Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Kendra Garrett


Social Work


This research endeavor examined youth workers’ perspectives of their own helping ability in relationship to their lived experience. The intent of the project was to determine what extent youth workers’ lived experiences, especially experiences in their families of origin, impacted their career choice, helping ability, and ability to maintain boundaries with the youth they served. Limited research exists regarding the field of youth work. Youth workers of interest in this study work primarily with vulnerable populations of youth in crisis between the ages of ten to twenty-three. Qualitative semistandardized interviews were conducted in an exploratory study of 10 voluntary participants who identified themselves as youth workers, working in the Twin Cities metro and surrounding areas of Minnesota. Several themes emerged from the analysis of data including: youth workers’ perception that helping is a way of life; youth work is more than a job; youth work provides a connection to something greater; youth workers describe the influence of lived experience including experience in the family of origin; youth workers identity as a caretakers; and the importance of boundaries in youth work.

Findings support the hypothesis that youth workers’ lived experience impacts their career choice; youth workers have a high tendency to take on caretaking roles in both their personal and professional lives; the maintenance of boundaries is difficult but important in the field of youth work. Implications for further research and professional training are discussed.

Included in

Social Work Commons