Reaching Out/Reaching In: The Long Term Challenges and Issues of Outreach Programs


  • Jason Bocarro
  • Peter A. Witt


Youth development, outreach, youth services, administrative and organizational challenges, Roving Leader, detached youthwork.


The youth development movement has long recognized that no one program is a panacea to serve all children and their needs. Indeed this recognition has culminated in various programs being offered outside traditional fixed facilities such as schools and recreation centers. In some cities this has led to the development of initiatives that specifically target youth not drawn to services or facilities currently offered. Thus, there is a growing movement to move youth workers into the field to work directly with youth who may be particularly susceptible to negative influences in their community and do not appear to be connected to youth serving agencies, rather than waiting for youth to take the initiative to join a program at a fixed site. A review of the literature reveals that this movement is far from new. Indeed the notion of detached youthwork has a history dating back to the 19th and early 20th century where social workers would build relationships with youth on their territory and in their communities. This article provides a comprehensive historical analysis of the notion of detached youthwork aligned with a brief analysis of some benefits in relation to a year long ethnographic (participatory) study conducted on one such inner city program run by a park and recreation department. Although this study reiterated many of the positive benefits found in previous work, the challenges facing such programs often make them an unattractive endeavor for many agencies in the long term. Often these outreach programs lack organization, consistent, and sustained funding and have a high staff attrition rate. Many of these programs initially offer promising and exciting options to their clients but are unable to sustain themselves because of some of the challenges outlined above.





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