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Volume V, Number 1, 1999
Issue Topic: Children and Youth
Revery Barnes and Kaira Espinoza of Rising Youth for Social Equity share the results of their youth-run organization serving as the youth evaluation team on a project to reform San Francisco’s juvenile justice system.
In 1997, Delancy Street Foundation developed a comprehensive action plan to reform San Francisco’s juvenile justice system. In response, Rising Youth for Social Equity (RYSE), a youth-run organization, wrote a policy recommendation advocating for youth participation in developing and evaluting the plan’s programs. RYSE staff served as the youth evaluation team on this project.
One weakness of many programs designed for young people is that youth themselves are rarely involved in project creation and implementation. While projects often use the language of partnership, collaboration, and ownership, such rhetoric often masks unequal power relationships. Participation by young people is generally limited to single events, after which they become the subjects of interventions planned, implemented, and evaluated by others. Adults, particularly those working within institutions such as schools and law enforcement, are often unaware of the ways in which power shapes their relationships with young people. In contrast, young people are often acutely aware of their own powerlessness.
The goal of our project was to include youth voice in the restructuring of San Francisco’s juvenile justice system. We saw this as an opportunity for adults to learn what youth thought about the issues in our communities and lives. We knew we had valuable information to share, and this was our chance to be taken seriously.
We went through a one-year process to design and conduct our evaluation. First, we had to gather youth to form the Youth Evaluation Team. Twelve youth evaluators were selected by a youth-led hiring committee to carry out these important tasks. Those of us chosen to be evaluators went through training, discussions, and meetings with supportive adult mentors to learn the necessary skills to organize our project. Creating the survey, testing it, and collecting data were probably the most time consuming tasks. We created a database, and then professors at the University of California at Berkeley transferred our data into statistical software (SPSS). We then analyzed the results, researched background information, and put together our report.
Our final step will be to present this information to the Delancy Street Foundation. We will also distribute our report to people interested in making this society more youth friendly. Ultimately, we will let policymakers know what youth are concerned about so they will make more informed decisions that truly fulfill our needs.
Hart, R. (1997). Children’s participation: The theory and practice of involving young citizens in community development and environmental care. New York: Earthscan.
Center for Young Women’s Development
Center for Youth Development
Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth
Community Network for Youth Development
Girls Best Friend Foundation
Rising Youth for Social Equity
St. John’s Educational Thresholds Center
Community Building Director
Rising Youth for Social Equity