Deserving Supervision

Youth workers deserve supervision as a parallel function to their work with young people. It is beyond an ethical necessity or a standardised need, it is a rhythm that echoes the journeys we walk with young people. Supervision can be the best form of regular reflection to process ethical issues and assist youth workers making better decisions. Supervision is an excellent form of debriefing, providing ongoing training and professional development.

Defining Super-Vision

Supervision is required to help youth workers ‘see’ their ‘vision’ for this work. It’s less about ‘over-sight’ and more about how ‘super’ your ‘vision’ is. This is an opportunity to reflect back in hindsight, gain insight for the present and think ahead with foresight. Organisations benefit when youth workers are mandated to dedicate regular time and space to this way of reflecting. It is the mutual responsibility of organisations and youth workers to initiate, negotiate and ensure supervision occurs.

Creating Supervision

There are a number of ways that supervision can be structured as long as certain functions are upheld. Succinctly, supervision must be a space for supporting, learning and managing youth work. The support function is responsible for hauora, self-care and wellbeing. The learning function focuses on skills, competence, professional development, feedback and reflection. The managing function addresses accountability, administration, workload and performance. All three functions are connected and together comprise a framework for increased ethical awareness.

Forming Supervision

It is recognised that there are some challenges related to providing supervision. Therefore we recommend organisations and youth workers are creative in the ways supervision is structured. Here are a few options:

  • Internal supervision refers to the relationship youth workers have with their manager within the organisation. This is an accepted standard.
  • External, clinical or professional supervision usually happens with someone who is not directly involved with the organisation. Paid youth workers deserve a specialist, trained supervisor who they meet with on a regular basis (usually monthly for full-time youth workers).
  • Group supervision can be either internal or external and is excellent for part-time youth workers and volunteers. A facilitating supervisor should hold responsibility for monitoring the group’s process. This can be good value for money and time-efficient.
  • Peer supervision relationships can develop between two youth workers who create a clear process for retaining the integrity of supervision. There are some cautions that this does not devolve into gossip sessions or collusion.

Valuing Supervision

There is no industry standard for paying external supervisors or budgeting for supervision. There is a continuum of options:

  • Supervisor volunteers their time for free known as pro bono
  • Supervisor, youth worker and employer mutually agree on an arrangement without necessarily involving money, known as contra
  • Supervisor is paid an hourly rate or a periodic fee, usually ranging between $50 and $120.

Qualifying Supervision

There is a currently a reasonable range of qualifications in supervision (mainly for supervisors, and a couple for supervisees). We believe the process of supervision is enhanced if supervisors have committed some time to studying the field of supervision. Youth workers and employers should ask prospective supervisors about this subject.

Placing Supervision

There are a number of confidentiality issues related to discussing young people and aspects of youth work in public places. We never know if the person sitting next to us is listening or if they are connected to the people we might be talking about! We recommend that supervision does not occur in cafés, although coffee certainly helps fuel discussion! Supervisors and organisations may create dedicated spaces to meet. Alternatively, youth workers may decide to have supervision whilst walking along the beach or sitting in a park.

Resourcing Supervision

Whilst there is a large body of literature about supervision, there appears to be very little written about youth work specifically. Here are a few common texts that may be found in libraries, universities or via a simple Google search:

  • Clinical Supervision in Aotearoa/New Zealand edited by Dianne Wepa (2007)
  • Creative Supervision by Mooli Lahad (2000)
  • Group Supervision (2nd ed.) by Brigid Proctor (2008)
  • Passionate Supervision edited by Robin Shohet (2008)
  • Supervision in the Helping Professions (3rd ed.) by Peter Hawkins and Robin Shohet (2006)
  • Supervision Scrapbook by Rod Baxter and Trissel Mayor (2008).