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Developing detached youth work through European cooperation

Four partners and one aim: to develop and strengthen detached youth work services in their countries..


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The project evaluated existing as well as newly established services and developed quality assurance tools that can be used in a detached youth work setting with youth at risk of social exclusion. It drew on the experience achieved by the Dutch and UK partners on professional youth work to enable the Maltese and Romanian partner organisations to develop their practice in a manner consistent with best practice. This article will focus on how the Dutch partner could offer their expertise through training.

Stichting JONG has over 25 years of experience in professional youth work. They are running detached youth work projects and offered already various trainings for youth workers in The Netherlands. Based on this, they developed a study program for the colleagues from Malta and Romania which was held during the project in Rotterdam and Gouda as follows:

Get into contact with Moroccan youth in the areas where they hang around on the streets.

Youth work / detached youth work:
For the Rumanian colleagues the field of youth work is relatively new, the Maltese colleagues do have experience in several forms of youth work but not in detached youth work. The first part of the training therefore aimed at a common agreement on the principles of youth work, a more general understanding of detached and outreaching youth work.

Field visit Gouda:
Stichting JONG has a team of detached youth workers in the city of Gouda. This team of 7 youth workers focuses on the Moroccan youth in the age of 10 to 25 years. Jong Gouda, as this team is called, is funded by the municipality of Gouda, the department of Youth and Safety.

The main aims are:

  • to get into contact with Moroccan youth in the areas where they hang around on the streets,
  • to get an overview of their circumstances, (lack of) perspectives, obstacles and chances,
  • to provide support, on individual-, group- and environment level,
  • if necessary, to refer them to specialized youth care institutions
  • and by so, to contribute to a decrease of experienced nuisance in the surroundings where they publicly appear.

During this field trip the guests form Romania, Malta and the UK exchanged experiences with the professionals of Jong Gouda and the Dutch colleagues showed them around on the streets where they work.
The second part of the field trip was a meeting with the involved civil servants of the City of Gouda where they learned more about the background of the mandate of young Gouda and the (political) motives of the municipality.

An important part was a meeting on the local police station where the importance of a good collaboration between youth workers and the community police officers was emphasized

Youth work and police have a lot in common as they spend both a lot of times in the same areas on the street and have a mutual goal: to improve the liveability for both young and old. On the other hand: youth workers build up meaningful and trustworthy relationships with mainly marginalized young people in environments where criminality is near and tempting and thus the position of the youth workers vulnerable. The way both professions exchange information is an important factor of successful cooperation wherein the police definitely needs to understand the vulnerable position of the youth worker on the street.

Detached Youth work theory: Methodology Stichting Jong

During the past fifteen years Stichting Jong Rotterdam has been providing detached youth work in several municipalities, both urban and rural. In many cases the main object of the mandate was to develop detached youth work in areas where there was no detached youth work and/or where there where groups of (marginalized) young people that were not reached by local youth work at that time.
Based on our experiences we developed a methodology that is both fit for the tasks that were asked but at the same time is a very useful tool kit for youth workers who start in the field of detached youth work.

Working methodically and systematically

Youth work is a profession that promotes social welfare: it contributes to initiating change in such a way as to influence the development of young people for the better. These processes of change can be aimed at both the target group and at their social environment. Such a process has the following structure:

  • Preliminary investigation: gathering information (mapping).
  • Field research: dialogue with those involved, visiting the location at times when no youths are there.
  • Contact with the young people.
  • Analysis of the situation: individual, group and environment oriented.
  • Concrete and achievable targets based on the opportunities and potential of the target group
  • Drawing up a Plan of Approach.
  • Implementation. Process control and adjustment.
  • Evaluation and fine tuning.

In this training session in Rotterdam extra attention was given to:

  • The importance of a solid analysis, mapping,
  • Different types of hangouts,
  • Different types of youth groups and the different ways to approach them,
  • How to get in contact with locals and youths based on your true and sincere attitude.
  • What kind of information to be gathered in relation to the aims you want to achieve.


Youth workers: Reflection on own practises
In this part of the training for youth workers several cases from Malta and Romania were discussed. The topics varied from difficult issues in the first contacts with groups of youngsters to how to coop with sharing information with other institutes like police and social work or how to make your work understandable for involved parties and create a cooperation where youth work can be supplementary to other forms of social work.
The working method of this part of the training was a combination of supervision and methodical work.

Conclusion of the training programme:
The youth workers from Malta and Romania where very enthusiastic about the training sessions and the field trip. Due to the limited period of time that was available for this study visit in Rotterdam, there could be offered only a basic training.
In practice, back to Romania and Malta, there was more need for additional training and supervision which was regrettably not part of the project plan.
This need for additional training is not only aimed at the further professionalization of the youth workers but also, least as important, at the appropriate adaptation of the methodology of detached youth work to the local situation and circumstances in Malta and Romania.

The project was funded through the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme. An extensive evaluation report has been written by Dr. Brian Belton, YMCA George Williams College London, and can be acquired at the Maltese initiator of this project:


by Dick Smit (2016)


Dick Smit has been working for Stichting JONG for over 20 years as trainer and coach. Currently his function is manager detached youth work in the city of Gouda.

© Marc Boes

The Netherlands © Stichting JONG/Marc Boes, Malta © Aġenzija Żgħażagħ


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