Other Youth Topics

Principles for Youth Engagement

Why Engage Youth?

According to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, effective youth-adult partnerships based on authentic youth engagement provide many benefits for young people, including:

  • Offering opportunities to practice the problem-solving skills they will need in adulthood and strengthen the parts of the brain that drive those skills;
  • Building self-esteem and leadership skills; and
  • Increasing their influence and personal stake in the community.

The Forum for Youth Investment, a national organization that focuses on getting young people ready for life, also strongly advocates for youth engagement in policies and programs. At the meeting, Thaddeus Ferber shared the Forum’s philosophy on the importance of engaging youth in leadership activities, namely:

  • Youth engagement can change the direction of a young person’s life;
  • Youth engagement will prepare young people to become future leaders;
  • Youth engagement is a young person’s civil right; and
  • Youth engagement allows youth to make a difference in improving their school and community.

Guiding Principles for Youth Engagement

Engaging young people in a meaningful way takes thoughtful planning.

For 14 years, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative led many successful efforts to engage young people throughout the nation. They distilled this wealth of knowledge into three key principles:

  • Preparation. Young people need to be effectively prepared and empowered to make informed decisions about matters that affect their lives;
  • Support. Young people should have customized services and a network of supportive relationships that meet their needs and promote a healthy transition to adulthood; and
  • Opportunity. Young people should be provided with an array of life opportunities that promote optimal growth and development. These include experiential learning; healthy risk-taking; and participation in normal everyday activities that contribute to social confidence and positive identity formation.

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Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).