Together with a team of partner organizations in Central Texas, TNOYS is launching a new initiative to bring together two important principles of youth services work: youth engagement and trauma-informed care. The research phase of our project – called Recovery Through Participation – began last fall and in April we publicly kicked it off with a training and networking event where dozens of organizations committed to beginning or strengthening their youth engagement practices. Our goal is to build a network of providers committed to and skilled at elevating youth voice.
Key Concepts of the Project
The kickoff event began by sharing with the audience a video on the power of youth voice and youth engagement, highlighting work that has been done by the Harris Transition Coalition in Houston. We then reviewed the key concepts we are aiming to better integrate into Central Texas youth services through the Recovery through Participation project: positive youth development, youth engagement, trauma-informed care, peer support, and recovery. Click here to learn more about the Recovery Through Participation key concepts.
Many providers in Central Texas are already incorporating these concepts into their everyday work, but we believe that by better connecting providers and spurring discussions about their challenges and successes, Recovery Through Participation can create a stronger and more trauma-informed network of services for the region’s youth. To further the importance of connection and learning from each other, we hosted a provider-youth panel where organizational staff and youth partners shared their experiences with youth engagement and took questions from the audience.
The Importance of Peer Support
Peer support programs – where youth/young adults who have lived experience with some of the same issues as the youth being served – is one of the important tenets of Recovery Through Participation. It is one of the most meaningful and substantive ways to engage youth, by hiring them as program staff. In fact, the program aims in its second year to partner with a few organizations who will pilot a peer support counseling program for vulnerable Central Texas youth.
Because of the importance of the peer support concept, we devoted a second panel discussion at the kickoff event to the topic. Darrion Borders, a peer support specialist at TNOYS member organization Lifeworks, led a Q&A discussion with two youth he is serving. In a lively and poetic discussion, they helped the audience better understand how peer support services work – and just how effective they are. As one of the youth said, “Darrion came along and I don’t know where he found the key to me, but he did. I opened up. He’s on my level.” He went on to explain, “I trust people I relate to and can be myself around.”
More to Come
The kickoff event was a great start to getting the Recovery Through Participation training and consultation series off the ground, by bringing together the many organizations who will participate in the project going forward and getting everyone on the same page about the key concepts and approach.
There are still many more efforts to come to achieve the program’s goals – starting with a series of trainings in the coming months to better help Central Texas organizations understand and implement the Recovery Through Participation tenets. Click here to see the full list of trainings. We’ll also be offering individualized consultation to partners within the five-county region, which includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson Counties.
We are very grateful to the St. David’s Foundation for the innovation grant that made Recovery Through Participation possible and to the many partner organizations that have signed on to be part of the effort. Partner organizations that have signed up so far include:
Communities in Schools of Central Texas
Garza High School, Communities in Schools Program
Connections Individual and Family Services
Austin Child Guidance Center
Greater San Marcos Youth Council
Expect Respect Austin