Youth workers have supervision as a parallel function to their work with young people. 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 in making better decisions. Supervision is an excellent form of debriefing, providing ongoing training and professional development.
Supervision helps 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 in hindsight, gain insight for the present and think ahead with foresight. Organisations benefit when youth workers 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.
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.
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.
- 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. Care must be taken that this does not devolve into gossip sessions or collusion. It is helpful if both youth workers engage in some training about supervision.
There is no industry standard for paying external supervisors or budgeting for supervision. There is a continuum of options:
- Supervisor is paid an hourly rate or a periodic fee, usually ranging between $90 and $150.
- Supervisor, youth worker and employer mutually agree on an arrangement that does not necessarily involve money known as contra.
- Supervisor volunteers their time for free known as pro bono.
There is currently available 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.
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.
To complement the information in this resource, we recommend:NextSix Components of Ethical Maturity for Youth Workers