Providing Individualized Support
Staff’s social work and human service backgrounds equip them to provide youth with an array of support. Supports include: resource referral, case planning, de-escalation, and court advocacy. The team has the background and skill set to ask youth advocates the right questions (questions that are not triggering or invasive) to identify what supports they might need and connect and refer them to the appropriate resources. These resources are identified through regular check-ins with all youth advocates.
Growing with Growth
When Juvenile Law Center first developed the Youth Advocacy Program (initially referred to as Youth Engagement Program), it was staffed by interns and attorneys as a supplemental project to their legal work. The groups were small, capping at roughly six people in each group, the alumni network was also quite small with less than 20 members. As the interest in the program grew, the members grew, and the need for more permanent staffing became evident. Predictably, as the program grew in staff, the work continued to expand once again. Today, the numbers are capped at fifteen members for each group and the alumni network has roughly 100 members. The Youth Speakers Bureau includes roughly twenty active alumni in addition to the youth participants currently in the program. These youth have reached audiences across the country. The size of the audiences grows each year which means the messages, stories, and recommendations of the youth advocates are reaching more people.
Making an Investment in Lived Experience
The organizational support, program management advocacy, and board support has allowed Juvenile Law Center’s Youth Advocacy Program to grow into a respected national model that truly values the expertise of its youth advocates. One core way Juvenile Law Center values the work of youth advocates is through appropriate compensation for any work by the youth advocates. This philosophy reflects the respect that the organization has for the youth advocates’ time, lived experience, and expertise. Youth should always be paid for their time. It is about recognizing the value of a young person’s time and being intentional and committed to ensuring youth voice is at the center of advocacy work.