This is the Bible for Detached Youthwork; no, more than that, it’s where Christian youth work would have focussed itself on and become the dominant narrative for practice, had the church not bought into youth ministry as an attractional, relevancy model..
The review is lengthy, but the lessons they experienced then, are ones that have ongoing relevance in working with young people in the margins, the fact that the same mistakes/issues aren’t avoided is testament to their work being sidelined in the 50 years of ‘Christian youth ministry’ of detached being a sidelined practice within this, and that young people haven’t changed an awful lot, regardless of the proclamations of generationalisms. If you’re serious about detached youthwork, and want to delve deep into some of the pioneers of this, from a christian perspective, then read on.
In their lengthy piece Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ describe in detail the problems, approaches and methods within an experimental practice that sought to contact unattached young people in one London Borough from 1959 (p33-4).
The premise for the work was a youth work study, rather than the development of practice, and as such there is somewhat of an experimental feel to the practice, though this is also indicative of the relatively new concepts of detached work, and lack of known practice elsewhere, it also has a pioneering feel to it (p2). The initial assumptions that the project made were to; offer a point of contact with unattached young people, find a way of developing a programme to meet their needs, to form groups within the programme, introduce the young people to club life and make contact with other agencies.
There is an element of ‘centre centricity’ about these aims/assumptions, yet at that time, the youth services only operated in institutional educational centres, and so an element of this practice clearly supports and encourages the unattached to become more attached, using the known structures at that time. These definitions broadened as the project developed as they understood ‘unattached’ to also mean the young people’s attachment within the wider society.
Content of the Book
They provide extensive, although maintained anonymous, detail of different young people, their personality, ambitions, family background and friendship connections. During the research they developed four categories or groupings for the young people within their friendship groups, they are detailed as :
And though they admit that these distinctions are fluid, moving along a continuum which overlapped, and interchanged (pp112-3) and appearing to one worker at one time as one thing and at another time, to another worker as something different. Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ describe the elements within each category, such as family, school, work, friends, recreation, social attitudes and service and how knowledge of these factors provides a helpful indication of the category that they perceive each young person. Throughout the piece they add to these categories, and for instance on page 126-7 they describe how the attitudinal differences in the categories of young people to the statutory or voluntary bodies, with the can copes having a more positive attitude to them, and on the other extreme the seriously disorganised being deeply mistrustful and propagated negative attitudes which they believed about them.
I find it interesting that the chosen categories are in terms that we would probably now use in light of Resilience and resilience factors, and those with more positive outlook towards adult support structures are likely to cope in more challenging circumstances. Also that coping is seen along the same spectrum as organisation, permeating the middle class belief that being organised is key to coping.
Helpfully they describe their work in terms of three groups of people, a theme that runs throughout the piece,
- Worked with young People both individual and collectively in groups
- Worked with ourselves
- Worked with the community (p2) and later
- Social education.
Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ explore these three elements further in a wider discussion about Values and expectations ( p152-153)
Development of Practice (p33-85)
In the sequence of events section Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ describe the following as the development of the practice (p33-85) :
- Locating a mobile coffee stall ( no mention within as to why this was a chosen method)
- appointment of a worker
- filtering of target group ( ie discouraging adults)
- acceptance of the worker and his intentions
- individual work with young people
- low profile small group work & outings, small friendship groups
- help with urgent trouble
- 9 month review – arrangements to meet increasing demand
- expansion – additional workers
- additional workers gaining acceptance – Jim
- conversations and help regarding employment (p37)
- difficulty finding and befriending girls with female worker (p38)
- continuance of a personal service to the young people, particularly boys, rather than passing them on.
- negotiated boundaries and rules at the coffee stall, at the odds of authorities around.
- dynamic of Strength of relationships with particular workers
- meeting the needs of young people – facilitating a ‘place to go’ which mirrored the nature of the relationships already created.
- Work and various issues with setting up premises ( p41-49), for boys
- influence of a detemined and creative individual, Dan.
- difference in working with girls in the setting of the building rather than outside.
- Starting the cycle again with a younger group, making contact , outings and shared experiences , a building and a path of destruction.
- referrals from other agencies – the probation service
- continuing contacts from the coffee stall and this setting still being the main focus, even when a commercial youth café was opened (p59)
- in two years a full programme
- personal service to individuals
- work with groups
- work with ourselves
- work with the community
with the Coffee stall as the hub of the wheel, and the activities in premises, dance halls and coffee bars emanating from this.
- Developing professional and acceptable relationships with the police and other services
- Exit and withdrawal; a community education programme. (p72-91)
From the brief overview of the sequence of events, above, several patterns emerge;
- a) the difficulty of replicating the nature of relationships within detached youthwork within the environmental structure of a building.
- b) detached work provides underlying continued natural contact with young people to go along with more structured forms.
- c) understanding the effect of the work on the individual worker is critical, the power or influence that one individual may have on the young person, may be a strength but also detrimental to other workers.
- d) Throughout, the social dynamic of trying to work with girls.
- e) Understanding that the detached work is core/critical to the other work, as opposed to building centric work. This places informal relationships/education as the ‘glue’ that maintains the other work.
- f) detached youthwork as a method to work with unattached individuals and groups.
Problems of fieldwork (p92-109)
Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ provide useful in depth analysis of the problems that they faced throughout the process of developing contact and further work with unattached youth, from the strain it puts on the workers, their time, their values and expectations, and working in unknown innovative ways. The workers pointed to the following that they had particular issues; remembering to observe and learn how to observe, methods and types of recording, repetition of identity to the young people, knowing what the worker was offering (p98), an interesting dilemma given that it couldn’t be:
- a) a full blown relationship- like parent/friend
- b) a relationship without limitation – where criminality was ignored
- c) a relationship where “we knew the best for them” (p98) in terms of moral philosophy or political outlook
- d) a formal teaching relationship
they defined it as an enabling relationship in which they were able to:
- pass on information
- pass on simple social skills
- to give recognition and support
- to show acceptance
if we have come to help, how is that to be without anything definite to give? Our own religion or values for example?
“To learn is To give ourselves in persons in a relationship”
Other problems they encountered were; the mobility of the young people between groups, venues and activities, and how this was dealt with when they recognised their own part in desiring to create “something to happen” (p99) Their role was to suggest possibilities, and not advise. It was to realise the whole community and the mobility of the young people as the entire scope of the detached youthworker and to travel in the places where young people were, not make expectations.
Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ outline the challenge that working within the different values and standards that the groups they worked with had (p101-103) and as crucially the importance of the perception of the young people on where the workers drew their values from, whether the community of the professional worker “ them” or the young people “us” (p103) . It brought about a change in the practice in that they recognised that moralising had already been done by other professional agencies and failed, and so they decided that suggesting choices within the experiences and understanding of the young peoples world, and to mediate between the value systems.
The perception of the workers was that they were considered as ‘them’ from all perspectives, agency, community and young people, and thus this proved a difficult balancing act, and that unnattachment was in part the conflict between different sets of standards and values. (p103)
Briefly they also experienced challenges in giving things away monetarily, their own introspection and reflection and over sensitivity, assessing of needs, lack of time which lead to frustration.
Frustration came in part also due to the roles within the project, of administrator and consultant, and also within the development of young people, their high hopes for programmes or individual improvements, external pressures such as employment, housing or families undid many pieces of good work instantly. However natural, these moments of frustration had to become part of the growth and development of the work and the worker and not just an excuse to terminate relationships prematurely.
Observations of Practice (pp112-135)
In their observation section Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ provide detail of the categories along the spectrum of young people; from ‘can copes’ to ‘seriously disorganised’ ( p112-122) and also the role of the neighbourhood, the community organisations already in place ( as perceived by the young people), the differing nature of the staff, their roles. From the observations they determined the following generalisations within the practice, a total of 18 (p132):
- the unattached did respond to opportunities offered to them if
o they were able to accept them
o the opportunities met a real and apparent need as defined by the young people
- a large number of unattached had something to gain from contact with youth serving agencies
- individuals fell into categories ( can cope etc)
- the unattached didn’t accept what was on offer in a traditional setting because;
o the content of the offering
o manner of which it was offered ( from the unattacheds point of view)
but not an indication of the absence of need, especially the more disorganised.
- The lack of participation, from agency to unattached YP and YP to agency was seen as misunderstanding of value orientation; towards work, education, sex, authority and mobility
- Difference in values and expectations created conflict in expectation; YP had needs that were being offered by authorities in a method not acceptable to the YP or were not deemed appropriate by the agencies themselves.
- Contact work should reconcile the expectations, given the needs of the unattached YP
- The approach and method of the detached youthwork outside the establishment could meet the expectations of the young people in a setting the YP could accept.
- 1st stage: contact YP in their own terms
- programmes offered should be determined by actual needs and desired by the young people- rather than the statutory bodies.
- A programme should continue and be characterised by natural forms of association.
- A wide variety of services is to be offered and thus a method should be found to interpret the needs of young people and interpret these to statutory authorities
- Community work is an essential by product of effective detached work.
- A programme should in essence reduce the numbers of those unattached as the YP become intrinsically attached through the workers.
Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ devote 150 pages to the approach and method taken within the practice, to enable they say students and youth workers with less experience to gain from their insight.
Individual relationships & Groupwork (p136-286)
They clarify that even though they worked with groups, that the development of individuals was a primary task (p136) and offering a relationship with them to give information was their key role.
Their definition of relationship is a useful one: “ a connection between two people in which some sort of exchange takes place” The connection and exchange may be verbal, emotional, physical or intellectual or all of them. Relationships, they go on to say, happen in “ all places, in all part of society and in all the phases of the development of individuals” It is within such relationships that detached youthworkers, can seek to give, and “young people learn to seek and get satisfaction from their basic human needs, social, emotional and physical “
Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ then go on to describe the dynamic and impact of the relationships in one particular young person, defining them overall as Primary relationships ( family), Secondary Simple ( teacher, club leader, detached worker) and Secondary intensive ( adolescent friendship, best friend, girlfriend)
They consider the role of the worker to be fivefold; information giving, acting as a bridge, passing on simple social skills, advice and guidance and acceptance and support. (p140)
There are stages in the relationship that is created, these are; “initial contact which include an opening stage or testing out, expression of feelings, appearance of strong feelings, gradual decline of intensity and tailing off of the relationship” they go on to detail the important that in the type of relationships that are created in detached work that the worker recognises the variety of intensity of the relationship and keep a balance, knowing that the relationship could end at any moment.
Its interesting that these reflections on relationships occur prior to work on storming, norming group work by Brown in the mid 1970’s, yet the experiences described here are a useful example of how relationships within youthwork, the responsibilities of the detached youthworker within relationships are of paramount importance. Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ describe the methods in relationship creation and how there is a paradox between the natural spontanaeity that a young male might want from a relationship and the need for the worker to plan, but not over analyse a relationship.
The stages that they use could easily be used to describe any relationship within youthwork and is definitely an aspect of the work seriously underthought about subesequently. Issues within relationship creating and sustaining in detached youthwork, include the formalising or verbalising when there are conflict in acceptable values or behaviours, increased in intensity and the limiting of relationships to prevent dependency. They also identify ‘intensive support’, ‘temporary support’ and ‘reflecting reality’ as key components in the development of the relationships between youthworkers and the young people . It is undoubted that the workers discovered that the dynamic of a relationship between the young person and the worker became central to the work, and that these reflections developed as a consequence of new understandings or experience. There considerations about the nature of relationships is somewhat groundbreaking and key to this text.
Groupwork is identified as a key aspect to the work of the detached youthworker, being said to be “an intrinsic part of the way man seeks to satisfy his biological and social needs in association with others of his kind”
They go onto describe different nature of groups, from associations, compulsory groups and also voluntary informal groups, where young people in this case are free to choose to enter, membership and expulsion. Group behaviour amongst just friendship groups can be fluid, but none the less involve activity, conversations, larking around, jostling for power. At this point Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ intersperse relevant theory of group work, group behaviours, values, and stages etc before then recollecting incidents in the practice of the detached youthwork ( p195).
Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ recognise the need for the community to be involved in the process of the work , as a natural part of the work, and the life of the young people. (p208) They realise that they should have involved the community at an earlier point and also for longer. NB they define community as a term which refers to groups of people in a neighbourhood which needs could be met personally by our service. They go on to describe the intricate nature of communities and that the context of each plays a huge part in defining the actions, structure and attitudes within a community. They illustrate this by using a discussion about the use of money in the fieldwork at the committee, as the use of money by the fieldworkers had an effect on the community, both seen as positive and negative. As previous, it became apparent that 3 fold value system was in place, that of the young people, that of the worker and in this case that of the committee, and that after careful consideration there was movement away from the personal opinion of the committee to the needs of the worker on the street and also the young person.
They describe how a joint piece of work with the local probation officer to encounter young girls was decided upon, and how the terms were negotiated between the agencies. At times the interpretation and perception of their work by other groups led to criticism, and the work that the worker had to undergo to address the concerns raised by the community, by parents, by teachers and by agencies.
It does appear that the innovative form of work with young people in the community (ie detached youthwork) drew a fair amount of criticism, from perceptions of lazyness, lack of clear progress or method and behaviour of the workers (pp222-223) and it appears that the team spend a fair amount of their time appeasing, appealing and ironing out these concerns with the relevant organisations, and at times having to defend their work. Six substantial criticism were levied at the practice:
- That they gave away things to young people, something the YP then expected from other agencies
- They didn’t work with unattached but those whom were known but were soft.
- The money for the research could have been used for other clubs
- recording all that is said and done is not ethical, normal youthworkers wouldn’t have time to do it, this social group work wasn’t new.
- lack of discipline made it difficult for other agencies and that it gave young people a false idea of life in the future
- the club leaders would like to work with the YP we knew but this would have a dramatic effect on the clubs themselves ( pp234)
These views were aired at a community meeting that only 3 people attended, some suggestions were made in the future, and on reflection the authors and workers recognise the tension between conflict and cooperation with the life of communities.
As a project they began slowly in the development of community work, and as this grew it became part of the evaluation of the work and they had to discover new ways of evaluating the community aspect of their work.
Work with themselves.
In describing the work with themselves Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ they pinpoint this as the most important aspect of the whole project, given the nature of the work and the need for each of the workers to develop their own skills in developing relationships with individual young people, in a street, group setting. To enable continued training to take place they considered a variety of questions, and then in 3 weekly meetings dealt with an aspect: training; dealing with field work and experiences, secondly supervision, offering each worker individual supervision and practical help and thirdly staff conferences, to work together as a team in allocating resources and time. They also agreed on set recording of these meetings.
They considered three aspects to the training:
- Working together as a team, getting know each other (p241)
- Defining the problem and working out observation strategies.
- Contact with individuals
- About groups
- About networks of young people
- The full programme
- The community
The authors go onto describe the increasing structure of the training, the reflection undertaken between the different meetings, recurring themes and topics. They recognise that in depth discussions were railroaded by mabe more practical urgent needs and issues, it may have been that thinking and reflecting at an earlier stage may have enabled them to consider community work from the outset and prevented issues later. A detailed account of the conversational and discussion process amongst the staff follows, it highlights the intricacy of the detail that has been recorded and the importance of staff development and coherence to the role expected of them.
In appendix v, they stipulate an emergency 6 month training course to meet the demands expected of detached youthworkers.
On page 259, they provide what they describe as five fundamentals of fieldwork practice:
- awareness of field work events and problems, based on accurate regular observation
- objectivity in the observation
- ability to see the separate parts of the problem so as to be able to think, discuss and act in relation to it
- ability to see the whole, that is the problems in the relevant larger contexts of which they are part
- ability to use the above 4 factors in making choices and decisions in the future in establishing priorities for action in the field.
It becomes very apparent that they regard recording as of paramount importance, something that might be expected given the research/study nature of this piece of work, yet Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ list ten reasons why recording is important:
- To help the worker understand their job
- Provide the basis for supervision
- Provide a basis for evaluation
- Provide a basis for programme planning
- For the use of others
- For public interpretation
- To contribute as a reservoir of information
- Material for training purposes
- Relate to literature in the field
- Offers worker opportunity for self development.
The Approach and Method section is extensive, it is thorough, it is littered with examples, case studies and also backed up by relevant theory, almost too much.
Yet for a seminal, ground breaking piece, the authors have sought to identify many aspects of detached youthwork and provided full conceptual analysis, backed up by evidence. It is a detailed record of the work, with young people, with the community and with themselves as a staff team.
Implications for Practice
In the final implications section the authors list 20 implications for future practice had it continued in that area, with those young people at that time, from citizens advice for young people, psychiatric help, girls committees and neighbourhood hostels. A local youth committee, they suggest would also be an appropriate medium for gathering ideas and needs for community wide youth provision. The authors also give rise to role of the youth service in the future, how the unattached are or aren’t the responsibility of the youth service, and how this is to be rectified in the future, with the “growing importance of the unattached”
A concern for the wider young people in the community who are unattached is a primary concern of the authors, and a realisation that the work of the youth service has become “ too narrow”, and focussed on those willing to abide by its structures , values and boundaries. They describe how each of the four types of young people they encountered might have a relationship with the youth services in the future, albeit with some tweaks in the practice of the staturory youth provision. Yet the authors recognise that traditional youth club may not be the place to attract the unattached (p303) without the cooperation of the community or joined up working with other centres. The less formal youth clubs are more likely, the authors perceive, to attract the unattached, who are put off by membership, structure or formal, yet even this type of work will set to struggle given the destructive nature of the seriously disrganised or the differing needs of the types of young people, the louder becoming more dominant and the weaker becoming invisible.
They recommend a greater variety of skills amongst youth service workers, from those inside centres, those working with the community, detached youthworkers, youth officers, training officers, research specialist , part time workers all becoming part of one youthwork provision in one area, being able to respond to the differing nature of young people in a community.
In concluding the study, the authors outline the following:
- The aspect of social change ( p315), that youthwork is not isolated from its community context, a community which is changing, both economically, physically, and politically. Many developments in society have an impact on young people, technology, finances, education, employment etc . Expectations change rapidly when these factors change, one way or another.
- Changing social phenomena, the rise in understanding of human behaviours and social science.
- Changes in articulation of and working out of social phenomena
- Change in what the community should offer its members and how
Concluding comments & the Social context
They details changes in policy and direction of the youth service, prior to 1939
– a concern for youth participation in deprived areas, after 1939
– to work with all young people, and be responsible for the unattached and then as a result of the Albermarle report ( 1958),
– a means to educate, value and respond to the changing social nature of the young people
The authors proceed to give political viewpoint as to why community wide provision for young people does not match the provision of old people; its lack of vote winner, its perceived behavioural issues within young people, being subvertive/anti social, and for YP to take opportunities afforded to them under the conditions laid out (p324)
The authors compare the charitable focus on the elderly, some would argue the ‘deserving’ rather than on charitable giving to young people.
Finally, more generally, the book concludes with an appeal, suggesting that ultimately there are not enough adults available to young people, adults who care, who are sufficiently objective to be helpful.
Review of the Book
I have read most of and then attempted to summarise this book in less than 24 hours and as a practicing detached youthworker I am inspired, and somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer amount of thought, reflection and practical help there is within this book. The authors have combined reflection, theory and practical experience in a way that demands attention for detached youthworkers. It is pioneering and also honest of the failings within the practice.
I am left with a few questions:
– what motivated the individual Christians to take part?
– Where are the local churches? ( have they been removed for anonymity?)
– Did the project consider itself successful?
– What would it have considered a success?
– What happened to the young people afterwards?
Quite abruptly and it is only given some sign posting on the inside front cover, that this piece had some sentiment toward making the “Christian commitment relevant to the needs of contemporary youthwork” (inside cover)
The authors consider the outworking of this task; stating the changes in society and community have not left the church untouched, and a growing number of theologians have contemplated ‘relationship’ in Christian witness, and the former more moralistic forms of youthwork were ( in 1965) in the process of change. It appears that most of the participants of this youthwork were Christians, though it may have been insightful to provide more information about the workers rather than just the young people, especially in the light of the relationships created ( strengths, weaknesses ) and personal motivations and values.
The practice, from the contact point on the streets as a coffee stall, focussed on both the individual young person and also the groups of young people in the community, the workers met the negotiated needs in different ways, with some modicum of success, but with many trials along the way. I was enlightened by their use of a values triumbriate, the values of the young people, the community and also the workers and the perception of each part of the workers and how they are caught in a value dilemma.
The Key Themes that the authors considered within include:
- The centrality and challenges within creating the right kind of relationships with young people
- The conflict of value base between the community, the worker and the young person
- The Method of the work; groupwork, individual work, community work and also the development of the workers themselves
- The Role of the worker
- The development and nature of the young people they encountered
- The development of the work from detached to group or individual work
- The consequence of their work on the wider community
Throughout, what they describe is highly detailed, it assumes that this type of work has been only done in a limited way before, and often takes a reflective questioning approach, which aids the current practitioner. It is highly detailed, but also highly specific to this one piece of work in London, and one style of detached work.
If I were to describe the practice as a model I would indicate in this way
Assessment of needs
Group or individual work
Meeting of needs (in group or individual)
And back to contact work as a continual point of focus.
Their offerings in terms of relationships in youthwork, the dynamics of values , training and equipping staff and their extensive case studies are all thorough, accessible and as relevant today, even though this was written in the 1960’s, much of what has been detailed here has nominally been built upon subsequently such is the authority of this work.
As a concept of detached youthwork, in that setting, it retains some of a ‘come to us’ mentality, through the use of a coffee stall, yet the workers were tasked with going to dance halls and coffee bars to encounter young people there, a more detached role. The issues they encountered when they tried to develop group work from the detached work sought to only highlight the disparate nature of the young people and their resentment for authority, and a naivety on the park of the workers, possibly, yet this work was in its infancy and so leniency is given in respect of this. \in employing a researcher and administrator it meant that they were able to collate and analyse records throughout and use these for continued reflection, a vital tool, both then and now.
According to Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ , what is detached youthwork?
In one way they barely use the term detached youthwork or even make an attempt to define detached youthwork based on their own experiences, instead using detached work, however, a number of conclusions can be drawn about detached work:
- It is a method of engaging young people who are deemed unattached ( though sometimes this can be misleading (young people may be attached to other service at a different time, just on the street on this occasion)
- Events on the street affect the wider community
- It is about developing as natural relationships with young people in their territory, it is at its core about creating the space for relationships to occur that are as natural as possible.
- It creates a space where workers recognise their own values which may be in conflict with the young persons, yet partially accept and work with the young peoples values and which may also be at odds with those of the community.(p102-3)- It tries to maintain dialogue between both camps.
- It is not without difficulty.
- It can be used to spring board onto other activities or types of youthwork (p40)
- It can be used as a means of itself, to create the environment for as natural enabling relationships to occur without the need for additional structured work. (p58-59)
- It requires that workers are reflective of their role, their values and their responsibilities. (p238-254)
- It is educational (social education), it is supportive, it is an environment to give information (p140) and suggest choices available within the young persons experience (p102)
- It occupies a space outside of institutions but is intrinsically aware that it doesn’t occur in a community vacuum.
- It may challenge the scope of the original aims of a project as new discoveries are made about young people in a community.
The book is thoroughly insightful into one of the earliest developments of detached youthwork in Britain, Goetschius,G & Tash, MJ develop key ideas central to detached work, much of which held up as pioneering or groundbreaking even today. My only main criticism is its lack of discussion on the Christian motivations/ background of the workers, and also possibly the way in which aspects such as relationships/ values changed were affected by the different settings that the workers found themselves in with the young people, such as the coffee stall, dance halls, group or individual work.