Texas Network of Youth Services sees youth as resources, not as problems to be fixed, and we’re not alone. Increasingly, service providers are beginning to realize that youth and their families often know best what they need and how to make services work for them.
One of the pillars of our work at TNOYS is looking for ways to engage youth in solving problems – we do this in a variety of ways, from holding trainings for service providers, to bringing youth to the state capitol during the legislative session, and even inviting them to join us this year at our annual conference. All of this work has left us with a lot of great material to help youth services organizations incorporate youth engagement into their efforts, and we decided to put some of the best resources into a cohesive, easily accessible toolkit on our website.
The toolkit includes a definition of youth engagement and explanation of its benefits, tools to help agencies assess their readiness and progress on incorporating youth engagement, best practices for working with youth, and other practical strategies that organizations can implement to launch or enhance their efforts.
The toolkit also includes real-life lessons from the those who have practiced youth engagement in the field – from the personal story of a youth training specialist at Disability Rights Texas to a video series of youth speaking to their own experiences with services, mentors and youth voice.
This section of the toolkit also provides information from the Harris Transition Coalition, an initiative funded by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health that brings together eight Harris County agencies to focus on improving the transition to adulthood for youth with mental health issues. Engaging transition-age youth and their family in program planning, design and implementation is an important part of this initiative and insights from the project on how to do this are shared in the toolkit.
We can all play a part in changing attitudes about youth so they are seen as resilient, resourceful people who can partner with adults in a joint effort to solve their own problems as well as larger, community problems.
This toolkit is a great start to getting there. If you would like more information about youth engagement or are interested in taking steps to engaging youth at your own agency, please contact Lara O’Toole, Director of Training and Program Development.