Authored by: Denise Pilz, Executive Director
The Association for Child and Youth Care Practice (ACYCP) has identified today, May 10th, as THANK A YOUTH CARE WORKER DAY! Norris currently employs about 25 youth care workers to provide day-to-day services to youth boys in our residential services program. So what does it mean to be a youth care worker?
At Norris, our youth care workers (aka: Advanced Care Practitioners [ACP]) are responsible for the therapeutic, social, educational, emotional and recreational experiences of youth boys aged 12-18. The youth come to Norris with a history of trauma, usually stemming from abuse and neglect, and present with some challenging behaviors, mental health issues and even issues with drugs and alcohol. Even if several of the youth seem to have the same background, each youth expresses themselves differently and has very different needs. Our ACPs learn about these differences by focusing on engaging with and building relationships as much as possible. Our ACPs can then personalize their approach with each youth for the best outcomes possible.
It is no secret that we ask a LOT of our ACPs and here are just some examples:
- we ask them be engaged and present with youth for a full eight hour shift,
- we has them to manage significant emergencies that may arise,
- we ask them to manage aggressive behaviors,
- we ask them to be present in our school and support the youth’s educational path,
- we ask them to be open to working anytime during a 24 hour day,
- we ask them support their team members and collaborate with other program staff,
- we ask them to work with a youth’s parents to help reunite the youth with their family,
- we ask them to provide structured activities for the youth,
- we ask them to participate in many hours of training each year and absorb and apply everything they learned and, because that is not enough,
- we sometimes ask them to work overtime because we are short-staffed on a shift.
Whew!! For many youth care workers, all of this responsibility can take a toll on their own emotional health and wellness. Therefore, Norris recognizes how critical it is to provide the tools and support that our ACPs need to recharge, refresh and maintain a good work-life balance. Being a nonprofit, we have few resources to ensure we recognize our staff for the difficult and great work they do every day so we find that some of the small things go a long way – like a thank you card, a staff lunch, a note on our “Shout Out Board” or a simple smile and “I hear you are doing a great job” goes a long way. Also, spending time with staff to talk about and help them recognize their own emotional thresholds so they feel comfortable asking for help or taking a break when needed, is really important in our work.
Youth care workers are amazing individuals because in spite of all the “asks” and the emotional ups and downs of working with youth, they remain passionate about and committed to their work. The relationships they build with youth in a short period of time combined with the progress they see in youth, knowing they had a positive impact, is the best recognition there is. Norris would like to thank all of our ACPs for the awesome work they do and would like to thank all the youth care workers out there who put in 110% each day!
If you would like to learn more about becoming an ACP at Norris, please visit our employment page for more information about the job and how to apply.