The many faces of the Transitioning Youth Program volunteer

Jan 24 2013

By Janet Rodriguez

As a volunteer supervisor for the Transitioning Youth Program (TYP) team, the two questions I am asked most often are 1.) “How do you handle working with teens?” followed almost immediately by 2.)” Why are you laughing?”

I can answer the second question more easily, so we will start with that one. I’m usually laughing because I think that a sense of humor is vital when working with teens. When you combine a sense of humor with flexibility, versatility, humility and a thick skin, well then my friends you’ve got yourself a TYP volunteer.

As anyone who has worked with a youth in foster care knows, a youth’s time in care is most likely on a pendulum (like most everything else in teen life). When CASA is assigned to a case we actually don’t know where that child is on that pendulum. Enter flexibility! Being able to meet a child where they are and advocate for them through thick and thin is key. Sometimes they don’t want you there, they don’t want to hear your advice, they resent that you are the stable healthy adult for them and not their parent… this is where that thick skin we talked about earlier comes in handy. If you don’t have the previously mentioned humility, you certainly will after sitting outside a kid’s door waiting for them to open it for you. I mean that literally and figuratively.

Sometimes, and more often than not, you find yourself on the upswing of the pendulum. Your CASA kid has been through the fire that living in foster care can be and they have come out on the other side. And there you are guiding them through life decisions. Prepping them for tests that will get them to the next level of their education, taking them on campus tours, fighting for (or with) them over those last few credit hours they need to graduate. You are helping them move successfully into adulthood.

This is what makes TYP volunteers great at what they do. They are able to be what their CASA kids need when they need it!

 In my humble opinion, that’s how you “handle” working with teenagers, and most of this I’ve learned by watching CASA of Travis County’s great TYP volunteers in action.