Key words: Youth work, profession, participation, results, research, lobby, efficiency, NGO’s
The importance of the work delivered by a youth worker has both in theory and in practice big added value. In order to understand the realities of the year, we are living in, we should compare countries, regions, communities, we should conduct qualitative research and we should ask the members of the local communities: do you work with youth workers?
Firstly I would like to emphasize the fact that in Romania we can find big differences between different regions: in some, youth workers are very much appreciated and their work is fully supported by the community, in others the youth worker ‘status’ is blurred. And here I will give a negative example from the county where I chose to develop my ideas and work for the last years: Calarasi. I understand the reality that we are currently in the stage of developing new legislation in the field of youth work, volunteer activities, NGO law, and we cannot compare with advanced countries in the field as for example the Netherlands, but I am always thinking from the point of view of a person that wants to create, build bridges and be open, and the perspective from this kind of approach is proactive. Calarasi county with its institutions, few NGO’s, social workers, organized community did not have the interest in promoting any kind of youth work. This is the reason why in 2009 when we analyzed the situation, the youth work was 0, in the meantime it was able to grow very fast with public schools interested to work together with youth workers, with town halls active to support the new NGO’s. The result was very convincing: we are now coordinating a network for regional development on youth issues with 23 countries in the the region. From 0 to efficiency there are some steps to follow: enthusiasm, determination and participation.
Going from our micro regional example to the national level we can surely affirm that youth work is valuable due to its objectives: working with young persons for a brighter future. And the bright future is not only for the person involved, but for the entire community, the entire society. These kind of results are hard to measure and to prove: youth workers’ work can be evaluate on the long run. Once one sees the advantages and the results, it can be sure that it will be convinced of the high importance of youth work!
The young persons a youth worker is working for and with have different socio-economic backgrounds: rural areas, roma communities, young people that lack information about international activities, young people that came from poor families, gifted children. Youth workers have to mix the methods, work creatively, create synergies and make it last. If they succeed then they are the heroes of the community and the importance of their work is acknowledge.
Over the last five years, I have steadily advanced my knowledge and experience on the issue of youth involvement in public policy, starting from research and then turning it into actual projects, most of which were implemented nationally or regionally as European youth lobby campaigns, and then finally they became lasting local realities. Having expertise in this field and do believe that youth workers should be more visible and have more to say in the policy making. The youth field lacks research and the majority of youth policies are drawn from improper knowledge. It is time to have realistic policies adapted to the realities and to the young people they refer to. At a youth workers’ meeting, a pre-event of 2010 youth conference in Ghent, we discussed about national realities and the importance of youth work also. We all agreed that young people have the right to quality guidance to learn to fully integrate in society, that young people’s needs and wishes to participate and potential talents are leading factors; that more structured dialogue, piloting and experimenting between youth research, youth policy and youth work is needed; that we should take more use of the power of facts and figures and evidence based methods; and these are true when we are speaking of national, European or international level.
Youth work is an equal partner within a coherent cross sectoral approach of professions and provisions guiding and supporting young people. However in order to progress and improve the quality of the youth work, and maybe increase the importance in the eyes of other stakeholders, youth workers should lobby more for their profession.
They should be driven by realistic objectives and determination in theprofessional life and continue in search of better results and ways to achieve long-term positive changes in the field of youth policy. The youth work is very challenging and that is another reason or wider support and recognition.
The Involvement of youth worker in family and housing field
Going at EU level, youth workers around Europe have the same problems. Some of them find quicker solutions and recognition; others struggle for their work visibility. Whichever is the case I am of the opinion that they should form a network in order to be more powerful and speak the same voice. Having discussed in my previous lines about the importance of youth worker at a national level, further I would like to explore the link between youth worker and family and housing filed in my region. I am interested to search for an answer to the following question: at which degree and how are youth workers involved in family and housing in Danube- Black Sea region. In order to find out the answer I will use interviews with youth workers, the existing legislation in the field, an analysis of the declarations of officials. My study case will concentrate on Romanian reality having as comparative approaches data from EU.
Definitions are required in order to further develop the case:
Youth= ‘’the passage from a dependent childhood to independent adulthood’’1. The age limit differ from country to country. UN states2 the limit for teenagers 13-19, young adults 20-24. The EU states between 14- 29 in the first EU youth report published in 2009.
Policy= Public policy is the study of policy making by governments A government’s public policy is the set of policies (laws, plans, actions, behaviors) that it chooses. Since governments claim authority and responsibility (to varying degrees) over a large group of individuals, they see fit to establish plans and methods of action that will govern that society3
Family= The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State4
Housing= A housing unit is a separate and independent place of abode intended for habitation by a single household, though it may be occupied by more than one households as defined by the housekeeping concept5
At national level two ministries work on youth and housing: Ministry of work,family and soical protection and Ministry of Education,research, youth and sport. However each of the ministry deals more with one of the concept and not with both. The challenge came when co-working, collaboration should be processed. Within the Ministry of Family there is a special department dealing with ‚Family policies, inclusion and social assistance’ and under the Ministry of Education we can fiind the National Authority of sport and youth. Having drawn the institutional map I would like to state that the burden of the work stays more on the interministerial cooperation or non cooperation. The political aspect plays also an important role in who is deciding what and which should be the action plan. As a practical detail only in 2010 we can observe that the institutional map was complicated with extra centralized decision of placing the developments of the new houses in the task of Ministry of regional development. At EU level for specialized meetings of the Council of the European Union we will have 3 ministers attending according to their topics, but deciding on the same issue: youth and family and housing. Having observed the institutional map, I would like to refer to some suggestions: 1. The coordination should be appropiate between institutions; 2. Youth workers whould be part of the dialogue;
In order to include the youth workers opinion about the relation youth worker- family and housing I asked 3 questions in online interviews. The results showed me that youth workers as such is recognized and well seen as „the person that works with young people and excercise its profession in a youth center ’’ or „ a youthlike worker with extended professional capabilities in youth policies’’, the difficult part being that the profession as such does not exist in teh national register of professions. Maybe in the close future?
Whether or not the youth worker is involved in the family and housing topic all responses show that it is very hard to be involved since youth workers do not have legal recognition and also because there is a lack of knowledge who is in charge with what in housing. Another point raised was the discrepancies between environments: in the big cities they are more prone to be involved than in small cities or rural areas. Nevertheless, some youth workers do offer information about contact points in ministries, inclusion point, family planning centers.
The conclusion drawn from the interviews with the youth workers is that youth in my region take their decisions concerning family and housing in the majority of cases with the help of their extended families and relatives. Youth workers are barely involved in this process, not by youth and not by the institutional process.
What it could be done? First I believe that the need to involve youth workers should come from youth and not vice versa. The traditional patterns should be respected. Youth workers should maintain their role of proactive observers, in case of need ready to give an informed advice or sugestion. Further peer to peer discussion could be encouraged and also the discussion of some cases could help the youth.
The triangle between policy, research and practice is clearly not functioning in this case.
1 EU youth report 2009 http://ec.europa.eu/youth/news/doc/new_strategy/youth_report_final.pdf accessed on February 2011
2 http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/french/mdgs.htm accessed on February 2011
4 UN 1948
5 http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/sdissues/consumption/cpp1224m16.htm accessed on February 2011
 http://www.nji.nl/nji/download/Outcomes%20of%20the%20seminar.pdf (accessed on May 2010)