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Empowering Underserved Youth in Yolo County

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The health, safety and well-being of children has always been important to Empower Yolo, and with the inclusion of a new youth program, we can expand our reach to serve vulnerable young people in our community.

The Youth Empowerment Program is a new program at Empower Yolo, which provides advocacy and support services to unserved/underserved child and youth victims of crime, specifically supporting victims of rural crime and young people in foster care.

“This program serves to help children meet their physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs after victimization,” says Celina Alveraz, associate director of Empower Yolo. “Meeting the needs of child and young victims is much more difficult when their access to services is complicated by factors such as age, race, ethnicity, geographic isolation, language barriers, cultural intolerance, disability, lack of knowledge of the criminal justice system and their rights and/or lack of appropriate social support. To that end, the Youth Empowerment Program was created to reduce barriers to agency so children can receive supports to grow, empower themselves, and heal from abuse,” says Alveraz. .

The youth empowerment program has many positive goals. It will provide ongoing investment to strengthen community relationships, promote social norms that protect against adversity, connect youth with caring adults and activities, and increase social-emotional learning.

The program has also expanded victim services to rural communities such as Knights Landing, Winters and Esparto. The aim of the program is to identify affected young people, build trusting relationships and provide systems navigation, advocacy and support to unserved/underserved child victims of abuse.

Empower Yolo funded a full-time youth advocate who is dedicated to providing services to youth in rural communities to reduce the barriers that many rural survivors face. “The goals of the youth empowerment program are to increase access to advocacy, therapy and support services for unserved/underserved victims of crime/abuse with a goal to serve at least 60 foster and rural youth in Yolo County, says Ariel Graham, Empower Yolo Youth Advocate.

“I am very excited about this program and to be in this role to help give options, resources and hope to the children we work with; to be part of this program and partner with other agencies to help empower children is amazing. Now these children no longer have to look back or upside down for help, they can look straight ahead and know they have support and see there is a light at the end of the day. tunnel for them,” says Graham.

These unserved young people have special needs that may be different from other children in our community,”Rural youth lack downtown access to resources and transportation to reach support organizations to achieve their goals. While language barriers play a role, our young adoptees lack knowledge about their criminal justice, personal and/or educational rights and must navigate their transition to adulthood while healing from past trauma,” Graham said. .

Empower Yolo provides services to help meet the needs of young people in this program. Specific services include crisis intervention, peer counselling, advocacy, counseling and individual therapy. “Empower Yolo helps young people meet their needs by offering advocacy alongside resources and referrals to support agencies; holding weekly life skills groups, maintaining confidentiality to build trust and communication, case management to change the disconnect between families and community resources,” says Graham.

In addition to offering one-on-one advocacy, this summer Graham facilitated life skills groups for rural youth as part of the Empower Yolo Knights Landing after-school summer program. Some topics included learning about nutrition, loving and healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, creating vision boards to visualize new futures, and expression through art and painting.

Through the youth empowerment program, community partnerships are strengthened. The program partners with Yolo CASA to fund an attorney supervisor who will support young adoptees in Yolo County. The partnership has strengthened Empower Yolo’s relationship with Yolo CASA. Yolo CASA’s mission is to advocate for abused and neglected children in the care system by ensuring their voices are heard and their needs are met through our CASA volunteers. Yolo CASA and Empower Yolo both strive to be survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally sensitive, which has been a natural partnership in serving unserved/underserved victims of crime/abuse.

“When we were approached by Empower Yolo to collaborate on this grant, serving children and youth victims of crime, we jumped at the chance,” said Tracy L. Fauver, Executive Director of Yolo County CASA. . “Empower Yolo is a partner we always enjoy working with and admire for their important work in the community. Whenever we have partnered in training efforts or through community collaborations, such as the Child Abuse Prevention Council or Resilient Yolo, we have learned and benefited from the experience.

“We share a common set of values ​​and continually work toward the same goal: to serve families and children with the utmost dignity and compassion to help them thrive. The Youth Empowerment Program allows us to partner more closely than ever to achieve this goal. »

Additionally, the youth empowerment program has increased partnerships in rural communities by partnering with RISE, Inc., law enforcement, Yolo Food Bank, the towns of Woodland, Winters and Esparto, to Office of Education school districts, Yolo County Library and many others to bridge the gap between families and support services.

Community members can support this program in a variety of ways. “The community can help the youth we serve by making programs like this more accessible, addressing local issues and challenges like housing and transportation, and increasing peer mentorship with collaborations to maintain safe and healthy relationships,” says Graham. Referrals can be made by schools, law enforcement, foster parents, social workers, counselors, family members or young people themselves and can be sent directly to Ariel Graham at [email protected].

With community support and local partnerships, we can ensure the success of this program and continue to expand our reach to serve and empower unserved youth in our community.

For more information about Empower Yolo and a full list of services, please visit us at: empoweryolo.org.

— Natalia Baltazar is Empower Yolo’s Director of Development and Community Relations.