Introduction to Youth/Adult Partnerships

Freechild Institute Adult Ally Toolkit

The Freechild Institute works with nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations to support equitable youth/adult partnerships to improve communities, learning and empowerment for everyone.

At the middle of every part of society are relationships: Parents and children, teachers and students, businesses and consumers, politicians and voters, doctors and patients, and many other relationships. If people are honest about wanting young people to change the world, they need to admit that many of these relationships do not currently allow children and youth to make a difference. The framework provided by youth/adult partnerships does. These are intentional relationships that can happen anywhere, anytime and move young people from being the passive recipients of an adult-driven world towards being active partners everywhere, all the time.

The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown… The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.

— Margaret Mead, anthropologist

Ways Youth can Change the World through Youth/Adult Partnerships

Youth as Allies — Young people can develop compassion and understanding towards adults and offer themselves as resources in order to foster positive relationships. Youth being adults to allies can teach about adultism, practice nonviolent communication, and become actively engaged throughout their own lives.

Parenting Partners — In historical family models, parents and children assumed a binary relationship where each person was seen as an opposite. Youth as parenting partners are actively engaged in their own upbringing by being actively involved in decision-making and taking responsibility in proportion to the rights they experience. Parents who are parenting partners actively seek to engage children and youth in the family and throughout the home, and actively advocate for young people throughout the community, too.

Youth-Led Programming — Youth/adult partnerships can flourish in youth-led programming. Equitable training, planning, facilitation, reflection and critical thinking can position youth as substantial agents of change while allowing adults to have appropriate roles as mentors, co-planners and staff.

Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet at
Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet!

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth/Adult Partnerships

Critical Thinking — Critical thinking is being able to name a thing; seeing where it exists; doing something with it; taking it apart; summarizing it; and/or assessing the thing. When young people deliberately develop their abilities to doing these things, they can change the world through their beliefs and actions that happen as an outcome. Critical thinking can be fostered and grown into a powerful skill that youth/adult partnerships can embody, foster and embolden in healthy and appropriate ways.

Opportunities — Creating clear, practical opportunities for youth/adult partnerships can happen in schools, youth programs, nonprofit organizations, government agencies any other place that can benefit from meaningful youth involvement. Understanding youth/adult partnerships as a framework can empower adults and youth throughout society.

Education — The skills of trust, communication, respect, mutual investment, and meaningful involvement are at the center of youth/adult partnerships; intentionality, transparency and reciprocity drive these relationships. Learn all of this provides an opportunity and challenge for many young people and adults who are used to traditionally passive or adversarial interactions with each other.

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth/adult partnerships in your community or organization, contact us.

The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!
The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

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