Youth centers

The number of organizations and institutions with various similar names (e.g. youth center, youth club, open youth center, mobile youth center, etc.) offer various activities for young people during their free time. The Department of Youth Affairs, developing open work with youth in Lithuania and aspiring after clarity in this field, i.e. wishing to better define open work with youth, in 2010 worked out a “Conception of open youth centers and spaces” (hereinafter referred to as the Conception) as well as publications “Open youth centers – for the needs of youth”, “Practical guide on open youth centers” (Conception and publications are available on: http://www.jrd.lt/atviras-darbas-su-jaunimu). The Conception defines the objectives, tasks, target groups, principles, contractors, and quality requirements of forms of open work with youth. One of the key objectives of the Conception is to establish open youth centers and open spaces as institutional forms of open work with youth, aspiring to encourage young people with a fewer possibilities to engage in meaningful activities, thereby pursuing the diversity and quality of work with youth related services, accessibility for as wide circle of young people as possible, as well as rational use of financial and human resources. The following terms were defined while working out this Conception:

  • Youth worker is a grown-up person, who has reached the age of 21, acting out of bounds of formal education and training system, family and work activities, aspiring after personal and social improvement of young people through both individual work with individual persons and working with groups or communities, as well as having professional competences for such work. A youth worker is entitled to remuneration for professional work. Professional attitude of youth worker consists of personal guidelines and viewpoint, development and maintenance of relationship, methodical, applicable, as well as structural competences. A youth worker should have an education in pedagogy, psychology, or social science, or should have in such other way acquired competences relevant to social work with youth.
  • Open work with youth is a work with youth form – the entirety of educational activities and suggestions, having specific principles of operation; it is open for all young people, living in a particular territory, irrespective of their social status; able of attracting youth with a fewer possibilities to be involved in other activities that are available or not available in their environment.
  • Open youth center (hereinafter referred to as the Center) is an institution that performs open work with youth and follows the principles thereof, the founders whereof may be municipalities, non-governmental organizations, local or religious communities (may establish individually or jointly) in accordance with the legal forms, provided in Article 2 of the Law on Youth Policy Framework. An open youth center characterizes for having more than one premise (space) for various youth activities.
  • Open space is a space or premise, intended and accommodated for performance of open work with youth, i.e. could be situated in the institution (cultural, educational, sports, or social) without changing legal status of institution and accommodated for open work with youth applying the available measure or methodical base.

Pursuant to the principle of subsidiarity, the priority to organize open work with youth is given to non-governmental organizations and religious communities. Local authorities are active where such organizations do not want to assume such activities or do not have due competence through organization of open work with youth through their own institutions.

One of the key institutional forms of open work is so called open youth centers / spaces (open youth centre, offenes Jugendzentrum / open youth spaces). Such open youth center and / or space:

  • Functions in a particular social environment and aspires that young people, living in such environment and territory, had a place to spend there free time – came to the center;
  • Enables youth to meet and socialize with friends, play games, listen to the music, or just be together, does not demand regular visits or any kind of obligations, except compliance with regulations that are mandatory for all visitors;
  • Suggests, but not demands, attending various clusters that are framed according to the whishes of young people (computer, DJ, breakdancing, etc.), projects, campaigns;
  • Has skilled youth workers, who are ready to speak to youngsters about their problems, consult if they need more serious assistance, orient, and mediate. The same employees assist young people in framing the ideas, encourage and help implement the same, help discussing the experience acquired;
  • Keeps in touch and cooperates with the institutions, operating in that residential territory and connected to youth affairs, such as: school, parish, police, youth organization, eldership or community, library, etc. Also aims at socializing with the families of youngsters: send information, organize campaigns, festivals;
  • Finances its activities from the funds of local authorities, target programs, sponsors, and own funds as well.

Where implementing youth policy, local authorities should aspire to develop and maintain an open work with youth (youth centers and spaces) network, which would be equally developed in individual residential territories, social environments, and would not just be concentrated in the center of city or district, i.e. so that this form of work with youth was made available for young people in their residential environment.