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Lifting Up Youth Workers, from Appreciation to Action

We all want our kids to thrive, with the access, support, and opportunity necessary to reach their full potential. Building and sustaining the network needed to ensure that our kids are safe, healthy, well-educated, and heading toward bright futures is no easy task. Every day, across our state, this type of mentoring, guidance, listening, and nurturing takes place in youth serving programs.

Youth workers, the people who spend their professional talents and time caring for our children and young people, are crucial to our kids’ success. Together with parents, family members, and friends, they weave together individual webs of support for each child.

It is well established that investment in youth programs produces meaningful and transformative change for kids, families, and communities. Youth programs are learning- and growth-centered spaces that both reinforce academic learning and offer more flexibility than most classroom settings. These programs can enhance a child’s social participation, create and reinforce positive social networks, and provide safe places for experiential learning. More than two years after the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic to children’s lives, these opportunities and benefits take on even greater importance.

“Thank a Youth Worker Day” is observed each May, reminding us to appreciate the youth workers that have shaped our lives and the lives of our children. Take a minute and think about these impactful and important role models – the afterschool providers, scout leaders, coaches, case managers, counselors, and coaches. Maybe they cheered you on at a time you most needed it. Or they talked you through a difficult time. Perhaps they encouraged you to dream bigger. Or not give up. Or stand up for yourself. Youth workers may have cared for your children when you were at work, gotten through to them when you were struggling to do so, introduced them to new ideas and experiences, and showed them that they were seen and valued.

Now is an ideal time to support youth workers, not only through our appreciation, but also by making the decisions and investments that enable them to do their best work. These invaluable positions are often underfunded, part-time, unstable, and/or lack professionalization that are standard in many other careers. At the same time, the positions often require high levels of education, empathy, and flexibility.

It is time that we turn appreciation into action for youth workers by:

  • Ensuring a “pay our people first approach” that invests in attracting and retaining youth serving professionals
  • Improving their healthcare benefits, paid time off, and retirement options
  • Investing in their on-going professional education opportunities, and
  • Offering them assistance through sustaining self-care and mental health support services

How our community cares for its children is in part reflected in how we care for those who support our children’s growth and development. Caring, supportive adults with youth development education, training, and experience help our children and youth navigate the complex and often bumpy road to adulthood. We should validate the incredible impact of youth workers with not only our words but also our deeds.




About the Indiana Youth Institute :

For over three decades, Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) has supported the youth services field through innovative trainings’, critical data, and capacity-building resources, aiming every effort at increasing the well-being of all children. To learn more about IYI, visit www.iyi.org, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.