Why This Matters
Promoting youth development has always been a priority at WCA. Research has clearly demonstrated the connection between young children’s healthy emotional development and their lifelong cognitive and social functioning. The Centers for Disease Control states “Positive youth development programs strengthen young people’s sense of identity, belief in the future, self-regulation, and self-efficacy as well as their social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral competence.” WCA takes a multi-faceted approach in
PROMOTING MENTAL HEALTH
Research has clearly demonstrated the connection between young children’s healthy emotional development and their lifelong cognitive and social functioning. The COVID-19 pandemic has made all too clear that even though there is an urgent need for mental health support, there is still a high degree of unmet need among children and families.
WCA has long championed mental health. In 2005, we spotlighted the lack of resources for young children in our report No Time to Lose: Rethinking Mental Health Services for Westchester’s Children. A year later, we successfully advocated for the creation of Early Step Forward, a non-traditional behavioral health program in which mental health specialists work directly with low-income children, families and staff in day care and Head Start programs.
WCA has continued to advocate for mental health services in the county. We’ve hosted several private and public community discussions, including our 2021 & 2023 Round Tables and our 2022 Advocacy Breakfast, to promote sustained attention and discussion on how to address children and youth’s mental health in the present, and how to assure reliable resources for the future.
ENCOURAGING YOUTH INVOLVEMENT
As of January 1, 2020, New York residents as young as 16 years old and up can pre-register to vote in local and national elections. This is an opportunity for greater civic engagement for young people at a time when they have more stability and support.
Project Engage is our new initiative that empowers young people of Westchester to be informed and be heard in your communities at any time, especially before elections.
Click here to see our toolkits to help you pre-register, learn about voter engagement, and more.
STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
WCA, through its initiative Campaign for Kids, advocates for high quality and adequately funded out-of-school youth programs and a fair, transparent funding process because:
- How young people spend their time after school and during the summer has a big impact on their academic, social, and emotional wellness. 
- Well-designed and high-quality youth development programs provide young people with opportunities to deepen academic skills, explore interests, and grow positive relationships with peers and adults, all while giving working parents peace of mind. 
- Many Westchester children, from kindergarten through high school, lack access to such programs and may spend their after-school and summer hours with little supervision or without engaging in activities.
In 1994, Campaign for Kids, a coalition of youth service providers led by WCA, successfully advocated for the County to directly fund community-based youth development programs. Westchester County provides this support through its Invest in Kids Fund based on an application process. In recent years, this process has been plagued by a lack of transparency, apparent bias, and massive delays. Since 2015, WCA has been leading a public/private process to reform the way Westchester County awards grants to community youth programs.
Unfortunately, after more than 2 ½ years, the latest round of funding in December 2017 was a little better than the previous round: funding decisions were made behind closed doors, were not based on quality, and resulted in long-time quality programs losing funding.
- Leading the Campaign for Kids to fight for fair, transparent, and accountable funding.
- Advocating for regular evaluation of funded programs.
- Leading efforts to bring best practices to youth development programs.
- Seeking funding to analyze the landscape of youth programs in Westchester.
How to Get Involved:
- Join the Campaign for Kids Coalition to advocate for youth resources at the County and State.
- Sign up for alerts from WCA
- Follow us on social media
- Support our work