An Exit strategy for Detached Youth work

As you may know i am leaving my current role as a detached youthworker in Perth, in about 4 weeks time now, so the time is well and truly flying by. However, as a detached youthworker i have been pondering the notion of an exit strategy within detached youth work.

Before now i have left youthwork jobs in churches, one year out programmes ( when everyone knew it was just for a year) or schools work, and so in most of those instances it was easy to communicate the prospect of leaving with the youth groups and have a leaving night that sort of thing.

Its not a question of how to tell the management, the volunteers, the working partners etc of the project, as they can get a quick email or phone call, but it boils down to how to tell the young people. Given that conversation is the primary education tool of detached work, especially what we have done in Perth, and this has nearly always begun on the terms of the young people, so their activities, interests etc, how do you bring into the conversation – oh and by the way this is my last night? or in 3 weeks this will be the last night of detached youth work for me in perth?  when their thoughts are of their night, their issues and personal traumas ( like who stole my drink, wheres my bus money etc), so to add to their drama…..

Its not that we havent had more meaningful conversations with young people on the streets, and we have, but the skill has been to probe and prompt young people from the basis of the conversations that are started naturally, rather than with much more than an agenda than that.

In the natural way of things, the conversations and relationships with young people have started very naturally on the streets, and so i imagine that to do equal justice would be to end them as naturally, so on the last time, the last evening, our goodbyes will be a final goodbye, just like our ‘hi’ carried a promise that we’ll be around for a while.

So on my last night, what do i do about meeting a group of people that i know ill never see again? what about a group who are out on the streets for the first time, and so do we start a conversation, when I know ill not be around to see its fulfilment? What of the young people, if they find out too early that staff are leaving will the focus of attention be on the staff or the needs of the young people, for others will they bother talking with us if they know we’ll not be around?

I think what i am also trying to say is that the young people deserve something in the way of information about the leaving situation, rather than just us not being there, and its really difficult to think of a way of communicating it. Thing is, leave it till the last night and it might be a wet night and no one is around, and that’d be that then. The unpredictability of detached work in a nutshell.


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