Youth engagement is a shift in thinking that challenges us to look at youth differently and include their voices and input into plans, strategies, and services to support them. Successful youth engagement strategies take a view of youth not as being “at risk,” or a set of problems to be fixed, but as resilient, resourceful people who can partner with adults in a joint effort to solve community problems.
Below are resources that organizations and/or professionals can use to advance youth engagement in their work and that youth can use to make their own voices heard in decisions that impact their lives.
TNOYS believes young people should have opportunities to work collaboratively with adults and have a voice in decisions impacting their own lives and their communities. This belief is supported by research and practice-based evidence, which suggests youth-adult partnerships and the opportunity to have a voice strengthen outcomes for young people and make services more effective. This document contains some of the research that supports a youth engagement approach.
Often youth and their families know best what they need and how to make services work for them, which is why it is important to value and include the insights of youth and families in service planning and delivery. Check out this online toolkit, which has all the information you need to start engaging youth at your own agency or enhance your youth engagement efforts.
Every other year during the Texas Legislative Session, TNOYS organizes Youth in Action Capitol Day, where hundreds of youth and their adult partners from across the state come to the State Capitol to advocate on issues important to them. This toolkit was created to provide guidance to youth participants in Capitol Day, and can be helpful to any young people working to effect change at the local, state, or federal levels.
In 2017, TNOYS received a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation to launch the “My Voice Matters” project to help legal professionals better understand the importance of giving children and youth a voice in the child welfare system. These training materials were developed as part of that project to demonstrate the power of youth voice in the court room and in other settings, and its importance for helping children and youth heal from the trauma they have experienced.
This video produced by TNOYS features youth who have lived experience in the child welfare system sharing their own perspective on the importance of having their voices heard. It also features youth services professionals sharing their views on how to integrate youth voice and the importance of doing so.