It’s a youth worker’s job to advocate for young people. When I first entered the Youth Intervention field in the early 1990s, there were many more funding resources for youth-serving programs than there are today. It was enough for me, as a youth worker, to focus just on directly working with young people.
But today there simply aren’t enough financial resources to meet the needs of our young people. You see it every day in your own work. But ensuring that there is sufficient funding is not going to magically happen.
Now, you have to be good at supporting young people AND you need to be a good advocate for Youth Intervention programs. Why you as an advocate for young people? Time and time again, grassroots movements have proven to be successful in creating change.
And those that best know the situation or problem are the driving force in all successful grassroots movements. In Youth Intervention, you need to be the driving force; you are the expert simply based on your experience.
It’s not difficult to be an advocate for young people
You simply need to know how to build relationships with a wide variety of people. As youth workers, you and your coworkers already have this relationship-building skill and use it every day in your work.
As an advocate, the job of Youth Intervention workers is to let elected officials know the importance of your work. You have the most important knowledge of all: You know your program and its impact on the young people you work with.
Tell elected officials anecdotal stories about the young people you serve. Let them know how they have improved after participating in your program. But always remember that confidentiality is critical; don’t share names or personal information about the young people in the stories you tell.
Some ideas to get you started talking with your elected officials
- Send an email to your representatives, mayors, county commissioners and council members: Tell them why YOU think they should support Youth Intervention programs. You don’t have to be the expert with a load of facts and theories – just share your opinions and stories.
- Call them: If you get their voice mail, leave a message and ask them to call you back. If you connect with them, share your opinions and stories about the importance of Youth Intervention.
- Attend a town hall meeting: Find out your elected official’s position on Youth Intervention. Have they supported intervention measures in the past? Will they support them in the future?
- Visit them or ask them to meet you for coffee next time they are in the district: Use this time to explain why Youth Intervention is so important to your community.
- Become active in a group that advocates for Youth Intervention: Sign up for YIPA’s Buzz on Advocacy e-newsletter. It will provide you with easy ways to be an engaged advocate.
- Learn more about advocacy: YIPA offers FREE advocacy training to anyone interested in becoming an advocate for young people.
Take Action the next time the opportunity arises
Become the advocate the Youth Intervention field needs and is waiting for. It is too important for you to sit on the sidelines. By taking one or more of these simple steps, your organization will have a much better chance of receiving the support it needs to meet the needs of your community.
One person is important, as is the collective force that comes about when all Youth Intervention workers are strong advocates for youth-serving organizations.
Paul Meunier is the Executive Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA).
YIPA provides relentless advocacy in Minnesota and exceptional online training for youth-serving organizations and youth workers everywhere. Join us!