Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Humboldt County gives transition-aged foster youth a voice

Young people transitioning out of foster care at age 18 or 19 face a difficult road. As they leave an unstable childhood, many of the services provided to minors are no longer available to them. Yet as adults they are often totally alone and without guidance. Phillip Crandall, Director of the Humboldt County (California) Department of Health and Human Services, writes that former foster youth are more likely than others their age to end up incarcerated, unemployed and/or homeless. But Humboldt County offers an illustration of how transition-aged youth themselves can help ensure that county services designed to assist them are effective.

In 2008 Humboldt County established the Humboldt County Transition Age Youth Collaboration (HCTAYC) with the goal of building "an effective, responsive, and youth-informed system of care for transition-age foster youth." The HCTAYC advised the county that real youth engagement meant more than a seat at the table. It meant the county needed to change its culture to one that encouraged and respected youth voices in meetings and decision-making. It meant creating an environment in which youth were viewed as partners.

Since 2008 the HCTAYC has developed policy recommendations to improve mental health services for transition-age youth at the county's psychiatric health facility, children's center and crisis line, and testified before the State Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care. The county's mental health board now includes two youth members. HCTAYC also provides training in leadership and decision-making to other youth, and members attend state and national conferences to develop their skills and increase their knowledge of policies that affect children and youth.

The HCTAYC website includes some excellent resources, including "Committing to Youth Engagement: Creating an Environment that Encourages and Respects Youth Voices in Meetings and Decision-Making," which briefly covers many best practices for youth participation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bhutanese student proposes national youth policy

A 21-year-old Bhutanese student studying in New Delhi has submitted a proposal to the Bhutanese cabinet recommending the creation of a national youth policy. Vishma Rai, a second-year computer science student, wants "a logical and evidence-based approach to delivering programs for the Bhutanese youth." The policy would define young people as a distinct sub-group of the population and, according to Vishma, would provide young people with a way to influence policymakers. Although almost 59% of Bhutan's population is under the age of 24, they are excluded from decision-making.

Vishma is also suggesting other youth-oriented institutions such as a Bhutanese youth parliament and a youth think tank.

Article: A proposal by a young Bhutanese

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Providing opportunities for youth to participate in democracy

This piece was published as a guest commentary in today's Denver Post, under the title "Getting our youth to participate in democracy." Here's a link to the commentary. 

How do Americans learn to participate in democracy? If you answered “civics class” you get partial credit.

Most school districts, including DPS [Denver Public Schools], require one semester of civics for graduation. Students learn about the structure and functions of government and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. But a recent report from the Carnegie Corporation, which funded the Colorado Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools between 2005-2007, indicates that because of increasing demands for accountability focused mainly on math and literacy, students have few opportunities to develop and practice civic skills such as identifying a problem, gathering evidence, reviewing and debating possible strategies and collaborating on solutions. They almost never learn the critical skill of budgeting.

Young people living in disadvantaged communities with lots of problems to solve have the most to gain by learning such skills. But if their schools can’t provide opportunities to acquire those skills, what other options do they have?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The school I'd like

The Guardian in the U.K. is running a series called "The School I'd Like," which asked British students for their ideas about how to make school better. Most of the students who responded are in the primary grades, and much of what they want is pie-in-the-sky, but there are also some thoughtful, sensible suggestions. Many of the suggestions reflect children's understandable frustration at being treated like, well, children. Joshua Kennedy, age 11, wrote:
"The children of the modern day are getting more and more rights such as having the right to say their opinion, and this is mine....[Y]ou should be allowed to say what you think to the teacher without being criticised or given a detention."
There is some evidence that schools are encouraging more participation, and that students are being heard. According to Hannah Scott, age 10,
"They do ask what we'd like sometimes. When we were getting a new teacher, we had a lesson from three teachers and we were asked which one we liked the best. They did choose her, so they listened to us."
The Guardian worked with a panel of ten children to develop a manifesto based on the submissions they received. The Guardian will share the manifesto with opinion leaders and ask for their feedback.

You can find the whole series, including an introduction to the panel and the 2011 manifesto, as well as the manifesto from a similar project conducted ten years ago, here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New report on young people's participation in planning and urban regeneration

Ecorys, a U.K. research firm, in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, have just published a report documenting their study of existing research on youth participation in planning and urban regeneration in the U.K. The authors examined a range of participation practices and determined that the most successful practices had a number of factors in common:
  1. Official recognition of children’s fundamental rights;
  2. Broad-based and inclusive partnerships;
  3. Political and cultural sensitivity;
  4. "Child-friendly" planning processes and structures;
  5. Support from skilled intermediaries;
  6. A range of participation methods;
  7. Understanding participation as a process of learning and change;
  8. Openness and reciprocal learning between children and adults;
  9. An incremental and realistic approach;
  10. Visibility in the results; and
  11. Embedding at different levels and spatial scales.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Youth participation sampler added to Leading Now resource page

I just posted a "Youth Participation Sampler" to the Leading Now website. The sampler describes several approaches to youth participation that are being used successfully around the world, along with some brief examples. The sampler can be used as an introduction for communities or organizations that are considering youth participation.

The sampler can be found on the "Examples of Youth Participation" page, along with some slightly more in-depth descriptions of models being used in India, Brazil, New Zealand, England and the United States.

Solomon Islands planning provincial summits on youth mainstreaming

On April 27-29 the Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs and the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Pacific Centre conducted a workshop for the Ministry’s youth development officers in preparation for a series of upcoming Youth Mainstreaming Summits to be held in each of the country's nine provinces and Honiara City. The workshops are being planned as a result of the Solomon Islands Cabinet's endorsement of a revised Solomon Islands National Youth Policy in 2010. The theme of the workshops will be "Youth Mainstreaming -- Making a difference in Youth Policy Implementation."

A press release from the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet describes youth mainstreaming as
"the concept that all organizations, including government youth ministries, non government organizations, civil society, faith based and all development organizations that include an aspect of youth development in their work, must include youth in their plans and activities, and must align their work to their country’s National Youth Policy framework and national development strategies."
 According to CYP Pacific Centre Regional Director Afu Billy,
"Including young people in all aspects of national development -- including in economic, political, cultural and social areas -- is key to ensuring that young people can fully participate in national efforts to increase economic growth, achieve good governance, improve security and stability and achieve sustainable development."

CYP Pacific and MWYCA focus on youth mainstreaming

Monday, May 2, 2011

United Nations high-level meeting on youth, July 25-26 2011

As part of the International Year of Youth, the UN General Assembly will host a high-level meeting on youth on July 25 and 26, 2011. The theme of the meting is “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding,”and it will include roundtable discussions on:
  1. Strengthening international cooperation regarding youth and enhancing dialogue, mutual understanding and active youth participation as indispensable elements towards achieving social integration, full employment and the eradication of poverty; and
  2. Challenges to youth development and opportunities for poverty eradication, employment and sustainable development.
Registration and other information can be found here.