Safety for front line youth workers to participate in

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Transcript Safety for front line youth workers to participate in

Safety for Front Line Youth
Workers to Participate in
Policy Analysis
Stasha Huntingford, Doctoral Candidate; Christine
Walsh, PhD.; Meaghan Bell, Manager Research and
Policy Calgary Homeless Foundation
Multiple benefits have been
identified it the literature for
front line youth practitioners
engaging in policy work,
 reduced feelings of
helplessness (Weiss-Gal &
Peled, 2009) and burnout
(Hamama, 2012; Harlow,
2004) among human
service workers (Heinze,
2013; Ruff & Baron,
 policy which is more likely
to be adopted in practice
(Barkham & Mellor-Clark,
2003) and
 improving outcomes by
focusing on environmental
influences (Heinze, 2013;
Newbury, 2011; Ruff &
Baron, 2012).
 This research was
designed to contribute to
a deeper understanding
of the barriers and
facilitating factors to
engaging front line youth
practitioners in policy
 We sought to explore
homeless-serving sector
front-line youth worker’s
experiences with
engaging in policy
Data Analysis
Following the recommendations of Charmaz
(2010) the lead authors began with initial
coding of the notes from the focus groups,
identifying possible themes in the data and
remaining open to new themes emerging.
During this phase of coding one quote might
appear under many themes as data is
compared and separated into categories.
The process then moves into more focused
coding to determine the adequacy of codes
and assign labels to categories of data that
summarizes and accounts for each piece of
data (Charmaz, 2010).
Participants were recruited through multiple
agency email lists and a presentation at a
monthly meeting for youth serving agencies.
The study received approval by the
University of Calgary Conjoint Faculties
Research Ethics Board, and all participants
provided written informed consent.
Data Collection
Focus groups, which are defined as
carefully planned group discussions,
organized to explore a set of specific
issues, with the goal to learn more
about perceptions, feelings, attitudes
and ideas (Chiu, 2003; Kahan, 2001).
Dürrenberger, Kastenholz and
Behringer (1999) found focus groups
useful in generating practical
knowledge about complex policy
The connection between the private
and public spheres is recognized
within focus group methodology
(Kitzinger, 1994)
Focus groups allow researchers to
examine the importance of context,
enable connections to be made
between individual and collective
experiences, facilitate challenges to
dominant beliefs, and provide space
for reflexivity (Pini, 2002).
Micro Level
 Practitioner skills
o Ability to make
between policy
and practice
o Creativity in
policy problem
o Navigating risk
 “in crisis work, some
[practitioners] are not aware
of macro world, [or] links to
how policy affects
work/youth”, & “once you
look/are aware [of the
connection] you can’t go back
to ignoring it”.
 “creativity for solutions [is]
higher among front line, we
know the problems and are
motivated to try new ways”.
 “accept being fired and just
mov[e] on to the next job –
the good thing about not
making very much [money] is
that you have less to lose,
[you] could get a job at [a
coffee shop] for the same
money, better benefits!”.
Micro Level
 Practitioner context
o Uniquely situated
o Strongly
o Parallel between
oppression of
youth and
o Impact of unsafe
 “we have the experiential
knowledge to inform policy”
& “we see how policy affects
our work and our clients”.
 “[we] see direct impact in
improving for youth,
motivated by obviousness of
the problem, example: bus
tickets obvious need”.
 “for youth it is not seen as a
resource because they […]
don’t know if it is worth the
risk, what if get punished
for raising issue? –isn’t that
interesting that youth and
workers have that fear in
 “been there, done that, got
nothing out of it” & “we
have been taught our
perspective is not valued”.
Mezzo Level
 Institutional policies
o Opportunities for on-going education
o Promotion and benefits
o Implementation/discretion
o Overworked/overwhelmed
 “benefits for the agency if
workers understand WHY
meeting targets/program
design, better
referrals/navigation, justifies
raises, informed front line can
become informed
 “how does the system
promote the passion? [It is]
reinforced, people who
question the system are not
promoted to management”
 “example no food if returning
late, need food in stomach to
work with support, -workers
need to hide fact that they
gave lunch – makes the work
underground, puts burden on
workers, attaches shame to
doing the right thing”.
 “our system catches everyone
failed by other systems,
examples: health, mental
health, justice, children’s
services -there are many
holes in the safety net and all
this falls on youth
workers/non-profits [which
results in] overwhelming” &
“no reflection time and no debriefing time”.
 “having someone want to
talk/listen/facilitate, making
space and time for the
Mezzo Level
Organizational culture
o Quality
 “good supervisors leaving
supervision agency [results in] workers
leav[ing] as well”.
o Leadership
o Relationships
o Relationships
o Sanctions
o Silencing
 “management gets scared of
front line –but
engagement/shared creates
 “I have never seen an
industry where we are so
mean to each other,
judgemental, negative, we
need safety where does all
this judgement come from?”
 “fear of being fired” & “fear of
being blacklisted as a shit
disturber/trouble maker”
 “token faux consultation
experience makes us wary
(examples town halls after
decisions already made, tea
with CEO-awkward when
there is a concern raised and
the concern is systematically
dismissed and diminished”.
Macro Level
 Gender
 Accountability
 Challenging dichotomy
 Experiencing policy efficacy
 “don’t bring up race ever
or you will be excluded…or
class…or gender”
 “sending kids to the
shelter as
punishment/break for
staff, [it is] not right for
homelessness to be used
as a consequence”
 “Social work judges oil and
gas, doesn’t help anyone –
business should be
involved to
normalize/share problems
rather than charity model”
 “efficacy of experiencing
your voice being heard
[facilitates future
involvement with policy
analysis]” & “[you try] if
you believe you can make
a difference”.
Macro Level
 Relational work
 Relationships with funders
 Relationships between agencies
 Relationships with the larger community
 “not being able to talk
with clients after client or
worker leaves agency, no
follow up, disruption of
relationship, no continuity
of care or follow up”
 “a lack of
ment for front line who are
involved in macro work –
cutbacks make it difficult
to speak -existing
programs being cut makes
it difficult to ask for more”
 “management doesn’t
want workers to say
secrets/reality to other
 “NIMBY[Not In My
Backyard] affects how
agencies function, hide
things, only present good
to community so no
debate about ethics”
Outcomes of engaging front line practitioners in
 Improved practice, policy and outcomes for
 Increased ownership of policy decisions
 Increased job satisfaction
 “helps you know your role,
make more appropriate
referrals, importance of
better assessment [results
in] better outcomes” &
“services would be
cheaper, less turnover, less
hierarchy, these are the
benefits to engaging front
 “ownership over what we
do, which leads to more
 “increased work
satisfaction, by providing
opportunities for growth
and learning”
How does your research contribute to preventing or ending homelessness?
 Nurturing safety for front line practitioners to engage in policy analysis
addresses an issue that contributes to burnout and negatively affects
outcomes for youth
 Engaging front line workers in policy analysis leads to policy that is more
likely to be adopted in practice as well as policy that is informed by
environmental influences
 Micro-safe space for
discussing policy to
 Mezzo-agency level safe
space, lateral violence
 Macro-policy efficacy,
gendered care work,
relationship based work
 Build an organizational
culture that supports ongoing education;
cooperation between
management and front
line; providing quality
supervision; and
rewarding critical feedback
on policy issues.
 Offer promotions and
benefits for front line
practitioners; ensure
diverse caseloads, set
aside time for policy work
as well as reflection; and
address turnover in both
front line and
management staff
 Recognize the context of
relationship based work
and how front line burnout
is related to outcomes for