Safety is fundamental to healthy development (Bickerton, Hense, Benstock, Ward, & Wallace, 2007). A young person’s capacity to be resilient in the face of adversity also requires a degree of safety.
All young people, particularly those who are minors, have a right to be protected from danger and harm. Crisis situations often manifest when the physical and emotional safety of young people is compromised or threatened and those responsible for their care do not have the capacity to deal with stressors and/or provide adequate protection. Masten (2001) points out that it is most often the young people who contend with the greatest adversities that do not have the protections offered by adequate resources and social ‘scaffolding’ capable of regulating their exposure to risk. Young people in such circumstances must rely on their own capacity to cope with crisis situations.
The experience of disadvantage and social exclusion makes many clients more susceptible to crisis and potential harm (Hayes, Gray & Edwards, 2008). MacDonald and Marsh (2002) are more specific in finding that “…the consequences of personal crisis are likely to be much more drastic for those who are socially excluded because they lack the financial and social supports that can help offset the impact of the crisis and increase the likelihood of recovering” (p34).
Bell (2007) found that prospective youth AOD clients viewed themselves as participating in a kind of ‘accidental world’. They characterised themselves as vulnerable to random events but not as victims. Such young people might seek refuge in safe and welcoming environments, spend time at a special place, or find comfort in sharing experiences with friends and family.
The risk conditions experienced by clients can be so extreme that clients require respite in highly structured environments. In addition, there are times when youth AOD clients show little or no regard for their own safety or the safety of others. A thorough, context-sensitive, risk assessment and response is required. This includes ways of assessing and responding to suicidal ideation and the potential for self-harm. These methods should be culturally appropriate. Practitioners are advised to note particular sensitivities that must be taken into account when dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities..
Resilience based intervention aims to enable young people to manage and resolve crisis situations and take responsibility for their own safety as well as building the capacity of parents, guardians and significant others to provide adequate support and protection
While the focus in such circumstances is on safety and not long-term development, crisis periods triggered by unpredictable events can become turning points in the lives of young people (see Section 2.2). For this reason, youth AOD workers must have the capacity to hold a dual focus, “one eye on the present, the other on the path” (Bruun & Hynan, 2006, p22).