Guiding troubled teens to adulthood
Teens in trouble have a new professional to turn to--youth worker. Ben Anderson-Nathe, associate professor of child and family studies, trains future youth workers to act as counselor, coach, guide, and teacher for young adults. "Rather than trying to cure or fix teens," says Anderson-Nathe, youth workers give them the skills to thrive as adults.
Navigating young adulthood can be difficult even in the best of circumstances. But for teens dealing with legal troubles, living in foster care, or facing homelessness, those years can be devastating. That's where the guidance provided by youth workers comes in.
Youth workers are adult professionals who support and work with teens. They act as counselor, coach, guide, and teacher, “helping young people develop and master skills that support them in becoming what they want for themselves,” says Ben Anderson-Nathe, associate professor of child and family studies in the School of Social Work. This may include career advice, or practical skills like money management, but extends all domains of life: spiritual, family, work, school, and peer relationships.
Through his work at Portland State, Anderson-Nathe is preparing the next generation of youth workers, helping them develop “the skills to see and be with young people in a way that supports them, rather than trying to cure or fix them.” His students work with local organizations like Outside In, Janus Youth Programs, and New Avenues for Youth, acquiring practical experience and contacts in the field.
Although the profession of youth work (combining elements of social work and education) is still emerging in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and other countries have more established training programs. PSU?s Child and Family Studies program is poised to be a U.S. leader, and Anderson-Nathe has been named co-editor of the journal Child & Youth Services.
Obviously proud of the University’s work, Anderson-Nathe says, “We’re helping teens arrive at an accomplished adulthood that they’ve created.”
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