifeline philanthropists require certification and licensure from outside review boards in order for community youth programs to receive funding. Enterprising systems builders are using accreditation, rating scales, credentialing, and professionalizing interchangeably to convince policy makers to limit access to youth work careers on the basis of increasing quality and impact.

Accreditation, rating scales, and credentialing can create barriers to this meaningful work for the working poor. click here for youth worker written articles on this topic and more! We know that leaders who best understand the unique challenges of specific neighborhoods are best suited to address those challenges with young people, breaking cycles of trauma and poverty.

If youth workers do not step into the role of leaders of our field, other powerful entities will step up in our place, creating a system in which one privileged group is given power of authority over those designated as recipients of services.

Making Moments Meaningful is my contribution to youth workers in order to prevent this system building to occur without our engaged input.

Direct service youth workers are the closest to the youth in our programs and are sometimes treated poorly. Low pay, little respect, underemployed, little access to benefits, and the most impactful in changing the lives of young people, direct service youth workers are important and need equitable professionalization.

Making Moments Meaningful is designed to be a free professional network of direct service youth workers.  Through the online network I hope to increase our impact and the social value of our work through practitioner field building, and to eliminate feelings of isolation for those who practice outside of metropolitan areas.  Together, we can help each other overcome the challenges associated with being a youth worker in a supportive learning environment.

I know, you’re thinking, “This sounds like work off the clock. I’m already burned out from this work, why should I add to my plate?!”

The secret is:  This network is your safe-space, not your job. It’s a place you can voice your concerns about the work, about the workplace, about systems, and take action on issues that matter to you with support from others like you. My goal is to keep you engaged and supported, personally, to push yourself toward a lifelong career of development work, both on yourself and for young people. 

 Yes, we care about young people. But here, it’s all about the people who work with them. Support, encouragement, real and authentic leadership opportunities, visibility, and career building (money increasing) are only a few of the ways I hope Making Moments Meaningful can affect change.

Youth need youth workers everywhere who are skilled and supported in order to make a positive and lasting difference in their lives. Let’s not allow those few at the top and those in metro areas to determine how direct service youth workers across the country are selected, trained, and managed. No decisions about us, without us.

If you’re interested in joining me in my development of the Making Moments Meaningful network, please send me an email at angel@makingmomentsmeaningful.com.

I’d love to hear from you, to answer questions, listen to ideas, and find ways to include you in this work.  Thank you for all you do.

Love,

Angel.

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