As youth development is a massive umbrella that encompasses so many diverse avenues of work, this helped me to breakdown the three general directions that the professional may pursue.
1. Risk, Resiliency & Prevention
2. Positive Youth Development
3. Critical Youth Development
(These ideologies are explained here)
Overwhelmingly, according to these guidelines, my values seem to lie in Critical Youth Development, not too far behind was Positive Development. Risk Resiliency & Prevention consistently received the lowest rank in each category.
This was kind of surprising, as I imagined myself working with at-risk youth. In fact as of lately, its been drawing me in more than anything else, in terms of youth populations, and internships in RI. So initially I was confused, as "Risk" was a term used to categorize this particular theory, but after looking at the core beliefs, it makes sense.
Although I do want to work with teens and do recognize the reality of these issues such as pregnancy, drug abuse, violence ---the values and perspectives described do not match my own. I can't help but think that they are blaming the individuals for these "epidemics" and with no consideration or fault to external forces, media, or systems etc. Private trouble solutions will not solve public issues. To assume they don't have the capacity to make good choices for themselves is something I completely disagree with. I tend to believe more that everyone makes the best decision with the knowledge and resources they have at that moment. And youth who are living in challenging situations, with limited resources, no doubt feel pressure in some form, coming from their outside world, which obviously impacts their decisions. Do I blame them? Not really. Do they need guidance? Sure, doesn't everyone? But they are not incapable. I think the issue lies less with the individual and more with society, and the difficult environments we've created that they live in, and that's not their fault. Their choices reflect the inherent inequality and disadvantages they face. It is not a coincidence these "epidemics" are more prevalent in poor, oppressed, resource-less communities.
Critical Youth Development seems best fitting, so I am happy with the results of that. This perspective seems to align strongly, in regards to my beliefs about youth work. It also seems like this avenue of work is well suited to address issues from the top, and initiate social change within larger systems, policy and legislation.