This spring, TNOYS and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) co-hosted the training session “Building Alliances with Youth to Prevent Runaway and Other Challenging Behaviors” in three cities across Texas. Young adults with experience in the foster care system and youth currently in care helped present much of the material on how to better understand and prevent runaways, alongside DFPS staff and other youth services professionals. Registration for each of the sessions reached capacity, with over 300 people total attending. For anyone who wasn’t able to attend, there is still a chance to take part in this valuable training – it will be offered as a two-part workshop at TNOYS’ Annual Conference in June!
A key piece of the Building Alliances sessions was a presentation by Scurry Miller, Chief Program Officer at Covenant House, and Charles Batiste and Justin Hayward, youth with lived experience who are members of TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council. Together, the three shared insights about why youth run from care and strategies for how to build alliances with youth to prevent them from doing so.
Throughout the presentation, youth voice emerged as a key theme – the lack of having a say in aspects of their foster care placements was often cited by youth as a reason for running, while giving youth a voice was a proven strategy for keeping them in care. As Justin Hayward said, “I didn’t get to have much of a voice when I was in care. But one time, I had a caseworker that gave me that opportunity and it was very pivotal for me.”
Scurry Miller shared the “Struggle Me Not” approach, which uses Positive Youth Development strategies to help build better relationships with youth receiving services. This approach encourages professionals not to enter into power struggles with youth, but to step back and allow them to make their own decisions.
“It’s not your job to struggle with a youth, it’s your job to walk beside them,” Miller said. “We need to back up and remember, it’s not our life. It’s the youth’s life.”
Miller said he often uses a football analogy with the youth he serves, asking them to imagine everyone being on the same side of the field during a football game. “If you all played together on the same team, you would make so many goals,” Miller said. “That’s what we want to do as staff – be on your side, help you meet as many goals as possible.”
Miller, Batiste, and Hayward made the presentation interactive, inviting members of the audience to share some of the struggles they encounter in their own work with youth. Together, the presenters and audience members talked through how to approach these situations. As young adults with recent experience in the foster care system, Hayward and Batiste were able to share a young person’s perspective on the examples shared.
TNOYS is excited to have Miller, Batiste, and Hayward come together to give this presentation again during TNOYS’ Annual Conference. It will take the form of a two-part workshop, with the first half focused on sharing the “Struggle Me Not” approach and the second half an experiential deep dive in which workshop attendees will put the approach into action through role play, case studies, and interactive exercises. Click here to view more information about the workshops in our conference program and click here to register to attend the Annual Conference.
TNOYS is grateful to DFPS for co-hosting the Building Alliances trainings, and to all the youth, professionals, foster families and others who participated as presenters. We are looking forward to bringing this valuable training to even more people at our Annual Conference.