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Professional Development

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A Glimpse of Youth Workers’ Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A little over a month after COVID-19 was characterized as a global pandemic, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education and United Way's Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time partnered to address the question:

How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting youth workers?

We conducted two surveys: Our Youth Worker Survey had 283 respondents from 140 youth-serving organizations and asked about youth workers' feelings, thoughts, and behaviors related to their work and the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Organization Survey was completed by 64 youth program leaders and focused on how the pandemic impacted their organizations.

Youth workers in our sample tended to express professional concerns—such as how to support young people and families—more than personal concerns. In fact, 25 youth workers noted they were not being paid by their organization, but they also selected at least one option for conducting youth work.

On average, youth workers reported significantly higher stress during the COVID-19 pandemic than prior to the pandemic (3.58 vs. 2.68; t=15.92; p<.001). At the time of the survey (April/May), the majority of organizational leaders (63%) reported they had lost some funding during the pandemic. A third stated they had laid off employees.

Finally, 39% of organizational leaders reported they need financial support to reopen after the pandemic, and 20% need staff and volunteer support—e.g., professional development, creating safe space for staff, dealing with staff loss.

Feelings, thoughts and behaviors related to the COVID-19 pandemic are rapidly changing; thus this report offers a snapshot in time, April 21 – May 12, 2020. We imagine if we conducted the surveys now, we might see different results in some areas. Although the results are specific to Southwestern Pennsylvania, we hope these findings and/or research tools are of use to NAA members across the United States.

To view the information in its entirety, visit Youth Workers' Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic Survey Results Report.

Summary courtesy of Debralyn Woodberry-Shaw, MSW, LSW, lead author of "Youth Workers' Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic."

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.