In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the world’s population into a crisis. Social workers and other professionals working with youth have been front-line witnesses to the accentuated negative impact of this public health emergency on youth and their families as well as to the creative adaptive strategies of youth and their families. Purpose: Because youth workers are often the first to identify and respond to the needs and desires of children and youth, it is critical to better understand the ways in which youth workers adapted, coped, and intervened within the context of this global health, social, and economic crisis. Youth workers play a central role in the lives of children and youth. Their perspective is key to recognizing both practice innovation and organizational impediments.
Method: 31 youth workers in mental health, housing, primary care, and child protection participated in focus groups discussing the impact of the pandemic during waves 1 and 2 on the youth and families they work with and, consequently, on their own practice.
Results: include two central domains that organize findings around adapting professional practice to crisis situations: (1) the first-person experience of working with youth during the pandemic; (2) the changing needs and risks faced by youth and their families. Discussion: These domains include discussions around participant emotions and feelings of isolation, helplessness, and fear as well as adaptability. The article concludes with recommendations to support youth workers and adapt organizational structures to help protect youth from increased risk and vulnerability during a pandemic or other crises.