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Open Communication with Youth

One of the greatest struggles adoption workers can experience when working with their youth is the ability for the youth to be open and honest about the situations and problems they face. Youth tend to read workers very easily and know if the visiting worker has interest in who they are and what they are experiencing. When I visit my youth monthly, and sometimes bi-monthly, I make them the number one priority when they are in the room with me. I make sure they feel safe and that they can be vulnerable is of utmost importance. My conversations with my youth are focused on what they are currently experiencing, their true feelings about adoption, how their interactions have been with their foster family, group home workers, hospital workers and with whomever they currently reside.

When I am working with a child, I must shut out outside distractions such as my other work concerns and personal world. I am asking a youth to be vulnerable, a key component of open communication, and if I can’t give 100% attention, why then would the youth be 100% open with me? As a former foster youth and now adoption worker, I understand first-hand the emotional destruction youth face daily when no one will listen to them. When workers listen and try to understand youth, we get greater insight into the longest-waiting youth who desire to have a forever family. This insight may reveal pain, trauma, frustration, lack of validation, etc., but the youth now has a sounding board. Working with them then gives them a chance to heal, grow and overcome the past they are forced to face daily.

My advice to other workers: When working with youth, let them communicate with complete vulnerability by, you as a worker, setting aside all distractions and being compassionate for a child who is looking to you for help. The greater a distraction is for you, the greater the hurt becomes for the youth that is being served by you. Open and vulnerable communication from a youth opens a world of complete and personal trust. This trust should not be taken with lightheartedness, but with a heart of pure understanding and longing to make sure our youth are heard and their needs are met.