Stories Of Working With Homeless Youth: On Being "Mind-boggling"

This study examines the narratives of 15 youth workers on their experiences with service provision for homeless and street-involved youth. Workers discussed a need to have a versatile approach which can be tailored to an individual youth's circumstances. Establishing a connection based upon valuing, respecting, and liking a youth allows for the development of a trusting relationship which is essential for effective interventions. Also addressed was the social context of this work including relationships among staff, agency structure, and the impact of the stigmatization of homelessness. Lastly, the process of becoming an effective worker was addressed, including the establishment of clear boundaries, recognizing the rewarding aspects of the work, and avoiding burnout. (Authors)

While the literature on homeless youth is beginning to explore interventions and outcomes, articles that examine the perspectives of individuals who work with youth are still few and far between.  Kidd, et al. (2007) conducted a qualitative study consisting of 21 interviews with frontline workers that explores their knowledge base.  Thematic analysis of the interviews identify several themes, including connecting with youth, philosophies of working with them, social factors for care workers, and burnout.  The term “mind boggling” in the title refers not to the experience of the worker but to the experience of the youth, who finally have someone who unconditionally believes in them and will support their personal goals.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
Children and Youth Services