Home News Center NJJN Fellow Tiffany Williams: New Networks Will Assist the Directly-Affected to Advocate for Youth Justice

NJJN Fellow Tiffany Williams: New Networks Will Assist the Directly-Affected to Advocate for Youth Justice

October 31, 2016
Benjamin Chambers


Recently, we spoke with Tiffany V. Williams, who currently manages programs for the New York City's Division of Youth and Family Justice which provide court-involved youth with the services needed to sustain positive change in their lives. She is a 2016-2017 fellow in NJJN's
Youth Justice Leadership Institute (YJLI), a year-long program that aims to create a more effective foundation for the juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well-prepared advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies. Tiffany's expertise is in program design, implementation and evaluation, particularly for a juvenile justice population. A conscientious leader, she is skilled in volunteer management and innovative staff development. Ms. Williams' commitment to public service is evident in her board positions and the community events she hosts. Tiffany was a Colin Powell Public Service Fellow at City College and is a graduate of the Springfield College School of Human Services.


What can you tell us about your advocacy project?

It’s evolving. The concept was to create an advocacy network made up of community organizations here in Queens that serve youth in the juvenile justice system, and to help those directly affected by the system become effective advocates.

I did something like this when I worked as a service provider. We started a small group, bringing service providers together who were serving the same population of young people. The idea was to strengthen the referral process and improve our collective advocacy. We focused on the police precincts and attending police advisory council meetings – we wanted those precincts to know us and our work, and to work with them to divert kids from arrest or mediate arrests. It worked well. Because it was structured a certain way and we kept people engaged between meetings, attendance didn’t go down from meeting to meeting.

I wanted to take that concept and apply it on a bigger scale. The initial concept was to do it for all five of New York City’s boroughs, but that’s a bit too much, so I’m just focusing on one area, on Queens. Also, when I started, the project was more about my experience with that small advocacy network I was part of, and trying to replicate the idea in other places. It was actually Diana [Onley-Campbell, coordinator of the Institute], who suggested that I create a resource that can live beyond my role and experience, so now I’m trying to develop a model and tools for others on how to create and maintain an advocacy network that works on behalf of kids in the justice system.

I really want a voice for those who are credible messengers to lead these networks. A lot of the agencies have the infrastructure for professional development, and then we have smaller agencies that are credible messengers for people in the life – in gangs or the justice system as a juvenile or as an adult – and we want their voices and their dialogue to be prevalent at these meetings. So I want to give them a toolkit for leading an advocacy group. As I see it now, it will have things like guides and prompts for meetings; a resource guide; how to build self-care into the work and even the meetings; and some pieces that will encourage thinking about how this kind of work affects the people doing it and how to be more effective. In fact, the meeting and resource guide will be geared to that – not just how to get things done at a meeting, but making sure that a check-in is part of it. That way, kudos and acknowledgement are part of the meeting -- so you’re not just moving through the agenda, but making sure that acknowledgement is part of the experience. Also, since work in the juvenile justice space traditionally shifts to serving boys, the population that providers see most, this toolkit will include a very intentional look at girls, and at youth who are gender-non-conforming – and all of this will live online.

Once the guide is done, I expect to be doing trainings for facilitators on how to use the guide or inviting people to be part of meetings that include all the experiences that it suggests. 

Learn more about our YJLI Fellows here

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