France: Breaking the "no job, no home" cycle
Young people from difficult backgrounds can sometimes find themselves caught in a vicious circle of homelessness and unemployment. In the absence of financial and emotional support systems, they often need external help to make a smooth transition to adulthood. Apprentis d’Auteuil is a French organisation that has made it its mission to host, educate and support the integration of young people in distress in the society.
For over 150 years, Apprentis d’Auteuil has identified childhood protection, family support, education & training and integration of youth in society as necessary for building a solid foundation for young people to enter adulthood. However, social workers in France face impediments that can prevent them having the desired optimal impact despite all the hard work they put in. They naturally view despondent young people as being problematic individuals who need to be fixed, rather than seeing them as individuals possessing unique talents and skills that need to be nourished and enhanced further. This negative perception prevents the young people from seeing themselves as capable and worthy individuals who have a bright future ahead.
To address these challenges, Apprentis d’Auteuil, with help from Alstom Foundation, decided to import the asset-based practices in youth housing and character-building from a British organization - The Foyer Federation. As expected, the asset-based theory of change has already translated into positive outcomes, with over 40 members of staff trained to test the approach on 260 residents of the three chosen services. The impact of such qualitative changes in perspective necessarily takes time to be felt, but verbatim comments from trained staff members already reflect a monumental shift in perception.
Eva of FJT (Young Workers Foyer) recounts how applying principles of advantaged thinking allowed her to encourage a young participant to see himself in a different light.
“I took 45 minutes outside of the office with a young person who wasn’t feeling motivated to continue working. His employer was really satisfied, but this person didn’t trust himself to deliver. I applied Advantaged Thinking: together, we assessed what he had done so far. We highlighted his achievements and positive points. In the process, he became aware of his skills, assets and qualities. We both left the meeting feeling very motivated!”
The self-evaluation tools developed by The Foyer Federation have not only increased the social workers’ understanding of the participating youth but have also increased the participants’ understanding of themselves.
Stephanie, another social worker with FJT says, “We had already reflected on this approach; but The Foyer Federation brought us the tools and a practical pathway to properly implement it”.