Copyright 2005
Girl's Best Friend Foundation

Girl's Best Friend Foundation (GBF) closed November 2007. 
GBF’s records are archived with Special Collections of the University
of Illinois, Chicago.  In fall 2008, they will be made public:

Learn from other youth workers

Tips on negotiating youth/adult relationships

Healthy relationships are grounded in trust, honesty, and respect.

Youth determine the boundaries for sharing personal information, and adults inform them (meaning that, ultimately, adults have the power to interrupt/stop something).

It's important to acknowledge that as a youth workers, you have power and control as adults.

Be able to articulate why you work with young people. Young people like hearing why others do what they do and think what they think. Your words can help them fit you into their worlds.

Not all relationships with youth in the program are -- or should be -- the same, qualitatively.

To increase trust and safety within a group:

  • Acknowledge and recognize the strength, knowledge, and caretaking spirit of the youth with whom you work.
  • Use tension diffusers when a group conversation seems awkward. Check in; make giggle time if a topic is uncomfortable; create opportunities for anonymous questions, in the group or through a drop-box; instead of asking "What do you want to know?" at the beginning of a group conversation, ask "How's your day been?'"
  • To create and sustain an open space where youth can just be themselves, sometimes it's important to let go of curriculum.

Be intentional about how you share information:

  • Rethink "sharing." It doesn't have to be about divulging information -- it can be sharing energy, talents.
  • Figure out how much to share, by knowing what you want. If you view working with young people as a 9-5 and want boundaries to be clearly demarcated, be selective in how much you open yourself up in ways that are really personal.
  • Share to express who you are, but only share what you have worked through.
  • There are incremental ways to negotiate the personal between youth and adults.

It's important to take care of yourself as a youth worker.

  • This work becomes part of your personal -- thoughtfully consider what that means and what you need to do in response to it.
  • Part of taking care of you is being taken care of. Remember that youth also want to be caretakers and teachers, so giving them the opportunity not only to share in your experiences and energy but also to take care of you in appropriate ways can strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Remember the relationship is two-way. Everyone gets something from everyone else.

Here are four proven ways to care for yourself when girls' painful lives and stories resonate in you:

  • Commit yourself to debrief sessions with your co-facilitator. If you work solo, try to journal immediately after sessions, as a check-in.
  • Have peer exchange sessions with other facilitators/mentors on a regular basis to debrief/decompress
  • Schedule a fun, kick-back kind of session once in a while to let youth and you relax, and maybe reflect after a hard situation.
  • Try writing a letter to the youth you work with, or give an opportunity for everyone to journal at the beginning of a session, after a harder session. This can be a good way to debrief to move ahead.

Thanks to Mariame Kaba of the Young Women's Action Team for facilitating the discussion among youth workers that generated these tips.

Exclusive resources for GBF grantees

If you are interested in being invited to any of the following, tell us.

Youth Worker Exchanges
GBF hosts periodic discussions on topics that cut across many girls programs.

Learning Circles
Small, focused, professionally facilitated peer groups that meet regularly over seven months, to solve work-related organizational, management, and conceptual issues.

Training & Consultation on Evaluation and Research
Girls programs find the training we offer a great way to learn and carry out girl-friendly investigation and evaluation. GBF offers one or two groups trainings a year, and also underwrites training and consultation.
Read more about our research and evaluation

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