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  • Michigan Center for Youth Justice

Advocating for Change: The Role of Core Values in Juvenile Justice Outreach and Advocacy

By: Denita Dorsey, Outreach and Advocacy Manager


As I navigate this role as Outreach and Advocacy Manager, I reflect on the significance of this opportunity and its responsibility. Working in the realm of juvenile justice is not merely about implementing policies; it's about upholding core values that prioritize the well-being and rights of our youth and their families.


First and foremost, let’s address the term “core values.” Core values to MCYJ are the fundamental beliefs and principles that guide an organization's actions and decisions. In the context of juvenile justice advocacy, core values serve as the compass that directs our efforts toward meaningful and impactful change. These values are not just abstract concepts. They are the cornerstone of our mission to create a fair and equitable system for young people. MCYJ has existing core values to guide our work as an organization. However, we felt it necessary to create a separate set of core values specific to our youth and family engagement work. 


One of the primary reasons why having core values is crucial in juvenile justice work is because it grounds us in our purpose. When faced with complex challenges and competing interests, our core values provide us with clarity and direction. For instance, if one of our core values is equity, we can ensure that our advocacy efforts prioritize addressing systemic disparities and promoting inclusive policies that uplift marginalized communities.


As for me, the MCYJ team's core values will be the foundation for building trust and credibility within the communities we serve. In juvenile justice, where trust is paramount, aligning our actions with our values will foster authentic relationships with youth and families. When they see that we are committed to respect and transparency, they are likelier to engage with us and actively participate in the advocacy process.


I look forward to new youth and family engagement opportunities and MCYJ sharing our formalized list of youth and family engagement values and principles with you in the coming weeks. These values will inform our approach to communication, collaboration, and empowerment. By using core values to center our purpose, we will create a supportive environment where young people feel heard, valued, and empowered to be agents of change in their own lives and communities.

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