Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Youth Culture Update: Boston To Hire 300 Youth Workers

Even though I live and work on the west coast I have a strong appreciation for the city of Boston.  Of course the fact that my dad is from that area holds sway in that thought process.  I follow the Boston Red Socks and the New England Patriots almost as religiously as I follow the teams in my neck of the woods.  However this week I ran across a news release from Boston that may have won my heart over to the city for good.

The article (found here) reported that the Boston City Council was voting on a proposal to hire 300 youth and street workers to help take the pressure off of police officers.  As a youth worker I realize that I am biased in my thought process, but I really do see this as a progressive move with the potential long term benefits for the community.  While police are enforcing the law, youth workers enforce relationships.  I have many young friends that have been in trouble with the law and yet our mentoring relationships continue before during and after those dark periods of their lives.

Here are three reasons why I think this is a good move:

  1. Police are not trained to be compassionate.  I have many friends that are police officers who are very compassionate people, but their personalities aside, police are suppose to enforce the law not help guide people to making right choices.  Police are needed to keep order.  Youth Workers are able to be good role models without the stigma associated with the police.  Youth Workers try to prevent chaos.  This is a subtle but important difference than can make for a good partnership if done well.

   2. Helps police officers be better police officers.  Police work is hard work as they get to see humanity at its worst.  They may care deeply about what is going on, but unless they remain emotionally detached they will be burnt out quickly.  Youth Workers can help to fill a void in a young person’s life, if police officers know theses youth workers they can refer these young people to them so that they may continue to focus on their job while knowing something is being done, not just in enforcing law, but helping people.

   3. Makes youth work a more credible profession.  Many times youth workers are thought of as people that were too immature to get a job anywhere else.  This is because youth workers tend to reflect a lot of the personality traits of the people they work with.  However, youth workers are passionate and motivated usually out of a personal experience of their own upbringing and want to make a difference.  Because many youth workers are unorthodox in their style and more relationally motivated they avoid meetings and committees because they would rather be in the field working with young people.  Having the city hire these workers they are legitimizing a form of professionalism that looks much different. 

This proposal would not be without its difficulties.  The “success” of youth work is difficult to track and government funding always wants cold hard facts.  I applaud Boston for even considering add this sort of mess to their system.
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