DHS News October 2012
Systems Improvement Through Youth
Since 2009, SITY (Systems Improvement Through Youth) has been providing a safe, fun and collaborative environment for youth to advocate for their peers and to provide input that will improve DHS child-serving systems. As an advisory group to the Department of Human Services, the team weighs in on relevant matters related to DHS operations and service delivery to youth and families in Allegheny County. They have advised partner agencies, convened focus groups and assisted with several community projects aimed at public awareness. The group consists of up to 14 members, ages 16 through 25, who are currently or were formerly involved with child welfare, mental health, intellectual disabilities, juvenile justice, or drug and alcohol services.
“Everyone in the group is different, and that’s what makes SITY special,” said Duane Berry, youth support coordinator in the Executive Office. “The diversity of our members and their ideas have allowed us to participate in a variety of community activities, get our voice heard and positively impact the services of young people.”
In this year alone, SITY members have conducted outreach at the Downtown Outreach Center and Shelter (DOCS), the Age Up Not Out (AUNO) program, and CALL for Hope – a suicide prevention event. They have presented at the new hire orientation for KidsVoice, a child advocacy organization, and participated in the Allegheny Family Network’s youth focus group. SITY has also become a chapter of Youth MOVE National, a youth-led national organization devoted to improving services and systems that support positive growth and development by uniting the voices of individuals who have lived experience in various systems.
“Through SITY, I realized I can change things around,” said Joann, SITY member for more than two years. “People get scared of authority and are more likely to open up to someone their age. We can help them stay on the right path. “
SITY’s work is not all serious: at least one of the group’s two monthly meetings is focused on a fun team building activity that encourages friendships and bonding. Social activities have included dinners, movie nights and a conference at Seven Springs that included youth advocacy training as well as team-building opportunities.
“One of SITY’s main goals is to unlock the potential in these youth,” Duane said. “I’ve seen so many changes in our members: formerly shy members are now advocating for themselves and youth who were a bit unsure of their futures now have a path in mind. Most importantly, these youth are making connections and friendships that can help them throughout their lives.”
As SITY is seeking to expand membership, staff and providers are encouraged to think of people who may be a good fit for the program. In addition to community outreach and team building, SITY members also receive transportation to and from the meetings and meals.
More information is available by contacting Duane at 412.350.7162 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting the SITY webpage.
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