Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families

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.

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Service Learning Seattle

Since 2006, I have contracted with Seattle Public Schools Service Learning program. My activities have included project planning, program design and delivery, evaluation, training, technical assistance, speaking, and professional development services. I’ve provided large and small group facilitation; communication and public relations; project management; and other consulting services, too.

 

Partner Schools

Some of the schools I’ve partnered with in Seattle have included:

  • Cleveland High
  • Garfield High
  • Roosevelt High
  • Franklin High
  • Nova High
  • Ballard High
  • West Seattle High
  • Rainier Beach High
  • Aki Kurose Middle
  • Mercer Middle
  • Denny Middle

 

Following are descriptions of some related activities.

 


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Introduction to Youth Councils

Researching for a presentation in 2013, I identified fewer than 40 youth councils connected with city governments across Washington State. This state has over 280 municipal governments. There were also fewer than 10 counties that had youth councils, and only one state agency reported a youth council, in addition to the Washington Legislative Youth Advisory Council.

Here is the presentation I made:

Youth are everywhere! According to the United Nations, young people between the ages of 12 and 21 account for more than 25% of the world’s population today.

In the United States, the Census reported in 2011 there are over 73 million people under 18 in the United States. 10 to 19 year olds make up more than 14% of the US population.

At that same point, the Census reported that young people ages 10 to 19 make up 13% of Washington’s population.

There are more than 281 municipalities in Washington State, including incorporated towns and cities. Research conducted by the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council has found that only 35 of those municipalities have Youth Councils.

Youth Councils have vast differences, and many different possibilities. Some of the differences depend on where they are located, who is on the Councils, and what the local municipality needs from them.

However, the missions of many Youth Councils aren’t generally informed by research-driven best practices, national trends or patterns, or other factually-based decisions. Instead, they are determined by well-intentioned adults who want to do the right thing, but are limited by their own imaginations, by their city or town leadership’s vision, or the way that everyday people see young people.

However, and luckily, we’re not limited to negative or challenging perceptions of youth. As one community organizer said, “Our youth are not failing the system; the system is failing our youth. Ironically, the very youth who are being treated the worst are the young people who are going to lead us out of this nightmare.” The way they’re going to do this? Youth Councils.

A youth council is a formal or informal body of young people that is driven by advocacy and decision-making. They address the absence of youth involvement in decision-making for any age of young people, with kids as young as 7 and young adults as old as 24 being involved in Youth Councils across Washington State.

There many different kinds of youth councils, including those sponsored by local governments, including towns, cities, and counties; state government agencies and legislatures; local nonprofit and community organizations; and national organizations.

Communities with Youth Councils in Washington

  • Auburn
  • Bellevue
  • Camas
  • Cheney
  • Colville
  • Des Moines
  • Everett
  • Federal Way
  • Grandview
  • Issaquah
  • Kirkland
  • Lacey
  • Lakewood
  • Liberty Lake
  • Marysville
  • Mercer Island
  • Mill Creek
  • Millwood
  • Mukilteo
  • Oak Harbor
  • Puyallup
  • Redmond
  • Renton
  • Sammamish
  • Seattle
  • Shoreline
  • University Place

The Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council had:

  • 22 students
  • Ages 14-18
  • All corners of Washington
  • All walks of life.
  • Two-year term.
  • Meet up to four times per year in Olympia.
  • Hold monthly conference calls to discuss projects and goals.
  • Hold an annual Action Day to meet with legislators and testify on important youth-related bills.
  • Advocate for youth-related bills. In 2013, lobbying efforts helped move three bills to be passed into law.
  • Partner with youth groups and organizations.

Other types of organizations have youth advisory councils. They include:

  • Community Development
  • Labor
  • Workforce Development
  • School Districts
  • Neighborhood Associations
  • Faith Communities
  • Ethnic and Cultural Groups
  • Performing Arts Orgs
  • And many others

Alfie Kohn once said, “Youth should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” Youth Councils allow young people to experience democracy in realtime.

The context for youth councils comes from many places. I find poetry inspiring, and in particular, Langston Hughes’ poem Freedom’s Plow:

Thus the dream becomes not one man’s dream alone,
But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone,
But your world and my world,
Belonging to all the hands who build.

Would you build with young people? Youth councils provide one way to get that done.

Washington GEAR UP

The GEAR UP program fosters college awareness and readiness for low-income middle and high school students by providing a variety of programs targeted to educators. The University of Washington state GEAR UP program serves 5,700 students in 36 schools and 29 school districts throughout Washington state.

Challenge

The state’s major GEAR UP program was faced with normalized student disengagement among their target participants, including low-income, students of color, and migrant/bilingual students. They needed to increase facilitator effectiveness, and decided that modeling and intensive professional development were the best avenues for action.

Solutions

The University of Washington State GEAR UP program contracted with me from 2005 to 2007 to facilitate several training activities for almost 300 middle and high school students. In 2007, I facilitated a week-long professional development retreat for local coordinators focused on Meaningful Student Involvement.

Outcomes

I facilitated a 36-hour intensive program designed to increase program efficacy and outcomes. Participants reported their work would be transformed, their approaches would refocus on student engagement, and that they had the resources they needed to take strategic steps.

Recommendation

“Adam works tirelessly to create environments and cultures where youth develop and wield the knowledge and power to positively impact not only their lives but also society. He is one of the most knowledgeable, innovative, and effective facilitators, writers, educators, and thinkers in the field. Adam brings theory and reality together in praxis that reveals how utopic visions can become a reality.” – Christin Chopra, former Manager, University of Washington GEAR UP


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This is a flyer for Adam Fletcher's "Self-Sustainability for Educators" workshop.
This is a flyer for Adam Fletcher’s “Self-Sustainability for Educators” workshop.

Olympia—Partners Needed for a Youth Event

Talking with a number of young people in Olympia in informal settings, I recently discovered there is a desire for a youth leadership training for them. However, without money to attend, these “nontraditionally engaged” youth don’t feel like they can do it. So I’m going to pull together a one-day youth action training here in Olympia focused on The Freechild Project Youth Action Kit.

Right now I’m calling for volunteers and partner orgs for this one day event at the end of June.
WHY
Provide nontraditional youth leaders the opportunity to build their skills and knowledge on how to change the world.
WHAT/WHEN 
In late June 2013, I am going to facilitate a one-day, nine-hour training for youth and adults focused on youth leadership in changing the world. This is a skill-building, knowledge-sharing event that will increase participants’ abilities to successfully take action for social change. The main target group is local youth of all stripes from the Thurston County area. 
This will be a hands-on, interactive, fun event that focuses on actual action to change the world. I do not talk down to youth, and I’m not a hype-man; instead, I facilitate practical, meaningful action by young people working with adults as partners. The goal of the training is to promote youth engagement in practical, powerful, and positive social change.
WHO
  • Up to 100 participants will be accepted to come individually or in groups.
  • There is no cost to participate, and there are NO requirements beyond pre-registration. 
  • Certificates can be given that designate the number of hours attended and topics covered.
  • Youth ages 12 to 19 will be invited directly.
  • Local youth-serving programs and organizations will be invited.
  • Adult allies of all kinds, including teachers, parents, youth workers, counselors, business people, elected officials, government workers, and others will be invited to attend.
WHERE 
TBD. Suggestions are welcome.
YOUR ROLE 
Freechild needs co-sponsors for this event. I am facilitating it for free and I’m 
not collecting any fees. I invite YOU and your organization to provide any of the following:
  • Participants
  • Logistical support
  • Location 
  • Event planning
  • Food
  • Promotion
  • Flip chart paper
  • Markers
  • Photocopies & printing
  • Give-aways
  • ?????
TOPICS
The topics for this training are still being determined, but will definitely cover how to organize Youth Action as I’ve written in The Freechild Project Youth Action Kit. They may also cover topics from The Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide, which is focused on youth taking action to change the world.
QUESTIONS
  • What do I get for partnering? If you choose to partner with me for this event, I will include your logo on materials and acknowledge your org or business during the event.
  • How often will this happen? Its a one-time training.
  • How much does it cost? Its free.
  • Is there a program supporting it? This event is not program-centered.
  • What is it going to cover? This is a general skill-building and knowledge-sharing training event, and not a train-the-trainer event.
  • What are the outcomes? It may inspire participants to go out and take action in the community, and they’ll received materials to support that. It may inspire participants to change their own lives. It might just be fun for a day.
  • Are there other programs doing this? WASC, based in Oly, offers a statewide student leadership training statewide program doesn’t reach the generally disengaged youth population of the area. Voices of Youth is program-driven youth voice with a specific agenda focused on school health.
  • Why do you think you can do this? I have trained thousands of youth in hundreds of topics for more than a decade, and have developed youth leadership development programs in 50 communities nationwide. Learn more about me at my website.
  • Is there any real need for this beyond a few youths’ opinions? I love Oly’s youth programs, and have supported each of them by donating my time and money and volunteering for more. Currently, I know of no programs offered by CYS, GRuB, Together, Stonewall Youth, or the even among the city’s state agenciesthat  provide leadership development for their participants focused on general social change. Instead, they’re all topic-specific, if at all. So yes, there’s a real need, and generally speaking, local nonprofits don’t have the resources or staff to facilitate this kind of training. I’ve also done this 6 times before in Oly.
  • Why do you REALLY want to do this? Basically, I do all this work nationally and want to contribute back to the city I live in by volunteering my time, knowledge, and ability.
  • How can I get involved? Give me a call at (360) 489-9680 or email adam@freechild.org.
  • I’m not from Oly—can I still come? YES! Get in touch. 
  • How can I get this in my city? Contact me.
  • How can I get more info? Sign up for the CommonAction newsletter, the Freechild facebook page, or send me an email.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Characteristics of Successful Youth Engagement

Ideally, youth engagement happens throughout communities and across society. Youth programs and youth councils are good; but engaging youth at home and throughout regular community places is great. However, the space is not as important as the characteristics of the community.

Working with more than 40 youth engagement practitioners throughout King County for our Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre over the last two years, I have collected a lot of best practices and tips. Here are some some of the characteristics of successful youth engagement they identified. 
Characteristics of Successful Youth Engagement

Programs are Focused. 

Instead of meandering through purposeless activities and focus-less personal activities, every activity is designed to be a concise, deliberative engagement of multiple intelligences, broad perspectives, and varying experiences. Engaging young people remains the central action throughout the program, and improving the community is the focus of every activity.

Environments are Supportive.

Youth and adults alike are committed to working together without fear of retribution or alienation. All youth are partners with each other and adults in the program, and work together for the common cause of improving communities through youth engagement.
Activities are Engaging.
The experiences, knowledge, ideas, and opinions of youth are validated and substantiated with meaningful learning experiences that infuse community interest with a new capacity to visualize, analyze, create, and engage youth as partners.

Thinking is Critical.

As co-learners within a community of learners, youth provide vital insight in the community improvement process for their peers and adult allies. These democratic interactions are actively encouraged and supported by all members.
Processes are Transparent.
There should be no mysteries about what the purpose of the youth engagement program is, or what the outcomes of the activities will be. The program offers numerous ways to make goals, outcomes, and activities fully understandable to youth.
Decisions are Decentralized.
Youth engagement activities emphasize the common experience of all participants—youth and adults—as co-learners, empowering youth to engage fully throughout the learning process. Decisions affecting every member are made by members of the program—youth and adults—and everyone is held equally accountable and celebrated equally.

The Cadre members taught me that these characteristics combine to create powerful climates for youth engagement. Learn more about the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre here, and contact me for more information.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Educational Service District 113

The Educational Service District 113 Student Support Services Team (ESD 113) facilitates the growth and development of school- and community-based academic, health, extracurricular, and social supports for K-12 students in southwest Washington.

Challenge

A national movement towards rallying similar organizations supporting similar young people in schools and during out-of-school time led ESD 113 to convene a similar coalition. Without a concise action plan or engaging facilitator, the ESD was concerned their coalition may not succeed. Searching for a premier leader with similar experience, the ESD called on Adam to inform and guide this effort.

Solutions

Starting in spring 2012, Adam provided leadership to the Pacific Mountain Regional Youth Alliance through a contract with Educational Service District 113 in Tumwater, Washington. Adam consulted a planning team including representatives from five organizations focused on developing a collective impact strategy to affect change in southwest Washington. He also facilitated Alliance gatherings for up to 125 participants, as well as planning team meetings.

The Alliance, including Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Thurston, and the northern part of Pacific Counties, is planning, convening, and supporting youth agencies, individuals, and other partnering organizations as they engage, collaborate and activate the advancement of culturally relevant family and community roles for student success from early childhood through college. Focused on establishing a collective impact model, the Alliance convenes meetings, shares resources, and holds other events on the regional and county levels.

Outcomes

Adam helped the Alliance develop short- and long-term strategic plans, provided event facilitation for up to 125 people as well as small leadership team meetings with several organizational representatives, and consulted the ESD on future activities.

Results included a sustainable long-term action plan for the Alliance; new countywide coalitions affecting up to 250,000 youth throughout the region; and increased determination and motivation among participants into the future.

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City of Cheney

In 2011, the City of Cheney Parks and Recreation Department wanted to take their community-wide coalition building activities to the next level. Weighing national interest in working in this small college city, they selected Adam Fletcher through a competitive bidding process to develop the Let’s Move, Cheney Five-Year Strategic Plan.

 

Challenge

Faced with an epidemic of childhood obesity in their city, Cheney leaders gathered together to address the issue through a community-wide initiative focused on transforming systems, cultures, and attitudes towards health and wellness in the city. However, after a year of working together, diverse perspectives revealed the need for an outside facilitator who could establish middle ground and build consensus on moving forward.

 

Solutions

Focusing on creating a comprehensive long-range plan, Adam’s contract included creating a performance measurement tool, a community engagement plan, an action plan, a fundraising plan, an annual evaluation plan, and a sustainability plan as part of the effort. He conducted almost 100 key informant interviews; facilitated group feedback sessions; and devised the final copy for the plan. Additionally, Adam also facilitated a community-wide meeting with more than 70 participants to deliver the plan.

 

Project Resources Created by Adam

 


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