The mission of the City of Kirkland Youth Services is to build a community in which families, neighbors, schools, and organizations all work together to enable young people to become competent, contributing, and responsible members of the community with a feeling of hope for the future.
CITY ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITY
The philosophy of the Youth Services section has been to broker existing services whenever possible, encourage and facilitate the creation of new community-based services, and only when no alternative source is deemed effective, to offer direct City funding or service.
The role of City government Youth Services in the past five years has primarily been that of catalyst, facilitator, and advocate for community-based services for teens. In addition, we have provided direct funding for: Teen Activity Grants, the Kirkland Youth Council, and for the lease/construction/administration of the Kirkland Teen Center (PDF). The City has also provided direct service/staffing to teens through the Kirkland Police School Resource Officers. Additionally, Youth Services staff have written or helped to write hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grant funding that benefits Kirkland teens and their families.
In the next three years, the primary role of the Youth Services is expected to remain as catalyst and facilitator of community services for youth. However, some services do not currently, nor are likely to, exist in the community without some direct support, either through funding or direct staffing. Examples of possible future direct services are: Youth Peer Court, or Jr. Park Rangers (young teens Parks employment program).
In 1994, the City sponsored the Kirkland Community Youth Task Force. The City teamed with the Lake Washington School District to develop a process that would involve diverse and widespread community participation in addressing issues affecting youth. Represented were: youth, social service agencies, parents, neighborhood activists, school principals, churches, business organizations, and government officials. The Task Force considered five major areas of concern: education and employment, human services, public safety, recreation and culture, and youth involvement. The Task Force held the first Kirkland Youth Summit as part of this needs assessment process.
The Youth Task Force process resulted in the identification of four community needs:
- Kirkland needed to strengthen connections between youth and their community.
- Kirkland needed to improve access to information about services and opportunities for youth and families.
- Kirkland needed to increase leisure opportunities for youth.
- Kirkland needed to expand youth violence and drug/alcohol/tobacco intervention and prevention services and strategies.
Three specific recommendations were made to address these needs:
- to hire a Youth Services Coordinator
- to form a Youth Council and
- to establish a Teen Center
As a result of the Youth Task Force, a full-time Community Youth and Family Services Supervisor was hired in the spring of 1995 and the Kirkland Youth Council formed within a month. A part-time Youth Services Coordinator was hired in 1996 and became full-time in 1999.
In the five years since the Kirkland Youth Task Force, nearly all of the twenty-five additional recommendations listed in the task force document have been fully implemented. For example, over $825,000 in grant funding has been obtained for projects that serve Kirkland youth and their families; a successful all-city Youth Summit has been held every two years, the SHOUT newsletter was delivered to every secondary student in Kirkland, and the RESPECT and WHERE TO CARE guides have been published and distributed. A temporary teen center was established in the summer of 1999, with a permanent facility opening in June of 2001.
The City of Kirkland is recognized as a regional leader in the areas of Youth Services. Solid partnership relationships have been established with the Kirkland Police and the Lake Washington School District and with every youth-serving social, recreational, and health service agency on the Eastside. Youth in Kirkland have seen repeated demonstration from local government that their voice is heard and valued. As of spring 2001, youth have been appointed to the City Boards and Commissions, serving as full voting members. Positive youth issues have risen to the forefront of community awareness and media coverage. Youth and their families have unprecedented access to information and services.
Since its inception in 1994, the Kirkland Youth Services program has been recognized by being awarded: the 1997 Mid-East King County Health and Safety Network Award for outstanding service to youth and families, the 1996 Washington Recreation and Parks Association Youth Services Professional of the Year, the 1998 Lake Washington School District PTSA award for outstanding community service for education and children, a 1999 letter from Governor Locke recognizing program accomplishments, the 1999 Washington Recreation and Parks award for Outstanding Youth Program, and most recently, the 1999, 2001, and 2002 Municipal Achievement Award from the Association of Washington Cities.
A framework of relationships, community awareness, and youth involvement has now been made upon which further work can be built. A new, mature and comprehensive strategy can now be planned and implemented that will lead the City’s delivery of services for youth in the new millennium.