Youth engagement . . . “empowers youth as valuable partners addressing and making decisions about issues that affect them.” Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.
This is the working definition of youth engagement being used by youth service providers who met on October 19, 2015 and again on January 28, 2016 to address the health and wellness of youth across Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. Next steps are now underway to establish youth advisories across the area, and a recommendation has been made for the CYSN to consider reinstating its committee of youth service providers.
In March 2016, youth and adult allies were invited to engagement forums in Belleville, Picton and Kingston. I had the pleasure of attending the full-day events in Belleville and Kingston which were hosted by their respective children’s mental health agencies in partnership with Ontario Centre of Excellence facilitators.
Youth from such HPE organizations as Loyalist College, the John Howard Society’s Quantum program, the North Hastings Youth Advisory Board, Youthab and Children’s Mental Health were represented at the Belleville event. An even larger group of youth were present at the Kingston event.
These enthusiastic young people were ready and willing to express their opinions and ideas around how youth organizations can make services more accessible and responsive to their wants and needs. They were also clearly concerned about the health and well-being of youth in their schools and communities and convinced that youth can play an important role in making the system stronger through meaningful collaboration with service providers.
Collaboration between organizations has added great value to the human service system across HPE; i.e., Triple P, Babies and Beyond, No Wrong Door, Good Food Box, etc. Collaboration between organizations and youth would do the same.
My takeaway message from these forums to CYSN members and community partners is that youth engagement is important and necessary for positive outcomes, and that taking a lead on engaging youth in a meaningful way to help address and share decisions around the issues that affect them would be an effective use of agency resources.
To learn more about youth (and family) engagement and to access some great resources, please visit the Ontario Centre of Excellence.