View Full Version : Volunteer jobs/hobbies/after-school work for a teenager passionate about social work?

10-25-2015, 06:11 PM
My MC is 16-17, lives in an isolated, cliquey, rural/seaside town in modern-day England, and obsessively wants to become a social worker. For plot reasons, I'd also like her to have some kind of volunteer job where she does some/any kind of work in the field of child social care, but I feel like it's not legal. Is it? What could she do believably? She doesn't have a criminal record and she's from a 'big' family in town, one capable of pulling strings, although not rich. Even if it were just cleaning/admin (I get that there's probably no way in hell she'd be able to do anything with real responsibility), it would be good for her to have a job she could exploit, even if she ended up getting fired from it. Google isn't telling me anything as it seems mostly geared to university graduates.

10-25-2015, 06:31 PM
Have a look on do-it.org for modern day volunteering opportunities. A lot of the ones on there are open to 16-17 year olds and you can refine by interest and area to get a good idea of what would be available to your character in a given coastal town. Failing that, pick a charity, faith group or similar organisation that would have a team of volunteers, and be more likely to accept a younger person into the ranks under guidance and supervision. When I was her age I volunteered help at the local YMCA summer playscheme... no checks or anything, but then that was twenty years ago! Someone like them might be willing to chat to you about their policies though if you dropped in and explained what you were doing?

10-26-2015, 09:16 PM
The county I live in has volunteer positions that include work with children, but are not specifically social work. The jobs that are specifically titled "Social Worker" "Victim's Advocate" require the volunteer be at least 18, or older.

Could your MC work a volunteer job that just has lots of exposure to kids? My county's Open Space (aka Parks) office has Nature Interpreter volunteers. They mostly design, host and lead activities for children.

Siri Kirpal
10-26-2015, 10:06 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Is the area you're placing the story large enough to have a homeless shelter or a food bank? Volunteers are welcome at such places. She could dish up food if nothing else.

She could read stories to kids at libraries (if libraries in the UK have such programmes) or at daycare centres or schools.


Siri Kirpal

10-29-2015, 12:32 PM
Your main problem is that this isn't a big city. In a city there are lots of things. I'd look up "street worker." That's a term often used at least in Europe to indicate social workers who work with non-profit organizations and visit vulnerable homes and communities. They could also have a volunteer accompany such a worker to learn and help (talking to people, going back to the office to get needed things, keeping track of contacts). But you said this is a small town.

So, the easiest would be volunteering in a retirement home for the elderly. That will exist just about everywhere. But yo mention child care. All I can say to that is that I grew up in a mountain town of 12,000. I was particularly interested in social issues and my mother was a social worker. I volunteered at a private childcare center because my mother insisted that I do "something structured" and I didn't want to do the regular school events and sports. I'm not even sure if it was legal but it was a small town and like you said... family connections. No one cared if it was legal. I was 14 at the time and this was around 1990, so laws and situations may have changed. But there are many private childcare places (some very very poorly run where the teen would encounter some bad stuff, like babies dumped in a room on dirty mattresses for half a day, and some quite nice and run by enthusiastic and conscientious local people) where a teen could volunteer (legal or not).

10-30-2015, 02:42 AM
Volunteer with the Girl Guides or Rainbows or (as previously suggested) a faith group of your choice.

10-31-2015, 04:47 PM
I'm a social worker. For 12 years I worked in a nursing home for children. The kids were very medically fragile, more than half used some type of ventilator support to breathe. We had a huge volunteer department, and you only needed to be 16 years old to volunteer. You had to go to training and be up to date on your shots. We had a full time employee who all she did was manage the volunteers. So the teenage volunteers would read to the kids, or play with the little ones, or just hang out with them in the recreation room, etc.

This is in the United States. Their are only 50 or so places like this in all of the united states. A lot of medically fragile kids live in the community, families learn how to take care of them and insurance pays for some nursing care. I'm not sure how it is in England, but children with medical needs or who are disabled in some way are everywhere....

I can think of a dozen ways a teen can get in trouble volunteering in this type of environment.

If you have any questions, feel free to PM me

11-01-2015, 04:00 PM
I volunteered at a children with special needs charity in a fairly small city in England when I was 17. It involved mainly supervising and playing with the kids but there were additional qualifications you could earn by taking classes that they occasionally had on. If your character wants to have a hands on experience working with children, specifically where she would learn a lot about communicating with children and other child care professionals. There were a lot of other people around my age there as well if you wanted to have her make a friend whilst being there.

11-02-2015, 02:36 AM
Just saw an ad in the paper (US/Florida) for two that might fit. One was volunteer camp counselors for handicapped children needed to help transport them during field trips to various tourist sites. Sounds like they are looking for monitors, proctors and wheelchair helpers, not drivers or medical needs attendants.

The other is for reading program mentors with the local reading intervention group. Assists with school kids needing better reading comprehension skills, looking for all grade levels.

Both were for volunteers sixteen and older.


11-04-2015, 09:21 AM
Social worker here. When I was 16/17 years old I worked as a babysitter for a family. The mother had terminal cancer, so I spent time with the kids while she rested, and I was just another hand on deck for whatever they needed. It was child social care, but not through a formal agency - the family just hired me directly. Maybe your main character could do something like that on either a volunteer or paid capacity?

Deb Kinnard
11-04-2015, 10:10 PM
When I was in my twenties I worked for a crisis line aimed at young people's needs, such as drug abuse issues, suicide, being bullied, and the like. It may be that in the UK she'd have to be of legal age to volunteer, but I recall there were hotline volunteers younger than I. Maybe your (fictional) crisis line has trouble filling those PM volunteer slots?

M.N Thorne
12-06-2015, 03:57 PM
Your MC could volunteer at a youth center:)