Troy is a Youth Advocate Worker

As a Youth Advocate Worker, Troy supports five at-risk youth and their families in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the city. The Youth Advocate Program was designed to prevent at-risk children and youth 9-14 years of age from joining and engaging in gang activities in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Troy and his team members advocate for, and engage youth in opportunities that help them to develop life skills, and experiences that promote pro-social behaviour within the family, school, and community.

“This is not a job you can just walk in to,” says Troy. “Youth Advocate Workers are hired based pretty much on their personality and their skill set, which is very important.” Along with his degree in Child and Youth Study, Troy’s past experience includes working with children and youth in various capacities including, Youth Worker at Chisholm Centre, IWK Youth Justice, IWK ACT, Case Manager at Phoenix Drop-in Centre and Childcare Worker.

“I loved the degree at the Mount. It’s a very rounded education and it gave me a lot of confidence to go into the field and give it my all.” says Troy as he recalled his time at the Mount. “Sometimes in these jobs it can be quite overwhelming and you don’t quite know what you’re getting into. It’s very intense and the burn-out rate in our field is very high.”

Troy’s office is located in the public housing project where his clients live. Youth Advocate Workers are based in the most troubled areas of the city in neighbourhoods identified as having the highest number of at-risk children and youth. He works with everyone who is involved in each client’s life including family members, teachers, hospital staff, police, probation officers, social workers, guidance counsellors and student support workers. They have a good partnership with the police and try to get the young people involved in as many recreational activities as possible.

Troy’s day begins with visits to schools to see how his client’s day is going, help problem-solve, or set up a plan of action if they have been suspended. After the visits, Troy contacts the parent or guardian and the teacher. There is no typical day for Troy and often texts or calls from “his kids” will have him leaving the office to meet them wherever they are in the community.

In theory, Troy works on a 9-5 schedule, but says everyone works weekends and nights and that time is recognized. “If a child is in serious crisis, they have our cell number and we tell them to call 24/7. This job never stops.”

Though each Youth Advocate Worker has a different approach to building relationships and handling difficult situations, Troy’s experience and personal philosophy leads him to take a less authoritarian approach. Although he makes sure youth are held accountable for their actions, he is sensitive to what these young people are going through at home and what they have gone through already in their lives. “So, I do hold them accountable and then it’s time to move on to the next issue. I don’t hold anything over their heads. It’s pretty easy to build a relationship when they see that you’re sincere and open.”

Motivating parents to change is one of Troy’s biggest obstacles. “If the parents aren’t on board 100 percent then you’ve been almost defeated. So, one of the expectations for being in the program is for the parents to change, but it’s definitely the most difficult.”

Success stories are what make this work so important and satisfying for Troy, who had some troubled times in his youth and can often relate to what these young people are going through. He recounts a story of an 11 year old who was friendless, bullying everyone he came into contact with. After working with him for several months, this boy was still in school and though that may not seem like a major accomplishment, staying in school is a huge success for some of these children.