‘You’re Investing in People … It’s Not a Race. It’s Not a Rush’: Youth Care Worker Emotional Labour in Inner-City Neighbourhoods Across Canada
Emotional labour (EL) is the practice of managing expressions in a given work setting. Using the concept of EL, we aim to understand how youth care workers supporting marginalized youth manage work-related stress and the emotions experienced by young people. The youth supported by these workers experience the effects of secondary prisonization (i.e., indirect exposure to punishment), requiring them to engage in extensive EL. Drawing from qualitative interviews and participant-generated visual data, we show that EL is a crucial part of support work that is not yet well recognized. With the participant-generated visual data, we reveal how emotions are processed and managed. EL enables workers to continue to advocate for the needs and well-being of young people even at times of distress and austerity, at the expense of being exposed to secondary prisonization. Explaining how secondary prisonization extends beyond immediate family members and affects youth care workers at a tertiary level, we argue that one way of investing in the community (rather than expanding the criminal justice system) is by taking the importance of EL in support work seriously and providing better resources for these workers, who present real opportunities and safety for inner-city youths.
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