A key partner often overlooked in collaborations and programs are the youth who are being served within the program or by the collaboration. Youth involvement can be beneficial to organizations and their programs as well as to the youth themselves.
Programs that are developed in partnership with youth are more likely to be effective at engaging the population and, therefore, to have a greater impact. Involving youth as partners in making decisions that affect them increases the likelihood that the decisions will be accepted, adopted, and become part of their everyday lives. In addition, empowering youth to identify and respond to community needs helps them become empathetic, reflective individuals, setting them on a course to potentially continue this important work in their future careers.
Meaningful youth engagement views youth as equal partners with adults in the decision-making process. Programs and activities are developed with youth, rather than for youth. In this kind of equal partnership, both adults and young people need to be fully engaged, be open to change in how things are done, and share a unified vision for the partnership.
The Children’s Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has continuously recognized the value of involving youth and has made it a practice of supporting the involvement of youth in their meetings, through the programs they fund, and through their technical assistance efforts. One example of this is the involvement of youth in the annual National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) Technical Assistance Meeting.
FindYouthInfo.gov is the U.S. government Web site that helps you create, maintain, and strengthen effective youth programs. Included are youth facts, funding information, and tools to help you assess community assets, generate maps of local and federal resources, search for evidence-based youth programs, and keep up-to-date on the latest, youth-related news.