Celebrating 40 Years!
This year marks the 40th year that the Washington County Youth Service Bureau/Boys & Girls Club has been operating in Vermont as a non-profit serving youth and families. It’s a significant landmark, but to understand how significant, it’s important to see how this puts us at the epicenter of the national youth care movement.
This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). This landmark piece of legislation has provided funding that has supported thousands of runaway and homeless youth every year throughout the US. It’s provided funding for our Country Roads Program, our Transitional Living Program and our Street Outreach Programs. RHYA was also the fuel for The Vermont Coalition of Runaway & Homeless Youth Programs, our first statewide program. The Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP), established by the Bureau in 1981, began as an effort to unite runaway and homeless youth programs in VT under the notion that applying together for Federal RHYA funding would yield better results than individual efforts. Since then, VCRHYP has grown considerably and our success with managing statewide efforts to support youth care work has led to a significant expansion in that branch of our mission. We currently also oversee efforts to place AmeriCorps and VISTA members in locations that serve VT youth and families and we oversee the statewide program that helps transition youth from the foster care system to adult living in community.
Also celebrating a 40th Anniversary this year is the JJDPA (Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act). The JJDPA was a focal point for ideas about how to work with young offenders; these ideas, in turn, are central to the philosophies and approach that govern Return House, our residential program assisting youth in their efforts to exit adult incarceration. Our connections don’t stop there by any means, however, as the JJDPA paved the way for funding that has supported many initiatives at our Teen Centers through grants funded by the Children’s Trust Foundation, provides the bulk of our annual grant revenue through the Boys & Girls Club OJJDP mentoring grants, and provides the major underwriting for the Working with Youth Conference, our annual statewide conference that brings together hundreds of youth care workers each year to learn best practice approaches from experts in the field, as well as to support one another.
As the WCYSB was forming, so too were two of the most significant pieces of Federal Legislation that would define youth care. Significantly it was the work of this agency, and agencies like ours that began around the same time as we did, that provided the vision for these two Federal initiatives, both of which would never have come into being without the passionate work of youth care advocates around the country. Many WCYSB employees have continued playing the advocacy role over the years, keeping the vision of Federal and State level programming supporting young people alive.
It’s no accident that we’re celebrating our 40th this year. In a way so too is youth care work. It’s humbling to be part of an organization that has been there from the very beginning.