Working with troubled youth can be challenging and stressful, yet also rewarding and meaningful. While they can test your patience and push the rules to the limits, troubled children and teenagers are often just looking for someone to care and pay attention to their needs. If you love working with children and adolescents and think you have what it takes, a career helping troubled youth might be the right path for you.
Direct Service Providers
There is a wide variety of careers that involve providing direct services to troubled youth. Direct service providers offer assistance and support to youth who have been subject to abuse or neglect, who have behavioral or emotional disorders or who have been identified as at-risk due to living circumstances, poverty or other social problems.They might help youth locate needed services, such as alternative housing, assist their families with obtaining concrete needs, like food stamps or other medical care, or provide other supportive services. Some of the job titles of direct service providers who help troubled youth include case worker or case manager, residential counselor, youth advocate and child care worker. In most cases, these professionals need at least a high school diploma, but some employers may prefer candidates with post-secondary education.
Therapists are usually master's level clinicians who provide counseling and therapy to troubled youth and their families. They might have graduate degrees in mental health-related fields such as professional counseling, social work, psychology, marriage and family counseling or pastoral counseling. Therapists work in social services agencies, community organizations, juvenile justice settings, schools, hospitals and residential settings to help troubled youth find solutions to their problems, deal with stress and address underlying psychological or emotional disorders. They may also provide services such as family counseling or group therapy, depending on the work setting.
Educators who work with at-risk youth are teachers and other educational specialists who offer support and guidance to their students. They might work in alternative schools, residential settings or community services agencies. Many are licensed teachers who have bachelor's or master's degrees in fields like elementary education or special education. They might work in school settings or alternative programs that help high school drop-outs obtain GEDs. Others might work in community education and prevention programs, such as violence prevention, substance abuse prevention and education or gang prevention programs. They may have job titles such as outreach worker or prevention specialist. These professionals generally must have a bachelor's degree in a human services field.
Any program that helps troubled youth must have a strong administration in order to run smoothly and efficiently. Administrators often work behind the scenes to ensure the effective day-to-day operation of the organization, but they might also be involved directly with youth and their families. These professionals include administrators and program directors, who usually must have at least a bachelor's degree and some management experience. They might run non-profit organizations, for-profit residential programs and schools. In addition to managing the program and taking care of administrative issues, they must also lead and direct staff and ensure the overall safety of the organization.