I don’t usually use Wikepedia (for obvious reasons). It is likely that I will never quote this website again, but I found their definition of youth empowerment to be pretty good. According to Wikepedia, youth empowerment is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people, including youth and adults. It goes on to explain that youth empowerment is often addressed as a gateway to intergenerational equity, civic engagement, and democracy building. Many local, state, provincial, regional, national, and international government agencies and nonprofit community-based organizations provide programs centered on youth empowerment. Activities involved therein may focus on youth-led media, youth rights, youth councils, youth activism, youth involvement in community decision-making, and other methods. I would never use this as a reference in scholarly or academic writing but it provides a nice introduction for this blog.
Last week I had the honor of moderating a youth panel at the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY) 32nd Annual Conference. The audience consisted of direct service providers – foster care case workers and supervisors, independent living programs, foster care agencies, foster parents, social workers, and the like. The panel members were AWESOME! There were five males and one female on the panel. Two of the young men have aged-out of the foster care system and the other four panelists are high school age and currently in foster care in the state of Maryland. These six young people provided honest insight and opinions about how to improve foster care. They were articulate, passionate, and genuine and the audience received their knowledge with respect and gratitude. This was youth empowerment at its best! I am so proud to have been able to be a part of an event where youth voices were not only heard but welcomed.
How are you empowering your youth? We would love to hear your ideas, experiences, and suggestions.
Please feel free to use the following questions from the MARFY Conference Youth Panel as a starting point for ways to engage and empower your youth.
- What is the greatest obstacle you have overcome as a youth in foster care?
- Who was most supportive in helping you overcome that obstacle?
- How did you remain hopeful/focused/motivated while in care?
- What is the most beneficial support or service you received while in foster care?
- How can we improve supports and outcomes for youth currently in foster care?
- What advice do you have for youth currently in foster care?
- Do you have any advice for foster parents or youth workers regarding youth in foster care?
- What can be done to improve the foster care system?
- What support should all youth receive after they exit foster care?
- Do you feel that you were adequately prepared for life on your own (after foster care)?
If you enjoyed this blog, you might also want to read “Are Your Teens Taking Charge”.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic empowerment strategies to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.