The active engagement of both youth and families is an essential part of any effort to improve youth outcomes. NCWD/Youth offers strategies and resources for engaging youth and families in programs and systems.
Increasing youth engagement means helping youth move from a stage where decisions are made for them by others (parents, teachers, service providers) to a stage where youth are making decisions for themselves. Initially, youth engagement may involve helping youth learn about services and how to self-advocate while giving them age- and stage-appropriate opportunities to take an active role in decision-making. With support and practice, youth eventually become planners and decision-makers who advocate for themselves as well as others.
Too often, youth don’t have a voice in the decisions that agencies and organizations make about the services and opportunities offered to youth. Youth may also lack a voice in the decisions their families make about their lives. It is important for all the adults in their lives to hear from youth directly about what they need and want during the transition years so they can provide the right opportunities, services, and supports.
NCWD/Youth started the Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT) in 2013 to provide a model for increasing youth engagement.
Families play an important role in helping youth envision a future for themselves that is rooted in high expectations and thoughtful planning. All youth need the support of their families and other caring adults as they transition into adulthood. Whether a youth has a disability or not, it is beneficial when all youth dare to dream and set their goals high from an early age. Youth need to be supported as they ask themselves where they want to work, where they want to live, and what they want to do in their spare time. Families can help ensure that youth are prepared to turn their dreams into reality by participating in transition planning prior to high school graduation and supporting youth’s participation in a wide variety of developmental experiences.
NCWD/Youth’s Info Brief, The Guideposts for Success: A Framework for Families Preparing Youth for Adulthood, describes actions that families can take to support their youth through the transition process.