Our Approach

Building Self Advocacy and Agency

Self-advocacy training allows youth to master the basic skills of communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, and goal setting-action planning and use them to advance their own rights and opportunities to navigate the complex and difficult systems of child welfare, education, and health care. Including 50 hours of skills building and issue exploration, self-advocacy allows youth to master the basic skills of communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, and goal setting-action planning and use them to build power, solve problems, expand support networks, and advance their own rights and opportunities. Most of our youth experience significant personal growth and overcome many obstacles. Most have improved and expanded their permanent relationships, worked through health challenges, saved money, became strong self-advocates, advanced grades and onto college, and are managing to hold down jobs and housing.


    Create Paid Opportunities for Youth

    Work readiness is a core element of YWP youth development programming. The young we work with desperately need money and they need to prepare for the formal workforce. Annually, YWP employs 300 youth – 30 on the FCC side and 30 as PHASE advocates and trainers working 6-8 hours a week, and 250 youth educators working 4 hours a week.  Succeeding in the work place is essential to the survival of our youth who must contribute financially to their families, support their own secondary education, and in many cases live independently at 21. Employing youth allows us to build work readiness, which requires a foundation of social and emotional skills, the cultivation of attitudes and values that allow for the separation of public and private, setting and achieving goals, working on teams, and being productive, and practice! YWP youth staff work on teams and with a manger, apply their skills, develop professional behavior, put together a portfolio of work products, earn a pay check – and most importantly make mistakes and learn from them. 


      Working with Peers and Adults

      Once our youth have mastered their self-advocacy skills as individuals, they work as a team to develop and implement issue campaigns that allow them to improve the lives of their peers (through education, training, and mobilization) and work with policy makers to develop and implement system-level solutions. As a team, youth staff conduct needs assessments, choose campaign issues and strategies, set objectives, conduct research, recruit members, educate policy makers, and work with leaders to advance a bold advocacy agenda based on the real-life issues. During this stage, youth receive Advanced Leadership Training including four 15-20 hour modules with each teen staff specializing in one or two: 1) Training of trainers; 2) Policy and advocacy; 3) Organizing and membership building; and 4) Communications and Social Media.


        Changing Institutions

        The leadership and education of youth as self-advocates and informed citizens is a starting point – but it’s not enough. We need laws and policies that are more responsive to the conditions of youth lives. We need them effectively implemented. And we need informed, empowered youth participating in the decision making that impacts their lives. YWP responds to these needs through two campaigns – one focused on improving the lives of youth in foster care, one on expanding reproductive health rights and services for youth. Both focus on building the leadership and agency of DC youth (mostly young women), giving them the support and tools that they need to change their own lives, preparing them for meaningful participation in the policy process so that they can work with decision makers to develop strong programs and policies.