The fundamental aim of youth work is to build trusting and mutually respectful relationships with young people, creating transformative experiences for young people in formal and informal spaces outside of homes and schools. These complex and multidimensional situations mean that the day-to-day work of youth workers is full of dilemmas, pitting moral, developmental, motivational, organizational, and other concerns against each other.
By showing how different youth workers respond to a variety of such dilemmas, this authentic text makes visible youth workers’ unique knowledge and skills, and explores how to work with challenging situations – from the everyday to the extraordinary. Beginning by setting out a framework for dilemma resolution, it includes a number of narrative-based chapters, in which youth workers describe and reflect on dilemmas they have faced, the knowledge and experiences they brought to bear on them and alternative paths they could have taken. Each chapter closes with a discussion from the literature about themes raised in the chapter, an analysis of dilemma and a set of overarching discussion questions designed to have readers compare and contrast the cases, consider what they would do in the situation, and reflect on their own practice.
Teaching us a great deal about the norms, conventions, continuities, and discontinuities of youth work, this practical book reveals essential dimensions of the profession and contributes to a practice-based theoretical foundation of youth work.
Table of Contents
1. Becoming a Youth Worker 2. Learning to 'Read': Cultivating Ecological Intelligence 3. Navigating Inexperience: How Reflection Guides Practice for a Novice Youth Worker 4. Balancing High Expectations, Program Structure, and Youth Realities: Making Kids Fit the Program or the Program Fit the Kids 5. Balancing Conflicting Values from Home, a Youth Organization, and the Community: Keeping Youth Wellbeing at the Center of Youth Work 6. Youth Worker and Organizational Responses to Risky Behavior and Dangerous Situations 7. Balancing Youth Privacy with the Youth Worker's Need for Information: The Importance of Organizational Support in Dilemma Resolution 8. Activating Personal Knowledge to Balance the Needs of High-risk Youth with the Safety of Others in the Program 9. 'When I Heard Who it Was, I Knew it Wasn't a Real Gun': 'Reading' the Context to Maintain Safety 10. 'Do They Think We're Not in Charge?': Addressing Dilemmas that Arise in a Social Justice Youth Development Approach 11. Cross-cutting Themes and Implications for Youth Worker Professional Development
Laurie Ross is an Associate Professor of Community Development and Planning in the Department of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University in Worcester, MA. She teaches on the Community Development and Planning Master’s program and directs Clark’s Certificate Program in Youth Work Practice. She engages in collaborative action and research with community partners on issues such as youth and gang violence, youth homelessness, and youth worker professional education.
Shane Capra is the Youth Program Coordinator and Co-op Incubation Coordinator at the Worcester Roots Project. He received his master’s in Community Development and Planning at Clark University in 2013. His final master’s paper is entitled "Re-orienting the map: exploring dilemma-based competency in social justice youth development."
Lindsay Carpenter is a Career Counselor with Job Corps, whose youth work has focused on young women and violence prevention. She received her master’s in Community Development and Planning at Clark University in 2011. Her final master’s paper is entitled "A framework to analyze youth workers’ response to risky behavior: considerations of youth worker skill and organizational capacity."
Julia Hubbell is a Middle School Network Liaison within the Cambridge Public Schools where she creates awareness and connects young people to out-of-school time (OST) opportunities. Her professional background has been with youth in urban areas where she has held roles in schools as an educator and also OST settings as a youth worker. She received her Master’s in Community Development and Planning at Clark University in 2012. Her final Master’s paper is entitled "Dilemmas in youth work: a journey toward developing expertise."
Kathrin Walker is an Associate Professor and Specialist in Youth Work Practice at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. Her research explores the dilemmas that practitioners face in their everyday work with young people and their strategies for addressing these challenges.