The Parent-Youth Connections Seminar, or PYCS, was a project of the King County Superior Court with primary focus on early intervention for low-risk youth involved in the court system. Focused on providing fun, interactive seminars to low-risk youth offenders and a parent or other connected adult, Adam Fletcher facilitated the program throughout 2018 as a principal consultant with The Athena Group.
Together, youth and adults explore youth engagement, community empowerment and social change. They explore the skills, knowledge and actions needed to change their lives and the world around them.
In this project, Adam designed and facilitated a 12-hour research-driven program designed to engage and empower families to change their lives. The Parent Youth Connections Seminar used intensive hands-on, interactive and focused activities, to engage parents and youth as they worked together to learn new knowledge, explore previous practices and grow new possibilities for their families. Over two-days, each session featured four workshops for learners of all ages including adult-only and youth-only groups.
The purpose of the Parent Youth Connections Seminar was to engage youth and caring adults in critical topics that would empower young people to make better decisions, be leaders in the future and change their lives in positive ways.
Workshop topics include:
Establishing and maintaining power, trust and respect
Individual and Family Strengths and Weaknesses
Action planning and problem-solving everyday
Finding real adult support
During each seminar, Adam ensured that participants were actively involved, heard engaging stories, completed challenging activities, participated in powerful reflection, discovered useful resources for the future and more.
In 2013, Adam Fletcher provided program development, training and evaluation services to the City of Olympia Downtown Ambassadors and Clean Team under a contract with the Capitol Recovery Program.
The scope of this project was broad, and included background research, project planning, self-assessment, key informant interviews, training and coaching, and workshop facilitation.
Products created for this project included:
Olympia Downtown Ambassadors Core Values
Data compilation (interviews, workshops, meeting notes, etc)
The team-designed training plan focused on several issues, including team identity and culture; core values; enacting core values in work; maintaining personal engagement in work, and; engaging the community.
At the completion of the work, the Downtown Ambassadors and Clean Team enacted this plan and used it to guide their work for three years afterwards.
As principal consultant on a team through The Athena Group, Adam was contracted to serve the Washington State Office of Homeless Youth in 2019. In this project, he provided program planning, research, product development and report writing services for the client.
Working to support the ongoing systems response to Washington State’s crisis of youth homelessness, Adam provided services in support of agency staff. Focused on human-centered design, these services included designing outreach workshops to engage current and formerly homeless youth who transitioned from state care via foster care, juvenile incarceration and behavioral health. Exploring the gaps in the system with those youth, this project also engaged Adam in conducting personal interviews with a dozen young people to learn about systems gaps and explore opportunities to improve the system from their perspectives.
Finally, Adam drew together information from many sources to develop a report of activities by the Office of Homeless Youth in support of a bill designated by state legislators earlier in the year.
In 2018, Adam was the subject matter expert and a principal consultant on a team with The Athena Group contracted with the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, or DCYF. His efforts contributed to a statewide examination of resources for youth transitioning from state systems of care, including foster youth, formerly incarcerated youth, and youth involved with behavioral health care.
Supported by a team of data analysts, Adam’s specific tasks focused on gathering systemwide feedback and ideas. Advertising through regional DCYF offices, Adam planned, facilitated and analyzed findings from ten regional gatherings for youth and adults affected by state systems of care. Participants included young people, birth parents, foster parents, systems workers, community based workers, healthcare and mental health professionals and advocates. Facilitated as dynamic, interactive workshops, these gatherings produced more than 5,000 data points for DCYF officials to draw from as they informed policymakers about the issues in the field.
Additionally, Adam also crafted a 20-page summary report incorporating data analysis, process evaluation and policy recommendations. There were also multiple original data studies included that focused on the emergency care available to youth transitioning from state care, as well as additional resources they need to move from state care into successful adulthood.
Youth engagement starts at home. This post offers some of my thoughts about that reality, as well as steps to ensuring that youth engagement happens in your family. I also share some of the experiences I’ve had with youth engagement at home.
I’ve started defining the word engagement as choosing the same thing over and over. There are many kinds of youth engagement at home:
…and so on. Within their homes, youth can be engaged with their families, including parents, siblings or other family members; their physical spaces like their bedrooms or backyards; activities like housework or video games; feelings like love and security; ideas like belonging and importance, and; many other things.
With all those possibilities, its easy to see how youth engagement starts at home. The elements of our family life determine how we engage with the world beyond our front door, including at school, in our communities, at work, in public, and everywhere else. If youth experience crappy engagement at home, youth are more likely to be disengaged in their lives – not always, all the time, but often in many ways.
Through my research and practice, I’ve found there are three things all parents can do to build youth engagement at home:
Listen to youth. Your offspring are yearning to be heard, no matter what age, what space and what condition your family is in. They might not show that desire, they might act the opposite of caring, and they might not be aware they have a voice—but they want to be heard.
Take action with youth. Don’t stop at listening to your kids—actually do things with them! Make, build, clean, connect and show your care and connection by being with youth directly, in each others’ spaces and sharing each others’ time.
Think about it. Youth engagement at home requires critical thinking about yourself, your parenting, your beliefs and your future. Is this how you want youth to live? Are these the things you want to do in your family? Be critical of your parenting and take action to change it.
As parents, we all screw up. The difference between the conscious parent and the unthinking parent is the energy they spend becoming more fair, just and equitable. We don’t want equality between youth and parents, we want equity. There’s a difference, and youth engagement at home makes us think about it.
I’m a dad for four kids between the ages of 10 and 15. They are beautiful, strong-hearted kids full of all the challenge, vigor, suffering and joy of youth, and I love them. However, I screw up too, and I’ve learned to accept that. I learn a lot from my experience as a parent.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ve heard the tenants of my life: Childhood homelessness; family PTSD; Vietnam veteran father; poverty-stricken family that moved into low-income lifestyle; generational depression; minority neighborhood background; academic struggles; found my soulcraft at age 14; only kid in family to graduate high school on time; first in family to earn a bachelors degree; built my life’s work from The Freechild Project and SoundOut focused on youth engagement and Meaningful Student Involvement; wrote 50+ publications; spoke and taught and consulted around the world; still screwing up every day.
Throughout 2018, I’ve been facilitating the Parent-Youth Connections Seminar in King County, Washington, where Seattle is surrounded by suburbs, exurbs and more in all of its explosive boom-era angst and glory. Along the way, the community has chosen to investments on infants, children and youth throughout the county. One of these investments is through the King County Superior Courts, and its the program I’m facilitating.
For several years, the project taught parents and youth about youth development and adolescent brain development as a diversion to prevent youth incarceration. A successful project, it operated for several years and successfully kept a lot of young people out of jail.
Early this year, I was contracted to facilitate the program. In my initial contact with the courts, I explained that rather than taking the tact they’d traditionally espoused, I was going to veer toward youth engagement. These are some of my findings so far. There’ve been more than 100 participants in these 12-hour sessions so far, coming from a variety of racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic and economic backgrounds.
Stay tuned as I learn more and start distilling all this into actionable change. My first product related to youth engagement at home is called the Parent Youth Engagement Seminar, and I’ll be launching it soon.
From 2009 to 2013, Adam consulted the American Institutes for Research (AIR) Technical Assistance Program focused on youth involvement in systems of care. Supported by SAMSHA, this project was designed by AIR to provide nationwide support for youth in foster care as they became systems advocates for transforming, sustaining and advocating change in their lives and the lives of those who came after them.
Adam consulted in many roles for AIR, including providing expert guidance for staff and grantees across the country, and co-writing a national guidance manual. He also keynoted several national gatherings, trained local grantees, and assisted in the evaluation and reporting of activities.
“Adam truly cares about people; nowhere is this more evident than in his passion for creating inclusive communities with a space for everyone. His passion for youth engagement is contagious and I appreciate his ability to challenge us be our better selves so that we can live in better communities that support and honor us all.”—Reyhan Reid, Program Coordinator, American Institutes for Research
From 2013 to 2016, Adam conducted strategic planning, program planning and project management for the City of Olympia and Capital Recovery Center through the Downtown Olympia Homeless Youth Engagement Project.
Working with City staff, nonprofit partners and business owners in the downtown area, Adam facilitated homeless youth outreach forums, community planning events and key informant interviews, developing responsive programs and outreach activities with city staff and others.
He created meeting agendas and facilitated activities, including more than a dozen gatherings of up to 100 people. The activities he facilitated included technical assistance meetings, community-wide gatherings, professional affinity groups, and forums for homeless youth.
For this project, Adam created activity reports and developed a comprehensive funding report for the City government. He also designed performance tools for use in large scale public events as well as in professional development sessions for City staff and nonprofit partners.
In 2015, City of Lincoln workforce development staff approached me about more successfully reaching the youth they served. Committed to enriching their youth engagement strategies, the City contracted with me to deliver a variety of services.
Between 2015 and 2016, Adam facilitated evaluation and training events for city staff and nonprofit partners, and worked with City staff to redesign and implement a dynamic strategy to engage young people under 25 inworkforce development activities. Focusing on client voice, Adam’s strategy created responsive, interactive opportunities for youth and adults to partner together for continuous improvement and extensive community engagement. Activities including program assessment, event facilitation and staff consultation.
Its important for all of us to balance our talk with our walk. Since I started writing this blog back in 2007, I’ve worked with a lot of different organizations to promote youth engagement. I’ve done it as a consultant, as a nonprofit staff member, as a state government worker, and in a few other capacities too. I think its important to keep my feet on the ground, even if my head is in the clouds!
Today is an example of my practice. Consulting the City of Olympia, I’ve been running a project focused on youth involvement in a new city park located in downtown. Its atypical for a number of reasons, primarily among which are its location and the users there so far. Sited around a popular artesian well, the park is essentially a slab of asphalt packed between two single story buildings. A cool design element in the form of a mosiac has been placed, but City investment in the space has been minimal so far.
Drawing together several youth engagement practitioners a few weeks ago, I gathered a massive list of wants that would encourage these organizations and programs to use the space in an ongoing fashion. That would populate the park with regular, pro-social values that would more accurately reflect Olympia’s values. However, that’s not the whole solution.
I’m facilitating an All Youth Forum in the park today. We’re expecting dozens of young people, and I’m looking forward to a simple, straight-forward conversation. I’ll report on that tomorrow. For now, here’s the flyer I designed for the event today: