News and Events

Why is Advocacy for Youth Development Important?

POSTED ON December 19, 2019
by Rene Murry, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy

I was recently asked “What would you like to see as a headline for a major paper in the future?”  After some consideration I came up with:

“Washington kids rise! All WA children and youth housed, educated and thriving”

I wonder: Is this goal too much? Can we attain it? I believe we can. What we will need is political will, investment and sustained commitment to our children, youth, and families.

One piece of committing to our children and youth is to make sure they have safe and fulfilling things to do when they are not in school; a caring and supportive adult who can mentor them along life’s paths; and support services, if needed, to help them negotiate the options out there that can help them thrive. THIS is what taking a Youth Development approach means. Meeting young people where they are physically, socially, emotionally and academically.

Youth Development has evolved with the lessons learned from history and from science. In the 1920’s, after the industrial revolution and child labor laws, youth programs were almost solely Intervention Based. They were designed to “keep kids out of trouble” and had safety, physical activity, and supervision as their primary goals and functions.

Fast-forward to now, almost 100 years later.  We now know that children and youth need positive youth programming to INVEST in them and INSPIRE them. Science has taught us about the brain, the continued development until age 25 and the brain’s need for nurturing. The human need to belong. The intrinsic desire to “become.” Ages 5-Young Adult are crucial times to invest in a person’s life in order for our youth to soar and thrive. Children and Youth spend 80% of their waking hours outside of the typical school day and we need to make that time count.

Youth Development Programs Invest and Inspire, not simply intervene.

We have learned a lot in 100 years. We have learned that our children and youth are assets. That investing in them is truly investing in all of our futures. We have learned that each and every child is valuable.

It is up to us to reach out to policy makers to let them know what Youth Development Programs do and their value to the community. They need to know this in order to make the investments required.

Let us aspire to make this headline ring true and rise up for Washington’s kids.

To learn more about the history of Youth Development programming, check out this video, and to learn more about Youth Development, see our website.