A youth worker is someone who specializes in working with children, pre-teens, or teens. He or she may work for an organization such as a church or non-profit group, often involved in organizing events, counseling youth, or simply talking and interacting with young people. The role of the youth worker may also include that of an older brother or sister or mentor.
Studies have shown that young people who have positive influences in their lives, such as that of an older sibling or friend, are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like teenage sex and drug or alcohol use. In many families, one or both parents are often absent, due to jobs or other obligations and cannot spend time with their children. This can lead to acting out on the part of the child. Youth workers may step in to provide children or teens with positive role models in order to keep them away from risky situations.
Many youth workers are volunteers. Some are teens or young adults who volunteer to work with church youth groups or organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters. These groups generally provide kids with valuable lessons, along with activities and trips. Volunteers participate in these activities, help with planning, and talk to kids about issues that may be going on in their lives.
At other times, a youth worker is a hired professional who works to counsel kids who have gone through traumatic events or for nonprofits, finding volunteers and leading activities. Some may work for churches at youth ministers or schools as counselors. These individuals are generally highly trained to notice at-risk behavior and offer solutions for children and adolescents.
There are many benefits for children and teens who interact with youth workers. They are less likely to find companionship on the streets if their ideas and interests are valued and encouraged by a mentor. Kids may also benefit from having someone to talk to — other than their parents — who can give them advice on issues like drugs, sex, and peer pressure. Some volunteers may be formerly at-risk youths themselves, so they can offer inside knowledge on the dangers of certain activities and provide insight on alternatives.
Almost anyone can become a youth worker if interested. Non-profit organizations and churches are often in need of volunteers. The main requirements are that one loves kids, does not have a serious criminal offense unless otherwise approved, and has the time to devote attention to the youths involved.