I’m passionate about better outcomes for children and young people. In fact, I’m passionate about better outcomes for humans in general. The frustration for me comes when we, on a societal level, think that we are going to improve these outcomes in the long term, without considering the whole person and their experiences.
A young person with mental health issues and deep-rooted trauma is not going to miraculously be ready for the jobs market after a 6-week employability course. You can buy them all the kit, get them a shiny new pair of shoes and take them to the interview, but I’d bet my last quid that it won’t stick. The problem isn’t ‘time keeping skills’ or a lack of bus fare, it’s their view of themselves, relationships and the world around them.
Why on earth would you give a s@*t about attending college, when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep that night? Why would you care about success if no one, not even yourself, is cheering you on? We need to ask ‘what happened to you?’ not ‘how can we fix you?’. We can’t expect our young people to be fulfilled, functioning members of society when they are lost, scared and without any stability in their lives. We need to offer that stability and safety and show them that if they push back, we’ll still be there fighting their corner. Listening to what happened and giving them space to find solutions to overcome obstacles.
Good youth work and any successful service for children and young people, is rooted in human connection. We can’t expect to gain respect or have any impact on behaviour if we don’t take the time to listen to the story. Find out about their day. Learn about their family. Remember their birthday and maybe even get a cake and sing loudly and embarrassingly at them while they pretend they hate it. This will take time and commitment, but the payoff will be delivered in spades.
Desmond Tutu said;
‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in’.
I couldn’t agree more.
Corner House Youth Project