Too often young people are dealt a hand in life that they did not ask for. No young person should be expected to grow up with abuse, neglect, unpredictability, or a lack of unconditional love. But the number of young people living with these risk factors continues to increase at an alarming rate.
I have worked with young people experiencing toxic stress, trauma, and/or abuse most of my adult life and have seen the problem escalate beyond manageability. As a society, our lack of action means we have been participants in allowing this to occur. Our apathy has created an unsustainable and unjustifiable situation that must end.
A social movement to give them a voice and demand that Youth Intervention be available is needed. It needs to start now. A society that has become immune to the perils of its young is certain to implode with steady and increasing social unrest.
An effective social movement to promote Youth Intervention must:
- Be concise: Detailed descriptions of a complex and deeply embedded social injustice bogs down progress. The problem must be explained in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.
- Be easy to engage in: When people are burning the candle at both ends, anything someone is asked to do must be simple. People cannot be expected to give on an endless basis.
- Provide gratification: People need to feel as though they are making a difference. When becoming involved in a movement, their actions must have an impact.
- Be inclusive: People need to know they are part of something bigger than themselves and that others are engaged too. When shared with many others, their actions and impact are multiplied.
- Offer training: People don’t engage when they feel unprepared. Training helps an individual feel prepared and confident.
- Include an emotional appeal: Individuals act when there is a personal connection. An emotional connection to the lives of our young people will trigger engagement.
- Include young people: Empower them by providing opportunities to tell their stories. Their voices will make a stronger emotional appeal and connect with a wider audience. Including them in the movement will carry the torch for the next generation and provide longevity.
- Have a clear outcome: The “ask” must be clearly defined, observable, reasonable, measurable and obtainable.
- Be sustained: The movement must continue until all young people have the support they need. There is no fixed end time. Actors in the movement may come and go, but an entity must keep the momentum going.
You are invited to engage with us. Be part of something bigger than yourself or your organization. Work to change the lives of all the young people you care so deeply about.
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!