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Youth work is community support activity aimed at older children and adolescents. Depending upon the culture and the community, different services and institutions may exist for this purpose. In the United Kingdom youth work is the process of creating an environment where young people can engage in informal educational activities. Different varieties of youth work include centre-based work, detached work, school-based work and religion based work. Throughout the United States and Canada, youth work is any activity that seeks to engage young people in coordinated programs, including those that are recreational, educational, or social by nature and design.
"Youth work" is defined as activities that intentionally seek to impact young people. This is primarily a set of loosely affiliated activities that have been defined, redefined, examined, and reinvented in subsequent generations.
In Ireland the Youth Work Act of 2001 states that,
However, critics of this particular definition report that,
These same critics report that youth work should seek "real Youth participation liberation and youth empowerment
Youth work is historically said to focus on five areas, including a focus on young people; an emphasis on voluntary participation and relationship; a commitment to association by youth and adults; friendly and informal atmospheres, and; acting with integrity.
Youth work often emphasises the need to involve young people in the running of their own services through a process of youth-led youth work. Historically there are a number of different motives for the development of youth work in the UK. First, early youth workers, often from the middle classes, frequently saw working with deserving young people as an expression of their Christian faith. Secondly there was a concern to instill a middle class set of values in working class youth.
This early approach to youth work has actually been around since the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, which was the first time that young men left their own homes and cottage industries to migrate to the big towns. The result of this migration was an emergent youth culture in urban areas, which locally was responded to by the efforts of local people. Although with the formation of the YMCA (and later Scouting) organisations were founded whose sole aim was to address these issues, the emphasis was always on providing for young people.
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