Blake’s storyAugust 8, 2023
Every few months, CatholicCare hosts a Youth Worker information night to attract prospective employees for the Permanency Support Program. Attendees come and go, with some deciding to apply for a Youth Worker position and others going on their merry way in search of the right career. For Blake he walked through the doors absolutely knowing that he wanted to be a Youth Worker. Why? Because five short years ago Blake was himself in care surrounded by workers who never gave up on him.
Blake says that his best childhood memories happened in the CatholicCare residential care home he lived in for seven years. After living on the streets for a while, Blake vividly recalls the night that one of his workers Evan convinced him to stay in care. “He told me that there are two roads I could take,” Blake says. “I could hang out with ‘bums’ and not do anything, or I could stay in care. He told me that it’s ultimately my decision what I do, but if I stayed he would help me every step of the way. He ended up working with me for seven years.” Blake says that Evan showed him “a better way of living.”
Towards the end of Blake’s time in care he made it clear that he wanted a career supporting youth. “When I found out my previous Youth Worker was also once in care, I realised it could be possible for me,” Blake says.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to become a Youth Worker. I knew the system and how it all works.“
Blake left care at age 18 and secured a full-time job as a landscaper. Blake also completed Year 12 and says that he will never forget that his Youth Workers came to his graduation.
Earlier this year when Blake was receiving support from another agency to secure housing, he mentioned that he wanted to be a Youth Worker. The worker suggested Blake attend a Youth Worker information night at CatholicCare. He applied for a role and will commence in August.
Blake says, “I want to do exactly what Evan did. I saw Youth Workers who were only there for the money and that’s not me. I want to be there for the long haul, watch the kids grow up and support them in their character development. I want to be a Youth Worker until I’m old.” Blake believes that his lived experience of care will give him insight into kids’ behaviours.
Martina, one of Blake’s former Youth Workers who now works as a Therapeutic Supported Independent Living Program Supervisor at CatholicCare, says that the unique perspective Blake will bring to his work is invaluable. “We will make sure Blake has lots of opportunities to talk to fellow staff about what makes a stand-out Youth Worker.” Martina and Blake laugh as they reminisce about their memories together. “There was one time I nearly flipped the bus driving up a big hill and Blake caught it all on camera,” Martina says laughing. “Blake used to get up to a bit of mischief, like the time he made his way to Melbourne but told us all he was in Queensland!”
Blake acknowledges that he wasn’t the easiest young person to care for and takes his hat off to his Youth Workers. “It was the stuff they did that wasn’t on paper that made them so great,” Blake says. “Evan would take us to the beach every morning at 6.00am and at the end of the week he’d make a habit of taking us out for a meal at Hungry Jacks. I finished my education because of Evan. Mainstream school wasn’t working for me, so Evan took me up to the Koori school to see if that was a better fit. It was.”
As Blake begins his journey as a Youth Worker, he looks back at what he has achieved with a great sense of satisfaction. “I’m 22 now. That’s the age one of my best Youth Workers was when he started out … and look at the good he ended up doing.”