Great youth workers running your child's program or camp? Here's how to tell.

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

From working with a fair number of Indigenous youth workers and Indigenous camp counsellors over the years and now as the Principle Consultant and Trainer running my own training business, I have had great close ups of how Indigenous youth workers become great at their jobs. Here's how you can tell if a youth worker or camp counsellor is doing an outstanding job with your child.

Since 2005 when I began my career as a youth worker and having trained over 80 workers in my evolving roles as as lead counsellor and camp director, I have seen a number of workers naturally evolve into their ‘greatness’. Some of the 'greats' possess no particular background in youth-work and are naturally gifted youth workers, while others select youth work as a career choice and specifically seek to be the 'best' in their chosen field within youth work.

The ‘secret sauce’ for all of the outstanding workers has been for them to create an environment of absolute trust with the children and youth in their programs. Youth and children intrinsically know when they are with a highly trustworthy person and it is through trust that they let their guard down and have true conversations with their worker regarding their present lives and their hopes for the future. This in turn creates a healthy attachment in which youth can ‘talk to someone’ and thereby create a place for themselves in which to process their lives in a healthy, holistic way.

Here are the trust-based traits, skills, and abilities that great youth workers and counsellors display and which children and youth need in their working relationship with them; all the attributes go hand in hand with building trust:

- rapport and creating an easy-going, welcoming environment;

- honesty and sincerity as youth need workers and counsellors to say what they mean and mean what they say;

- sincerity in the context of ‘caring’ for the child or youth;

- manage their own lives so their personal issues never cross-over in to their important work with youth and children;

- be humble and create an create atmosphere that makes it okay to admit their mistakes and demonstrates they are willing to learn from others;

- show they're real and honest with themselves and others which in turn signals to others they accept themselves and, therefore, accept others for who they are without trying to saddle their worldviews on others; and last,

- carry an attitude that allows everyone around them to see their potential as potential is the key to assuring others life is a work in progress and while everyone stumbles and may fall once in a while, true potential puts temporary negative behaviours aside and examines one’s character to set life’s course for the long run.

Besides providing a solid training program, the best way to determine youth leadership is to provide them with a mentor who can assist them to carry on with their top-level attributes. Our services reviews staffing systems for camps and programs and we make reports and recommendations based on our findings.

Carla M.

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