Critical Questions for Adult Allies

When adults are called allies by youth, they have to consciously work to maintain that status. This isn’t a title that parents, youth workers, teachers, counselors or others can just start calling themselves—it must be given and maintained.

Following are some critical questions Freechild has identified for adult allies. These are based on our 20+ years of experience training adults and supporting youth who are determined to transform society through youth/adult partnerships and more.

Critical Questions for Adult Allies

  1. Did youth name adults to be allies, or did adults assume the title?
  2. Have adults reflected on being a youth? Youth voice? Youth involvement? Youth engagement? Youth power? Youth rights?
  3. Are young people recruited for youth involvement opportunities because they are already very involved, or because they aren’t involved otherwise?
  4. Are adults aware of the objectives of youth for being involved?
  5. Do adults feel fully informed about the issues, policies, programs, services, and/or activities that affect youth?
  6. Were adults involved in determining the need for youth involvement?
  7. Are adults transparent, honest, and authentic with youth?
  8. Do adults feel fully informed about meaningful youth involvement, youth voice, and the roles of youth in the organization or community?
  9. How many adults are involved in ensuring youth involvement in the organization or community? 
  10. Are youth forced or manipulated by adults to be involved?
  11. How often do adults advocate on behalf of youth partners to other adults in the system to persuade them to listen to youth by listening to them, returning emails or phone calls, etc.
  12. Do adults promote youth involvement in a way that…
    • Is fun or pleasant?
    • Promotes positive recognition for youth?
    • Does not marginalize youth to a limited role or set of issues?
    • Allows youth to make mistakes?
    • Demonstrates trust in youth?
    • Provides time to listen to youth as part of this opportunity?
  1. Do adults provide emotional support for youth involvement by:
    • Paying attention to youth feelings?
    • Caring about their personal issues?
    • Helping them with their problems?
    • Discussing sensitive topics?
  1. Are adults allies to youth by:
    • Offering suggestions at meetings?
    • Providing youth with a range of options to stimulate their ideas?
    • Helping youth organize their activities?
    • Helping youth facilitate at meetings?
    • Providing timely information?
    • Presenting information in real, concrete terms?
  1. Do adults teach youth about:
    • Preparing agendas and taking minutes?
    • Creating teams?
    • Depersonalizing conflict?
    • Understanding community improvement?
    • Learning from the process as well as outcomes?
  1. Do adults help youth understand:
    • The politics and personalities involved?
    • The bureaucratic structures and policy constraints?
    • The reasons why youth (and other groups) have been excluded from decisions?
    • Any underlying reasons for personal conflict at meetings?

These are the key critical questions we’ve identified. What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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