Youth Engagement is a powerful way for organizations to include the young people they serve, in moving their work forward to better serve them. This series of toolkits provides the fundamentals of meaningful youth engagement strategies.
Why is youth engagement important?
Youth in foster care are the experts. They know more about themselves than anyone else will ever know. Their unique perspective makes them valuable partners in efforts to improve foster care outcomes. When youth are successfully engaged, whether at the individual case level or the administrative level, everyone benefits.
Where and how can youth be engaged?
Youth voice should be present in all aspects of our work. The sections below offer examples, resources, and strategies to effectively involve youth in their own services and in the improvement of services to others.
Positive youth development (PYD) is the name given to a philosophical approach for working with youth that facilitates youth engagement. PYD emphasizes that youth engagement is a process and begins with adults.
Because youth have their own ideas about permanency, they need to be participate in the permanency planning discussion. When planning for permanency with adolescents, you have to think about things differently and use approaches differently than we do when planning for younger children. Many times they are the only individuals that will be able to identify a positive adult connection through which permanency may be achieved.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351) amends the case review system at section 475(5) of the Social Security Act to create a new planning requirement. The caseworker must develop a personalized transition plan as directed by the youth, during the 90-day period prior to the youth’s emancipation.
In order for youth to be prepared to work in partnership with adults, they need to develop and/or enhance their leadership skills. Leadership training prepares youth to manage time, work as a team, set goals, start conversations, facilitate meetings, and make effective presentations. To fully participate with adults, youth also need to be informed about the adult perspective of the problem, challenge, or issue being discussed: the jargon that adults use to describe their work; and strategies for approaching the work. In other words, we need to be sure the field is level for all of the players.
Young people and adults can work together to solve real problems and address real issues. Youth/Adult Partnerships are relationships in which all parties have equal opportunities to contribute, make decisions, use their skills, and learn from each other. The key to Youth/Adult Partnerships is mutuality.