Recognizing that home is where our stories begin, Our Town Our Kids (OTOK) works with local Kansas communities to reduce the number of their youth at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The OTOK team approach combines diverse sets of expertise within K-State and Fort Hays State University with the rich cultural and practice-based experience of local stakeholders. Together, groups identify system-related hurdles that may negatively affect youth.
Study circles, a key component in collaboration, involves developing and training local stakeholders in process and content, empowering communities to investigate, analyze, and develop healthy youth initiatives.
OTOK is committed to prioritizing youth engagement within our Study Circle process, one that develops initiatives with youth, rather than for youth.
An extensive body of scholarship and practice-based experience demonstrates that best practices are most effective and sustainable when youth are brought the table in plans that involve their lives. Not only is it the right thing to do, but involving youth as partners in making decisions that affect them increases the likelihood that the decisions will be accepted, adopted, and become part of their everyday lives. In addition, empowering youth to identify and respond to community needs helps them become empathetic, reflective individuals, setting them on a course to good citizenship for the future.
More than 20 major agencies embrace the concept of youth engagement in matters that affect their life chances. OTOK is dedicated to a restorative process that helps to break down walls between out-dated measures that separate families of justice system-involved youth and the agencies that are meant to govern them. Below are two examples from organizations that help to guide that process.
Also see ONE CARING ADULT.