“Youth voice” is a familiar term for those of us working in Youth Intervention. Young people have unique perspectives, ideas, attitudes, knowledge, and actions. By engaging with youth and incorporating youth voice into our program development, we make sure our programs fit their needs and are of high quality. The same is true with public policy.
Article 12 of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children and young people have a right to have their views listened to, and taken into account on decisions that affect them. Yet very few countries have fully incorporated the youth voice in policy making and the United States is one of only two countries that has not ratified the convention although the UN adopted it in 1989.
As youth workers, we need to use our position and power to amplify the youth voice to ensure that the needs of the youth we serve remain central to policy planning.
Open Government Guide tells us that listening to youth voice can:
- Lead to better-designed policies – they need to draw on the lived experience, insights and innovative ideas of young people
- Engage all people under 18 as allies in the development and sustainability of new programs and policies – this includes giving feedback on current projects or developing new social programs
- Give youth and young people a greater stake in society- this increases the likelihood that they will be civically active as adults
With 23% of the population in the United States under 18 years of age, youth workers need to use our power and position to advocate for including youth in decision-making.
We need to:
- Make sure formal engagement structures are in place that enables youth to participate in decision making- at both the policy and program level.
- Engage in specific outreach to involve young people – this can be in the form of dedicated consultations, events, and activities that provide an opportunity for youth share their views and influence policy
We know that the youth we serve want to be and are civically engaged. This is seen in their use of social media. In just a few clicks, young people are signing petitions, responding to calls for a demonstration and inviting all of their friends/followers to do the same.
We need and can do more to help facilitate having the youth voice be listened to in policy planning.
YIPA understands this need. We are proud to offer Building Resilience in Young Social Justice Champions, a training that will teach strategies for supporting youth in becoming change agents and how to foster resiliency in youth experiencing emotional fatigue from activism.
In addition, the Youth Intervention Programs (YIP) Rally at the Capitol will be held on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in St. Paul, Minnesota. This event includes youth workers and the youth they serve advocating side by side as they share with legislators the incredible impact of Youth Intervention Programs in their communities.
We hope to see all YIPA members at these upcoming events. Be a better ally with youth and help ensure youth voice is heard in policy decisions.
Maggie Dudley is the Membership Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA).