How the Jim Casey Initiative Engages Young People

Posted March 1, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog howjimcaseyengagesyoungpeople 2016

At the Casey Foun­da­tion, we know that involv­ing young peo­ple as active par­tic­i­pants in deci­sions affect­ing their futures is life chang­ing — not just for the young per­son, but for the lives of the peo­ple around them.

For this rea­son, in addi­tion to help­ing local part­ners take an authen­tic youth engage­ment approach, the Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive takes an authen­tic youth engage­ment approach in all of its nation­al work. This means staff forge car­ing rela­tion­ships with young peo­ple, act­ing as true part­ners and empow­er­ing them to direct Jim Casey’s efforts and their own futures.

Each year, the Ini­tia­tive holds a Youth Lead­er­ship Insti­tute that young lead­ers from our sites are nom­i­nat­ed to attend. Dur­ing the event, young lead­ers have oppor­tu­ni­ties to deep­en their under­stand­ing of the Jim Casey Initiative’s The­o­ry of Change, and to learn to use Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive data and their life expe­ri­ences with child wel­fare sys­tems as advo­ca­cy tools. Because of the Youth Lead­er­ship Insti­tute, young lead­ers are able to expand their knowl­edge of cur­rent poli­cies that young peo­ple and part­ner­ing states have iden­ti­fied as being crit­i­cal to gal­va­niz­ing pub­lic will to bet­ter focus on need reforms. Upon com­ple­tion of the Youth Lead­er­ship Insti­tute, the young lead­ers can elect to become a part of the Fel­low­ship, a group of young adults who have been pro­fes­sion­al­ly trained and are ready to give rec­om­men­da­tions for improv­ing child wel­fare systems.

By build­ing effec­tive part­ner­ships with young peo­ple, the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive sees many ben­e­fits. First, Casey’s work is of high­er qual­i­ty and is more effec­tive because of their insights and guid­ance. They help us to ensure that the improve­ments sought will tru­ly change their lives for the better.

The Ini­tia­tive also ensures that Young Fel­lows’ expe­ri­ences are those that help them achieve their goals, and that they are able to prac­tice the prob­lem-solv­ing skills they will need in adult­hood. Effec­tive youth-adult part­ner­ships also help young peo­ple build their self-esteem and lead­er­ship skills, and increase their influ­ence and per­son­al stake in the community.

Through Jim Casey’s near­ly 15 years of expe­ri­ence in authen­tic youth engage­ment, Casey has iden­ti­fied three core val­ues and guid­ing prin­ci­ples that enable us — and any orga­ni­za­tion or indi­vid­ual work­ing with young peo­ple — to devel­op suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships between young peo­ple and adults:

Core Val­ue #1: Preparation

Young peo­ple are effec­tive­ly pre­pared and empow­ered to make informed deci­sions about mat­ters that affect their lives.

Guid­ing Principles

  • Effec­tive prepa­ra­tion with and on behalf of a young per­son requires time, effort, patience, rela­tion­ship-build­ing, and aware­ness of a young person’s unique devel­op­men­tal needs.
  • Young peo­ple need to learn self-advo­ca­cy skills, includ­ing when and how to seek advice and coun­sel from pro­fes­sion­als and oth­er car­ing adults, in order to be con­fi­dent in mak­ing deci­sions and chart­ing their future.
  • Authen­tic youth-adult part­ner­ships must under­gird prepa­ra­tion activ­i­ties and it is with­in this con­text of mutu­al trust that adults must help young peo­ple rec­og­nize their strengths, lever­age their exper­tise, assess their lev­el of under­stand­ing, address their knowl­edge deficits, and assert their lead­er­ship in reach­ing decisions.

Core Val­ue #2: Support

Young peo­ple are pro­vid­ed with cus­tomized ser­vices and a net­work of sup­port­ive rela­tion­ships that meet their needs and pro­mote a healthy tran­si­tion to adulthood.

Guid­ing Principles

  • Young peo­ple need access to a ser­vice array that is com­pre­hen­sive, flex­i­ble, and capa­ble of meet­ing their unique needs.
  • Sup­port sys­tems should include for­mal resources and ser­vices from pub­lic and pri­vate providers as well as infor­mal sup­ports from with­in a young person’s nat­ur­al net­work of com­mu­ni­ty relationships.
  • Ser­vice sys­tems should pro­vide young peo­ple with equi­table access to ser­vices that are cul­tur­al­ly com­pe­tent, out­come-focused, and atten­tive to their over­all well-being.
  • Fam­i­ly is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant in the lives of young peo­ple and their def­i­n­i­tion of fam­i­ly and net­work of sup­port­ive rela­tion­ships should be explored, respect­ed, and appro­pri­ate­ly includ­ed in life-plan­ning efforts.
  • Young peo­ple should be mon­e­tar­i­ly com­pen­sat­ed for their time, exper­tise, labor, and prod­ucts that con­tribute to sys­tems change, pro­gram imple­men­ta­tion, pol­i­cy devel­op­ment, and infor­ma­tion sharing.

Core Val­ue #3: Opportunity

Young peo­ple are pro­vid­ed with an array of oppor­tu­ni­ties that pro­mote opti­mal growth and devel­op­ment; expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing; healthy risk-tak­ing; and par­tic­i­pa­tion in nor­mal every­day activ­i­ties that con­tribute to social con­fi­dence and pos­i­tive iden­ti­ty formation.

Guid­ing Principles

  • Young peo­ple need to learn how to be finan­cial­ly capa­ble and have oppor­tu­ni­ties to prac­tice their finan­cial skills as they man­age assets, par­tic­i­pate in the work­force, and trans­act with main­stream bank­ing institutions.
  • Young peo­ple need to be safe and assess­ments of their safe­ty should be con­tex­tu­al­ly rel­e­vant, devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate, and free from vari­ables that over­state risk and under­val­ue social experience.
  • Young peo­ple in fos­ter care should be pro­vid­ed with the same nor­mal life oppor­tu­ni­ties afford­ed to young peo­ple from intact families.
  • Young peo­ple need to expe­ri­ence pos­i­tive reci­procity in rela­tion­ships with­in their fam­i­ly, peer, and com­mu­ni­ty groups and feel val­ued both in receiv­ing sup­ports and in giv­ing back to their community.

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