In this latest article in Youth & Policy, Sarah Hogue calls for frontline youth workers to have more of a role in youth policymaking as we emerge and move on from the current pandemic. She outlines how youth workers are engaged in informal bottom-up policymaking in the United States yet their voices are excluded from formal policymaking processes. Outlining how the current global pandemic highlights both the importance of youth work and the disparate approach to youth policymaking, Hogue argues it is time for change. Her argument has resonance beyond the United States.
Sarah opens her argument strikingly.
The lack of cohesive youth policy in the United States and beyond has never been more evident than during this COVID-19 pandemic. The memes and GIFs of parents losing their minds while spending every minute of every hour of every day with their children are ubiquitous. While we may ‘get a giggle’ out of what children are willing to do for attention during a Zoom meeting, taken as a whole, social media has revealed that we do not have a comprehensive policy for youth outside of the context of formal education. As soon as schools closed, families were left to scramble to figure out for themselves what to do for and with their young people while parents work, whether inside or outside the home.
She concludes in calling for a reframing of how we make youth policy:
Youth policy is constituted from the bottom-up, but often developed from the top-down, excluding the voices of frontline youth workers from formal decision-making processes and silencing their input on what the work looks like at the programmatic level. In the context of social distancing and contemplating a return to in-person service provision, we are left with many questions about how to best to ensure that our young people remain positively and socially engaged regardless of where we are. As we re-group in the United States and internationally, and take a deeper look at how we organize the services we provide to children and young people, I urge policymakers and analysts to grow policy from the ground up. Include frontline youth workers in the conversation at the program, organization, local, state, and national levels as you address cogent questions that inform holistic youth policy not overly dependent on the education system.