Childhood and youth workers make a difference in the lives of struggling children and teens. They are empathetic community leaders that help youth develop confidence, assist children to access services they need and act as part of a team with families, schools and other social service professionals. If you are considering completing a childhood and youth studies degree, there are a number of career opportunities waiting for you when you graduate.
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Childhood and youth workers may work with special needs students in nursery, primary and secondary schools. This may involve working in a learning centre with students who have autism, down's syndrome, learning, physical or other developmental disabilities. Child and youth workers may also work with students who have behavioural issues and may provide one-on-one instruction until students are able to return to class.
Childhood and youth workers may work in group or residential homes with adolescents who have behavioural problems or criminal records. Workers provide structure to the living environment by implementing house rules, organising chores and meals and enforcing curfews. The idea is for residents to learn social and life skills. The youth worker may also organise social activities and provide informal counselling to those who are struggling emotionally. Finally, someone working in a group home must be equipped with nonviolent intervention skills to break up physical confrontations in the house.
Youth and childhood workers may provide one-on-one or group counselling sessions with troubled children and adolescents. This may include helping youth with addictions or mental illness, young mothers and low self esteem. The youth worker must work in concert with other professionals, such as psychologists and social workers, and help develop treatment plans. He must also complete reports documenting client progress.
A youth outreach worker may work at a drop-in centre providing a safe environment for children and youth to come to after school or on evenings and weekends. Activities at the centre may include sports, games, meals, films and other social opportunities. The youth worker may also offer discussion times, workshops or informal counselling. An outreach worker may go to schools to offer lunchtime or after school programs to talk to students about issues like peer pressure, bullying, drugs, confidence building and positive life choices. A childhood and youth worker can also provide outreach by working at a homeless shelter.
A child and youth worker may work for a child protection agency. Working in collaboration with social workers and other professionals the child protection worker performs initial assessments of children and youth, prepares reports, helps develops treatment plans and helps clients access relevant services within the community.
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