kara headshotPeople often ask me what I do as a Youth Care Worker, and they ask me what each day looks like. If I read them the job description, they would hear words like “advocate,” “educator,” “role model,” “crisis stabilization,” “milieu meeting facilitator,” and “implementing Individual Treatment Plans.”  Instead of reading them these words, I try to clarify the title.

Now that I have been a Youth Care Worker in Noha Home for about 2 months, I am realizing that the name of this position is more powerful than I imagined. Before I started working with my middle-school-aged youth, and before I really grasped the concepts of the job description, those 3 words implied that I was “taking care of youth.” To outsiders, it is a child care position. To coworkers, it is a therapeutic role. But to me, it has a deeper meaning.

“To me, my job is to care about youth. My job is to care about them, not just care for them and their needs. The word “care” means so much to me, and it is one that I take to heart. I want my youth to understand that I value my job and that it is not just something that I clock in and out of each day.”

To me, my job is to care about youth. My job is to care about them, not just care for them and their needs. The word “care” means so much to me, and it is one that I take to heart. I want my youth to understand that I value my job and that it is not just something that I clock in and out of each day. Every day when I show up to work, I strive to bring eagerness and excitement that is wrapped up in a smile. I want them to see that I care about them.

In my first week of work, one of my youth asked me an off-task question during study time, one that I could not brush aside in an effort to keep him on task. He asked, “Why do you work here?” I paused, got down at his eye level, and said, “Because I care about you.” He replied with doubt- “You don’t care about me. You’re here for the money.” In that conversation, there were only so many ways that I could try to express the truth, and in a way convince him that I care. I so badly wanted to tell him that I am actually a volunteer who is not interested in a salary. I wanted him to know that it made me sad that he was already doubting me. I wanted him to know that I cared about him before I even started working here. However, there were things I could say to him, and things that I could not. That moment with my youth reminded me of the importance of presence and relationships. It reminded me that it would take time to build relationships with the youth, and that I would have to prove myself to them as someone they can rely on and trust. When our words run out, we have to depend on actions.

Every day, it is my focus and goal to show my Noha boys that I care about them, that I truly and genuinely care. I strive to show them day in and day out that they can trust the relationship we have. When I told that same youth at the end of September that I was leaving for “training and vacation for 5 days,” (the MercyWorks Fall Retreat), he reacted with shock and couldn’t believe that I was not going to be there to pick him up from school or make him a breakfast sandwich on Saturday morning. His angry response made me smile later. He showed me that my actions in the last 2 months have created a bond of care.

Moving forward, I want to keep building relationships with my youth, and with our new youth. I want these guys to feel loved and cared about. That’s my goal. I’m not here for money. I’m not here to feel good about myself. I’m not here to give myself a professional edge. I’m not even here to work. I am here to serve. I am here to care. I pray that my youth will see and feel that, and in turn care more about themselves and others.

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