The California Council on Youth Relations (CCYR) is a New America Media project dedicated to bringing the youth voice to the table in developing policy and practice within systems that affect young people. Presenting in a variety of public settings, youth from the CCYR Speakers Bureau share their experiences about systems/issue areas such as mental health services, schools, the juvenile justice system, the foster care/child welfare system, homelessness and domestic/community violence. The CCYR Speakers Bureau has presented to policymakers and legislators in Sacramento, various community based organizations and/or mental health clinics, and at larger transitional aged youth and or mental health conferences throughout California.
The heart of CCYR is a Speakers Bureau of youth who are trained and hired to speak on behalf of their peers about system change. In 2009, CCYR presented monthly to policy makers, practitioners and other decision makers whose daily work affects the lives of transition aged youth. Speakers Bureau members attend weekly Speakers Bureau meetings, which are run by our staff as either trainings, policy discussions or venues for hosting outside speakers or showing and discussing films on social justice and current events. Most of the youth on our Speakers Bureau are interns in our NAM office, but several are recruited from partners including the SF Youth Task Force, Met West High School and the Center for Young Women's Development. Through YO!, youth develop PSAs for television and radio on topics such as incarcerated parents and date rape.
CCYR has presented at the State Capitol, State Library, San Francisco State University, California Institute for Integral Studies, JFK University, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists annual conference, Alternative Family Services, Center for Somatic Psychotherapy, A Better Way, California Institute on Mental Health, California Mental Health Directors Association, Adolescent Health Collaborative, Turning Point Community Programs, the California Wellness Foundation's conference on violence prevention, the California Mental Health Advocates for Youth conference at Asilomar, the California Community College Foundation, the Ernst Van Loben Sels Conference on the California Youth Authority and at the Second Southern Summit on Children of Prisoners.
CCYR has two primary areas of expertise: mental health and homelessness. We are also developing a series of youth panels on immigration in 2010-11.
CCYR Speakers Bureau members are available to do trainings at the university or clinical level to marriage and family therapists (MFTs), social workers or other practitioners whose work impacts the mental health of system youth. We are in the process of becoming a certified trainer so that LMFTS may get continuing education units (CEU's) for attending our events. To request a mental health focused presentation, please contact Alissa Blackman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Bringing Young People to the Policy Table: A year of discussion on mental health in foster care, juvenile justice and education" is a video presenting ten mental health recommendations for improving public systems that serve young people. The recommendations were developed by young people in discussion with policy makers, therapists, agency directors, probation officers and case managers at a series of five policy seminars in Sacramento in 2005 at the California Research Bureau.
The DVD package can be purchased through our bookstore. Proceeds go towards stipends for CCYR youth participants. Produced by YO!TV, 2006. Price: $7.50. (Length: 12 min.) Package includes printed insert of the ten recommendations.
CCYR is a partner in the California Research Bureau's "California Homeless Youth Project" (HYP), a research and policy initiative that highlights the issues and challenges faced by unaccompanied young people who are homeless or lack stable housing. The HYP web site provides state and local policymakers and others with information and policy resources specific to unaccompanied homeless youth, with a focus on young people in California. On the web site you can find research publications, including the youth-driven street survey conducted in 2006, and other policy resources. The project seeks to answer key questions about homeless youth in California:
- Who are unaccompanied homeless youth?
- How many homeless youth are there in California?
- Why are they homeless?
- What challenges do they face?
The CCYR Speakers Bureau is available to present the HYP DVD "Voices from the Street", which presents the project's major findings and recommendations, at conferences and other training venues for teachers, community members and policy makers. Read the recommendations and preview the DVD on the HYP web site.
To order a DVD or request a presentation on youth homelessness, contact Patricia Johnson (email@example.com).
CCYR grew out of our decade of offering jobs and media training to young people exiting the juvenile justice system, to offer them a say in how systems and policies that affect youth should improve. As we embarked on this work, we heard them asking systems — and organizations like ours — to provide a stronger, more diverse web of support services. Answering their request, we have hired an MSW and MFT onto our staff to supplement the work the media training team does with over 100 youth at NAM each year.
The youth interns at NAM range in age between 14-25 (majority 16-20) and have experience with the juvenile justice system, foster care, homelessness as well as a family background of parental incarceration, poverty and mental health challenges. We recruit from the San Francisco and Alameda County juvenile halls, and we also have community partnerships that bring youth to our door, including: Larkin Street Youth Services, SF Mayor's Youth Employment and Education Program, Jewish Vocational Services, Met West High School, Goodwill's Community Jobs Program and the Office of the District Attorney Kamala Harris — Back on Track Graduate Services and Changing The Odds Programs.
The support services we offer, in addition to the media and advocacy work, include:
- Education support: help finding high school or GED prep, financial aid and college application/registration assistance, tutoring, use of computers for homework assignments
- Employment support: career exploration, resume/cover letter training and assistance, Job search assistance, professional skills trainings
- Mental Health: individual and group counseling services
- Psychosocial support: connect to community resources including emergency housing, free/low cost healthcare, legal assistance, substance abuse treatment programs, etc.
- Advocacy: provide support for court appearances — letters, testimony, etc., accompany youth to legal, social work and/or other system meetings as advocate, attend youth events such as graduations, baby showers, etc. to show support
- Fun Stuff: retreats/outings, awards and certificates (for attendance, probation completion, high school or college graduation, GED completion, etc.)
- Patricia Johnson, California Council on Youth Relations Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Alissa Blackman, MFT (email@example.com)
- Sarah Bennett, LCSW Intern (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Albert Felipe, Back On Track Graduate Services Coordinator and Employment Specialist (email@example.com)
- Will Roy, Beat Within Youth Supervisor (firstname.lastname@example.org)