CTYS places a strong strategic focus on Evidence Informed Practice. As we implement proven programming, we are continually responding to and interfacing with research from experts in the fields of mental health and youth justice. Yet we cannot leave behind what we know to be true, that young people themselves need to remain at the centre of the work as experts of their own lives. Research shows that the more that young people have a say in the programs that serve them, the better the outcome for the youth and the more effective the work of the agency.
"Youth Engagement has been the natural next step in CTYS’ commitment to Anti-Oppression & Equity: creating space for youth empowerment and agency not just within our programs, but also within our clients’ communities and lives."
- David (YE Committee Member)
This year, the CTYS Youth Advisory committee has grown and diversified. Staff nominated clients and past clients who had the potential to be leaders in the agency and the community. YE staff went beyond just listening to the voice of young people, to building skills and empowering youth to make decisions and implement well laid out plans. The Youth Advisors participated in a monthly leadership training program in which they developed leadership skills, brainstormed what it means to be a leader and strategized on how to reach out to the larger agency.
"At the beginning, I felt honoured and grateful and felt special to be nominated as a youth advisor for CTYS, but a bit confused why. After all this time being a youth advisor this year, I now know why they believed in me."
- Brad (Youth Advisor)
Through a youth participatory process, Youth Advisors implemented an environmental scan which gathered input about Youth Engagements activities from frontline staff, managers, senior management and the youth themselves. They explored where CTYS currently is on the path of YE and what the strengths, barriers, opportunities and next steps are for CTYS. The Youth Advisors participated in brainstorming sessions, co-facilitated focus groups for staff, participated in policy development and spent time developing visions and strategic priorities. The outcome of all this hard work will be a strategic framework and action plan that will over time be woven into all levels of the agency; from programs, to committee work, to the CTYS Board of Directors. This is noteworthy work for a group of committed and passionate young people who are both building transferable skills and, in the process, paying it forward by making an impact on CTYS.
"I really felt like I learned how to take initiative and gained skills for leadership and activism that I could use in multiple areas of my life, and also pass on to others."
- Mick (Youth Advisor)
The Youth Advisors also continue to place a focus on amplifying youth voice in the place youth live most - social media. Through the mental health art blog Vision Restored that CTYS Youth Advisors created, young people are publishing writing and art that express their thoughts on issues important to them, sharing success stories and breaking down mental health stigmas. Our Youth Advisors and adult allies are busy at work building this platform, creating an editorial team and reaching out to other youth in the community. Stay tuned for the fall edition!
Congratulations to the Youth Advisor team and their adult allies on a year of meaningful work and forward movement!