(Wampsville, NY – June, 2012) The Madison County Youth Bureau, a county agency, aims to promote and encourage the development of a comprehensive system of youth development and prevention services to meet the needs of young people from birth through age 20.
Planning and coordinating services to meet the needs of children and youth in Madison County is a major function of the Youth Bureau. The Youth Bureau assesses the needs of young people through a variety of measurement instruments to identify problems, then develops strategies to meet those needs.
Every four years, the Youth Bureau administers the Teen Assessment Project (TAP) survey to seventh- through 12th-grade students in participating Madison County schools. The information obtained from the survey is a valuable addition to other countywide assessments, providing teen perspective on important issues.
“The TAP Survey provides important local information regarding the risky behaviors our youth are involved in, as well as the positive influences and supports that they have in their homes, communities and schools,” said Youth Bureau Director Joanne Eddy. “We have been able to compare student responses to TAP Survey questions over time to determine changes in behaviors and attitudes and to identify emerging trends.”
With all of this information in mind, the Youth Bureau works closely with service providers and community groups to coordinate and develop an array of services and opportunities for children and youth to address identified needs and to provide the supports all young people need to grow up to be competent, contributing citizens in the community.
The Youth Bureau administers Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention, Special Delinquency Prevention Program and Runaway and Homeless Youth Act funds from the state Office of Children & Family Services. Eddy works closely with the Madison County Youth Board, the youth and adult community advisory board to the Youth Bureau, to determine how this money will be used.
Money is allocated each year to nonprofit agencies and municipalities to provide youth services and recreation programs that promote positive youth development, delinquency prevention and address needs identified during the assessment process. Money is invested in youth counseling and mentoring; safe, supervised afterschool programs; the teaching of life skills and leadership development skills; prevention programs; free access to the performing arts and connecting runaway or homeless youth with services, as well as stabilizing their housing and reunifying them with their families where appropriate.
In addition, Youth Bureau funding also provides support to the many municipal youth recreation programs.
“I don’t think people realize how many young people are positively impacted by the services and programs that Youth Bureau funding supports,” Eddy said. “Despite recent cuts in our funding from OCFS, Youth Bureau funded programs impacted more than 5,000 young people last year. Community services, opportunities and supports are important to increase the connectedness of youth to their community. Programs are needed to address the issues that impact our youth. Safe places, caring adults and opportunities to belong are critical to the development of young people and are present in the programs we support.”
The Youth Bureau is responsible for regularly monitoring and evaluating the use of funds to ensure that quality services are being provided, program outcomes are being met and that Madison County is getting its best possible return for each dollar spent.
Recently, programs underwent a pilot of a new process called the Program Quality Assessment, a tool, developed by the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality to examine, discuss, plan and improve the quality of youth programming and to determine how programs meet the goals of positive youth development.
Programs are also participating in the Results Leadership Group’s Results Scorecard, a way to track the measurable outcomes programs are making in their communities, as well as track data with the Association of New York State Youth Bureaus to provide a combined picture of statewide improvements for children, youth and families.
The Youth Bureau works to increase youth voice by helping youth build their skills in civic engagement and by facilitating their participation in political and community activities. Youth Bureau staff work with student groups in various districts to teach leadership and personal skills to enable youth to address the concerns they have in their communities in a productive way.
Youth have initiated community service activities and offered educational presentations, as well as worked with county and school administration to improve programs like recycling.
“Youth have an amazing way of bringing attention to an issue that makes the adults around them take notice and want to help,” said Youth Development Specialist Tina Louis. “Supportive adults in communities can learn a great deal from youth by listening to them. Youth have the energy to make positive changes in their communities.”
The Youth Bureau also offers opportunities for youth to job shadow in county departments. Students gain a better perspective of the function of local government by witnessing activities first-hand and working alongside county employees.
“This was a great opportunity,” said Bobbi Jo Hannan, a Canastota senior, who recently shadowed staff in the Department of Social Services and the Youth Bureau. “I am so grateful I had this experience.”
The Youth Bureau advocates for the adoption of legislation, policies and funding that foster the healthy growth and development of young people. In these tough economic times, the Youth Bureau continues to stress the importance of maintaining funding for programs that meet youths’ needs.
The Youth Bureau provides assistance in planning for meaningful youth engagement in the work or volunteer environment.
“The worst thing that can happen is to bring a young person into a new environment with no plan of how that youth will interact within the function of the system,” said Louis. “A conscientious effort should be made prior to their involvement to determine how the youth can benefit from their experience from beginning to end, from orientation to evaluation, not just to say that a youth is at the table.”
For more information, contact (315) 366-2574 or visit madisoncounty.ny.gov/youth_bureau.php.