My name is Rebecca, I am a second year CYCC student. My question relates to safety while working in, as well as outside of our field and where we draw the line.
I was recently faced with a situation that had the potential to go either good or bad, A friend and I came across a young man outside of our gym that was in need of help. He had gotten into a fight and his ride left him with no way home. He spent the night outside in the cold and he had no money or way to get to his home which was about a thirty minute drive away in a rather remote location. I tried calling his parents but they were unable to assist us. We ended up giving the young man a ride home and he was really grateful.
Afterwards I found myself thinking "what would I have done if I had been alone?". Having a friend accompany me made me feel safe, or at least that there was someone there to help if something went wrong.
As a young women I can't say that the situation wouldn't have made me feel like I was putting myself at risk had I been alone. That realization made me feel really guilty and I've been thinking about that situation ever since.
My question is that when you are faced with a situation that could potentially put you in harm’s way, is it a moral issue? Is there a right or wrong answer when it comes to saying yes or no?
In my opinion we must always put our own safety first. This is not a selfish thing. If you were at work in a crisis center, group home or residential facility etc. and were injured, you would be of no help to anyone. Our job is to protect the youth we are working with and to do that we must protect ourselves first. So please don't feel guilty about considering your own well being or having a healthy dose of suspicion about a stranger. In this field we often work with individuals who have hurt people and pose a risk to others in their environment. It doesn't mean we don't care about them or do our best to help them but we can't ever be naive about the potential dangers. I know you were not at work in the situation you mentioned above but, in my experience, YCWs are always "on duty" and when we see a young person in need we want to help. We just need to make sure we are safe first. Helping while staying safe might mean paying for a taxi, giving someone bus fare, calling a shelter or a mobile crisis team, even calling the police. Keep useful numbers on hand and an extra bus ticket in your purse. Keep on caring but stay safe.
Becca: The “right” thing to do is to follow both your heart (he needs help, I’m going to give him help) AND your head (I’m taking someone with me). I don’t believe there is ever a way to be sure we avoiding all risk when helping others. One risk, however, is one you describe – thinking about our choice. What would you be thinking if you hadn’t helped and you found out that something bad had happened to him while sleeping outside. I think it’s always right to go with your best instincts – following the advice of your emotions (heart) and your sound thinking (head). If the young man was someone you loved you would be glad you came along and made the decision you did.