Each legislator needs go-to relationships with Youth Intervention supporters in order to make informed decisions. In politics, it always boils down to relationships. Legislators make many of their decisions based on information from trusted constituents.
Most lawmakers do not have someone talking to them about the value of Youth Intervention. As a result, they don’t prioritize Youth Intervention as an essential service.
Youth workers can change that by becoming the go-to constituent on Youth Intervention for their legislators. You would be a natural at it because as a youth worker you are inherently good at relationship building.Establishing go-to relationships with legislators will change everything. Here are some easy steps.
- Make a commitment: Decide that youth deserve support to help them develop into contributing adults. Live the motto, “it is up to me” and don’t look back.
- Find your legislators: The first step is to determine who is your representative and senator and call their offices and request a meeting.
- Have coffee with them: During the legislative session, most legislators are typically available on Fridays. Always ask where they prefer to meet. The informal setting is an easy way to share your beliefs about why we need more support for youth.
- Get their updates: Most legislators provide weekly or monthly updates to their constituents. Visit their legislative page and sign up for email updates.
- Attend town hall events: Legislators often hold public events in their districts. Prepare your questions ahead of time and include a follow-up question that asks for their public endorsement for Youth Intervention.
- Stay connected: Keep them updated on the needs of youth in your community. There are ample stories about youth in the news that you can share with legislators along with other opportunities that will let you stay connected with legislators on a regular basis.
We have a fundamental problem in communities across Minnesota. We have an accepted practice of letting youth fail and then spend billions on Adult Intervention. If this upside down problem is ever to be fundamentally fixed, youth workers need to own the problem. We can no longer wait for someone else to broker a better situation. It is up to each and every one of us.
The first step is to ensure our legislators have a go-to relationship with a youth worker. This has to be our individual goal as well as our collective goal in Minnesota and in each state. The more go-to relationships we have with legislators, the better off our youth will be.
If not you as the go-to constituent for Youth Intervention, then who? Why not you?
To learn more, watch this free training called Advocacy to the Next Level. In this interview format training, you will hear from a Democrat and Republican on the importance of relationships in the legislative process.
Paul Meunier is the Executive Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA).