Want to maximize your impact? Partner with the Campaign for Youth Justice.
By Kara Aanenson
For the past five years the Just Kids Campaign partnered with Campaign for Youth Justice to end the automatic prosecution of youth as adult in the state of Maryland. During those 5 years we:
- Stopped the construction of a youth jail in Baltimore,
- Passed five pieces of legislation,
- Built our statewide membership to over 5,000 members, and
- Created a statewide coalition.
None of this would have been possible without technical assistance from the Campaign. They were with us every step of the way from organizing to legislative sessions. We adopted their theory of change, including working with youth who were charged as adults and their families. Working together with youth and their families multiplied our output and provided credibility to our work.
The Campaign helped us organize by hosting strategy sessions where we hashed out our action plans. They provided insight on what worked in other states and helped us brainstorm how to implement those strategies in Maryland. They created Youth Justice Awareness Month, uniting all states working on adultification of youth, and increased our fundraising efforts. The Campaign provided spokesperson training to enhance our messaging.
During Maryland’s 90 day legislative sessions we checked in weekly and they provided a sounding board for legislative strategy. If amendments were added to a bill they would help us review them to determine our next steps. If we needed help finding a national expert to be a member of our taskforce or testify at a bill hearing, they would reach out to all their contacts to help make sure we got someone there.
The Campaign can maximize state impacts because they practice what they preach. They have run their own campaigns in D.C. and have assisted so many other states. They understand when you are frustrated because your coalition is fracturing, they know what it’s like to have a bill fail in committee, and they know what it feels like to get a victory. This work is rewarding, but it is also exhausting. Some days you feel like you are on top of the world and others days it feels like you are pushing a huge boulder up a hill in the rain, and on those days the Campaign is there standing beside you and helping you push. That is what makes them the best partner.
This post is part of the CFYJ #IMPACT Blog Series, a project celebrating CFYJ's 10 years of commitment to juvenile justice reform.