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Youth Work

Youth Work: An Institutional Ethnography of Youth Homelessness

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 168
  • Book Info
    Youth Work
    Book Description:

    Combining institutional ethnography and community-based research,Youth Workis a sophisticated examination of the troubling experiences of young people living outside the care of parents or guardians, as well as of the difficulties of the frontline workers who take responsibility for assisting them. Drawing from more than a year of on-site research at an Ontario youth emergency shelter, Naomi Nichols exposes the complicated institutional practices that govern both the lives of young people living in shelters and the workers who try to help them.

    A troubling account of how a managerial focus on principles like "accountability" and "risk management" has failed to successfully coordinate and deliver services to vulnerable members of society,Youth Workshows how competitive funding processes, institutional mandates, and inter-organizational conflicts complicate the lives of the young people that they are supposed to help. Nichols's book is essential reading for those involved in education, social services, mental health, and the justice system, as well as anyone with an interest in social justice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6817-1
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    Gesturing emphatically with a wet paintbrush, Desiree¹ leaned across the table and said:

    My entire life, I’ve slipped through the cracks ... like, they’ve always lost my paperwork or they’ve forgotten about it or said “you didn’t hand that to me.” “Well, yes, I did!” You know? ... I’d always fall through the cracks. I’m not even over-exaggerating or anything like that. Seriously, every single time, I’ve always fallen through the cracks. I don’t even know how it happens. (interview, 2007)

    Desiree’s sense that she always “fall[s] through the cracks,” her impression that these “cracks” involve paperwork, and her observation...

  4. Chapter One The Research: Community-Based Institutional Ethnography
    (pp. 12-28)

    My research problematic is the complex of objectified social relations I describe as youth work – the policies, interventions, strategies, funding practices, managerial technologies, and political narratives that shape people’s work across a diversity of institutional contexts. My objective was to map these textually mediated relations – professional discourse, methods of intervention, means of accounting, ideas about poverty, statistical data, and so forth – as they construct a field of action that connects people working across institutional sites. The project is informed by other institutional ethnographic research that illuminates how a community-based agency’s work is shaped in relation to: non-profit...

  5. Chapter Two Getting Welfare
    (pp. 29-44)

    During some of my first interviews with youth and practitioners who work with youth, I noticed that people described experiences of ineffectual institutional engagement as times when they (or one of their young clients) “slipped through the cracks.” This metaphorical description is a gloss for what actually happened. In most cases, the people involved were not entirely sure how things went wrong. The specific nature of the cracks that are produced, how these cracks arise, and how a young person “slips” through them are left uninvestigated and thus unidentified. The next five chapters illustrate how differences in the organization of...

  6. Chapter Three “Signing Out” of Care
    (pp. 45-64)

    Young people between twelve and eighteen years of age can apply to the courts for a review of their child protection status (Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, 1990, c. C.11 s. 65.1[4]). Between sixteen and eighteen years of age, young people can apply to the courts to terminate a Society or Crown wardship order. For some youth approaching sixteen years of age, this is certainly the goal. Colloquially, the process of terminating wardship is described as “signing out of care.” In attempting to learn how a young person “signs out of care,” I discovered that young people and...

  7. Chapter Four Youth “At Risk”
    (pp. 65-84)

    Stella lived at SYS when I first began doing research there in the spring of 2007, and she was still living there when I stopped doing fieldwork during the summer of 2008. She had arrived at the youth shelter in 2005 when she was fifteen years old and lived there or at Pritchard House (SYS’s “second stage” or “transitional” housing environment) until she was eighteen years of age.¹ No other young person has lived at SYS for this length of time. Even today, the shelter remains an essential touchstone for her, providing respite from an abusive partner and support in...

  8. Chapter Five The Institutional Coordination of Youth Work
    (pp. 85-108)

    As I indicated in the introduction, the termyouth worktraditionally conveys a particular set of activities conducted by people who hold a professional title and who work to support the various dominant institutions that provide services or support for young people. My unconventional use of the term in this book is a deliberate attempt to draw the reader’s attention to the co-ordering of young people’s and practitioners’ work across institutional settings.

    The previous three chapters used young people’s stories of their work to get housed, access social assistance, terminate a relationship with CAS, and resist institutional treatment to expose...

  9. Chapter Six Walking the Line: Research and Development Work with SYS
    (pp. 109-125)

    Over the course of this project, a desire to orient research to community development posed challenges for me both ethically and practically. At times my work to create, fund, and coordinate the Transitioning Life-Skills Program threatened my hard-won relationships with the young people who use the youth shelter and my ability to conduct research from their standpoints. My efforts to establish grounds for collaboration with – and transfer knowledge to – human service sector agencies meant that I engaged the very technologies that I observed being employed to manage and account for work across the human service interface (e.g., program...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 126-140)

    The project began with questions about politics and youth. Early on, I was inspired by a conception of “the public” as a political space, through which alternative discourses are brought to bear on questions of the common good (Fraser, 1992; Warner, 2002). I was similarly intrigued by Hannah Arendt’s (2005) ideas about politics as an activity – as something that occurs in people’s coordinated actions – because it seemed to fit with institutional ethnography’s materialist understanding of social organization as an accomplishment of coordinated social acts. But my earliest theoretical work underestimated the effects of growing up in institutions and...

  11. References
    (pp. 141-150)
  12. Index
    (pp. 151-158)