Unleashing Potential through Social Work Values

Kia Ora e te whānau
Ko Kopukairoa te Maunga
Ko Waitao te awa
Ko Mataatua te waka
Ko Ngāti Pūkenga te iwi
Ko Gemma ahau 

My name is Gemma and I am a Youth Facilitator here at Youth Encounter. I am half way through my Bachelor of Social Work at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. I am so blessed to be apart of Youth Encounter through this time of exponential growth and extension of resources, staff, kaupapa and opportunities. Throughout my time at Youth Encounter, I have been give the opportunity to apply theory and knowledge to practice in my role. I am grateful that Mary and the team have given me the confidence to continue growing in my capacity and skills to work with young people. 

The youth of our nation are the next generation of leaders, change makers, culture shifters and curators. They represent the future of our society, brimming with untapped potential and endless possibilities. As a young person, they face multi-dimensional layers of complexities that they must navigate, with little to no guidance from others. From a social workers perspective, Youth Encounter encompasses the strategies and approaches to journey alongside youth through life’s challenges and complexities. In this post, we’ll compare the similarities between social work approaches and Youth Encounters core values to working with young people and living life wide open.

Fun - Creating a fun environment for people to belong

Social work values argue that recognizing oppression requires the social worker to see challenges as opportunities to adapt environments to better meet the needs of young people. Bringing a sense of belonging for young people has the potential to increase their quality of living by recognizing the lack of opportunities. Demographics such as people of color, the rainbow community, those with disabilities, the elderly and immigrants or refugees live under a societal umbrella of individual, institutional and cultural forces that often demean them, disadvantage them and deny them equal access and opportunity. Youth Encounter creates safe spaces which provide fun environments for young people to cultivate their potential through fun activities. 

Acceptance - Meeting people where they are at

A value derived from the ANZASW Code of Ethics that is evident in Youth Encounter’s work is Mātātoa which is defined as, “Social workers act with moral courage in situations that are uncomfortable, challenging and uncertain. We use critical reflection and questioning to work through contradictions and complexity.” (ANZASW, 2019, p. 13). This pou recognises tensions and this process requires the social worker to be able to identify areas of tension and contestability. Through Youth Encounter’s value of acceptance, young people feel enabled to come with all their challenges, personality traits, strengths and weaknesses and not feel judged or excluded. Youth Encounter has great awareness of the bio-pyscho-social-spiritual challenges that impact young people and how they can foster unhealthy habits and behaviors. Youth Encounter’s frameworks and approaches ensure that young people are seen as capable individuals, separate from their issues and challenges. Youth Encounter makes space for all people to come as they are and feel accepted including all age groups, ethnicities, sexual identity and more. 

Connection - Developing through a strength-based community

One value of social work that Youth Encounter achieves exceptionally well is that it challenges the top-down approach through identifying the needs by listening to the communities’ voices and opinions. By developing these relationships, it maintains equal authority in the decision-making process that develops aspects of the community. Youth Encounters challenges the trends of capitalism and globalization and focuses more on what the community needs by positioning themselves to have ‘power-with’ not ‘power-over’. Power analysis and community focus fosters connection through developing a strengths-based community. Youth Encounter curates safe and fun environments that facilitate connection and create a sense of belonging. 

Empowering - Releasing God-given potential

The last value to acknowledge is empowerment and how Youth Encounter seeks to incorporate empowerment in every program. Empowerment can help reimburse citizenship to young persons and encourage them to be a part of mainstream society after being excluded. Empowerment is truly the most impactful approach to working with young people. Social workers must be aware to not disempower young people by removing their control over their own lives. They are often faced with isolation and dehumanization. The social worker’s strengths must align with empowering values to encourage self-esteem and self-determination, along with participation and contribution. Youth Encounter believes that empowerment is a key principle in releasing young people’s God-given potential.

Working with youth is a rewarding and impactful endeavor and Youth Encounters' vision is to see all young people of Aotearoa empowered to live life wide open. Their values and approaches closely align with the goals of social work and are underpinned by their commitment to God’s mission. Your dedication and support can make a lasting difference in their lives, shaping them into confident, capable and compassionate adults who contribute meaningfully to society. 


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