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  • Tiffany Beason, PhD

Trauma-Informed and CARE Practices for Youth Engagement

Tiffany Beason, PhD

NCS3 Cultural Responsiveness, Anti-Racism, and Equity Lead

Did you know that increasing youth leadership can help promote equity in schools? Equity in schools is all about ensuring that every student has what they need to achieve academically and to experience positive mental health and well-being. Youth are experts on their strengths and needs. Creating opportunities for youth to inform academic, social and emotional learning, and school mental health-related policies, practices, and supports help us better understand and meet student needs.

There are several existing resources that describe best practices for engaging youth as leaders in schools, including: the School Based Health Alliance’s Youth Engagement Toolkit; Youth MOVE’s youth advocacy resources; and the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning’s guidance for supporting student members of a school social and emotional learning team, to name a few. These resources emphasize that youth leadership can promote equity when:

• Youth co-create the rules and expectations for their engagement

• Diverse youth voices are represented, heard, and valued

• Youth are meaningfully involved in shared decision-making processes

• Youth feedback informs continuous quality improvement efforts

• And, youth are appropriately compensated for their contributions

SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma Informed Approach describes trauma-informed principles that are important for schools to uphold in their process of fostering safe and supportive school as well as engaging youth as leaders. Youth engagement from a trauma-informed approach, looks like:

• Fostering emotional and physical safety for all

• Establishing and maintaining trust and transparency in interactions between youth and

their peers and adults

• Fostering opportunities for youth to contribute to and receive peer support and


• Adults working collaboratively with youth, ensuring mutuality in relationships

• Striving for youth empowerment, amplifying youth voices and offering up various

choices for youth engagement

• And, carefully considering important cultural, historical and identity concerns, needs

and adaptations in the process of engaging youth and leaders

In the process of fostering safe and support schools for all students, it is helpful for schools and districts to consider how they will partner with youth as co-leaders in informing academic, social and emotional learning, and school mental health policies, practices, and supports using these best practices for youth engagement.


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