The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says youth guided care means that young people have the right to be empowered, educated, and given a decision making role in their own care and in the establishment of policies and procedures governing care for all youth in their community, state, tribe, and nation. Since 2005 a national youth movement has been growing and youth guided care has become further defined in to three developmental levels:

                  1. Youth Guided: this type of care allows young people to be involved in the development of their service plans and gives them a voice when deciding on activities.
                  2. Youth Directed: this occurs when youth have enough knowledge about the system that they can actively assist in service delivery decisions or participate as voting members/decision makers on community steering committees or boards
                  3. Youth Driven: at this level young people participate in setting their own goals, identify their own outcomes, and may be involved in policy and program implementation within a System of Care.

Reference: Stroul, B.A. & Blau, G.M. (2008). The System of Care Handbook: Transforming Mental Health Services for Children, Youth, and Families. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

In 2007 a committee of youth and young adults formed to advise System of Care grantees on youth engagement developed in to Youth Motivating Others through Experience or Youth MOVE. Youth MOVE is a youth-driven, chapter-based national organization dedicated to uniting the voices of youth nationwide. To learn more about this organization click here

Virginia has a state chapter of Youth MOVE. To learn about this organization click here

In the spring of 2017, Youth MOVE Virginia, through the support the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, held its First Annual Young Adult Retreat. In an effort to build and grow a united youth voice in Virginia, this retreat focused on bringing together young adults from across the state who are actively involved in the peer support and mental health fields. This guide is the result of the discussions had at this retreat.

Youth Engagement Guide

Values that have developed out of the youth movement are listed below. These must be followed by all system partners to ensure the highest level of participation from youth in their care as well as the larger System of Care community.

  • Youth involvement is offered as proof that individuals with mental illness can function and be contributing members of society.
  • Youth have rights.
  • Youth are utilized as resources and part of the solutions in the development of themselves, their communities, and youth-serving systems.
  • Youth have an equal voice and are engaged in developing and sustaining the policies and systems that serve and support them.
  • Youth are active partners in creating their individual treatment and support plans.
  • Youth have access to information that is pertinent to their treatment and lives.
  • Youth are valued as experts in creating system transformation and in their own lives and needs based on their personal experiences.
  • Youth’s strengths and interests are focused on and utilized.
  • Adults share power with youth.
  • Adults and youth respect and value youth culture and all forms of diversity.
  • Youth are supported in a way that is developmentally targeted to their individual needs.

Reference: Matarese, M., McGinnis, L., & Mora. M. (2005) Youth Involvement in Systems of Care: A Guide to Empowerment

Youth-Guided is a value of Systems of Care work. Below please find a link to a document overviewing youth-adult partnerships in Systems of Care.

Youth and Adult Partnerships in SOC

Promoting Youth Engagement in treatment correlates with positive outcomes. Information on best practices for youth engagement can be found below.

Youth Engagement in Residential Settings

Promoting Youth Engagement

The National TA Network provides a useful list of resources on Youth Engagement and Youth Peer Support.

Youth Engagement National Resources

Youth Leaders and Youth MOVE Virginia board members participated in the making of a film titled “Say It Loud”. The film is a tool for facilitating conversations about mental health among youth and young adults. Check it out here:

Youth Guided Care means youth are empowered, educated and given a decision-making role in their own care. Youth Guided Care occurs at the service delivery and policy- making level. Youth Guided Care promotes resilience, grows leadership skills and ensures that the child-serving system effectively meets the needs of those it serves.

Youth and young adults approach mental health in a unique way- it’s important to understand and embrace that.

Youth Leader, Virginia