Thoughts on Youth Care Work by Tom Woll

I am very proud to say that I am a Nationally Certified Youth Care Worker.  I began my work in this field as a Youth Care Worker and, in so many ways, I never stopped working on learning the craft.


I have worked many eight hour shifts doing virtually every job in our field.  I have worked as a youth care worker, an individual and group youth therapist, a family therapist and as a case-manager.


I have worked in hot meals and pantry programs, senior day programs, day treatment and out-patient programs for mental health, alcoholism and other drugs and sex-offender treatment programs.


And I have worked in kitchens, I have plowed snow and I have repaired many broken windows.  I am in a good position to say that no job in our field is more difficult than the Youth Care Worker job.


There are many reasons why the Youth Care Worker job is so incredibly difficult:


1)  An eight hour shift on this job can be relentless in the cumulative stress it can build.


2)  YCWs have to make far more decisions per hour than almost any other job.


3)  Any one of those decisions can blow up and can create a dangerous situation.


4)  The knowledge of “ever present danger” can often lead anyone to “over-react.”


5)  Our organizations often aren’t designed to help YCWs learn from their mistakes.


6)  And so mistakes can get repeated and this can lead to blaming youths or leaders.


7)  We often don’t provide enough tools for YCWs to use so they’ll have more options.


8)  We often haven’t provided enough training so YCWs can avoid crisis situations.


9)  And we often haven’t provided enough training to help YCWs de-escalate a crisis.


10) YCWs often report that they don’t know what they’re supposed to do and to not do.


11) YCWs can get confused because what works for some youths may not work for others.


12) YCWs report that there is often little support available for them at the end of a bad shift.


13) YCWs report that they often carry a lot of guilt over some of the mistakes they’ve made.


14) YCWs often report that they don’t know how to find a sense of balance in their lives.


15) YCWs may develop some bad habits around the handling of stress from the job.


16) YCWs may take their work stress home with them to the ones they love dearly.


17) YCWs may not have been trained to start each day fresh, with a “blank slate.”


18) YCWs may not have been trained in how to form trusting relationships with youths.


19) YCWs may not have been trained to engage in supportive and caring conversations.


20) YCWs may feel isolated and alone and may not feel very appreciated for what they do.


Those who employ Youth Care Workers owe it to them to provide the best training that is available for them.  Many in the field are providing some truly excellent training for their Youth Care Workers.


And many of you have been sending me emails asking how you can access good training for your Youth Care Workers.  Today, in this “Tuesday Thoughts Supplement,” I’d like to offer a “thought.”


Some of the best training that is available comes from the Academy for Competent Youth Care Work, 1701 Southwest Parkway, Suite 113, College Station, Texas 77840 (


Frank Eckles is a master trainer.  He is a friend, but my professional connection to Frank comes from my National Certification as a Youth Care Worker.  Frank oversees the national certification process.


If you are wondering how you could get the best possible training for your Youth Care Workers, just get in touch with Frank.  He and his team will customize an approach to help you to meet your needs.


I am not affiliated with the Academy for Competent Youth Care Work in any capacity other than as a Certified Youth Care Worker.  I will not benefit in any way from any calls that might be made to Frank.



Tom Woll

Strategic Change Initiative


Editor’s Note:  Tom Woll is a consultant, former agency executive, and longtime member and supporter of the Ohio Association of Child and Youth Care Professionals!