Waiting with young people
Yesterday we considered the importance of waiting during Advent. But in our world of targets and measures and clearly defined outcomes, waiting may be a challenge when we consider what makes for ‘successful’ work with children and young people.
Take Chris, aged 16 when he first came into contact with one of our project workers. Chris was in a bad way: he regularly used drugs, owed a lot of money to dealers, and had sold most of his possessions to fund his addiction. He was about to be evicted from his flat for being in arrears with the rent and was on trial for street robbery. Chris knew he might be sentenced to prison for this crime, and was frightened.
Jamie, Chris’ project worker at our Essex Young People's Drug and Alcohol Service programme. He specialises in working with young offenders with drug problems and was able to help Chris with his anxiety around the trial.
Jamie helped Chris to move into supported housing, where he lived independently but had adults on hand for support and advice. He saw him several times a week to support him to come off the drugs. Chris was given a phone so that he could call every day for support if he needed it. Jamie also ensured that Chris had support from other services, including local mental health services.
The story doesn't have a fairytale ending because Chris' story is ongoing. He was sent to prison, but the support he received in the months before meant that he was stable, confident and able to cope. He is now being supported by the prison drug support service, and last time Jamie visited him, he looked well and healthy.
Darkness can be complex, and waiting can be difficult. Chris' story is one of multiple needs and a chronic lack of confidence. Jamie hasn't been able to wave a wand and make everything right. But they have been there, waiting through the darkness with Chris, providing some light to help him navigate a way through.
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Read yesterday's Advent blog post, 'Advent: A time to wait'