What CYM Believes
Mission: Colorado Youth Matter actively engages Colorado communities to promote the healthy sexual development of all young people.
Vision: All young people in Colorado will be equipped with education and resources to make informed decisions about their sexual health.
Read the 2016 Annual Report.
The Youth Sexual Health Field: Youth face constantly emerging factors affecting their sexual health, including new contraceptive and digital technologies. It is important that adults are ahead of the curve in understanding these factors in order to appropriately inform and guide youth in healthy and responsible decision making.
Healthy sexual development: Healthy sexual development happens when youth receive the information and tools necessary to make informed decisions about their sexual health, have access to trusted adults willing to speak with them about sex with openness and honesty, and have access to confidential sexual health services and comprehensive sexual health education. These factors all lead to a reduction in unintended pregnancy and abortion rates, increase in contraceptive use, and a decrease in sexual and intimate partner violence.
A sexually healthy youth: A sexually healthy youth is one that can make informed decisions about their sexuality, feels confident speaking with trusted adults, has mutual respect for themselves and others’ bodies, boundaries, limitations and desires, and believes and practices that active consent is a non-negotiable aspect of all intimate partnerships.
Positive youth development: PYD emphasizes providing services and opportunities to support all young people in developing a sense of a competence, usefulness, belonging, and empowerment. Colorado Youth Matter is committed to ensuring that young people are informed and able to make meaningful decisions about their own bodies and lives.
Pleasure: Pleasure is an important part of sexual development. The absence of discussing pleasure when talking about sex, consent, and sexual health perpetuates the negative behaviors that lead to abuse, disrespect, and shame. Colorado Youth Matter believes that discussions about pleasure are inseparable from discussions about consent.
Evidence-based programs: Evidence-based programs are programs that have undergone rigorous evaluation to prove their effectiveness in specific settings. Colorado Youth Matter believes that evidence-based programming is one aspect of a robust and comprehensive plan that communities, schools, and other institutions can use to effectively promote the healthy sexual development of all young people.
Pornography: Pornography is an industry created for adults, by adults, strictly for pleasure and not educational purposes. Pornography should never be used as a replacement for effective sexual health education. The images, sexual encounters, and stories are highly dramatized for visual stimulation and do not accurately reflect real-life sexual relationships. It is also the position of CYM that adults have open conversations about the role of pornography in order to support the healthy sexual development of youth.
Digital technology: Digital technology is a rapidly changing and growing system in our society. The shifts and changes make it difficult for everyone to keep up. Digital technology is also a life changing tool that has contributed positively to our lives. Not only has it become a popular tool for communication, schools utilize digital technology for educational purposes. It is important that parents and guardians speak with their children about safe ways to use digital technology, the benefits of digital technology, and how to respect themselves and others while utilizing the various digital technology platforms.
Abortion: Colorado Youth Matter believes that all youth should have access to all forms of safe, legal, and confidential reproductive and sexual health services that will enhance their sexual health and ability to plan for their future, including abortion care services.
Family and parental involvement: It is the position of Colorado Youth Matter that family, parental and guardian involvement is integral to a young person’s successful achievement of their dreams, and that this involvement profoundly influences youth to engage in safer practices when developing sexually and attaining successful educational outcomes.
LGBT inclusive sex ed: Sex education is not “comprehensive” if it does not speak to and reflect the experiences of all young people. As such, age-appropriate sex ed, from K-12 and beyond, must include information about all relationships and families, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, heterosexual, single and multi-parent families.
Trusted adults: Colorado Youth Matter believes that all adults should strive to become trusted – that is, approachable to young people and open to their questions about sex, sexuality, health and life, as a way to support critical thinking and curiosity. In turn, being trusted is a great way for parents, guardians, families and other trusted adults to stay involved in the lives of young people.
Trauma-Informed: Sex ed and sexual health services can serve as triggers for many youth who have experienced sexual traumas. It is essential for all sexual health educators, trusted adults, and others that serve youth to understand that trauma exists and to work with youth with a trauma-informed approach.
Theory of Change
Advancing the movement for youth sexual health means building the skills, knowledge and leadership of youth-serving professionals, so that they can provide young people with the education, resources and services they want and need to make informed decisions. In partnership with our community – youth, youth-serving professionals, askable adults, policy makers, leaders, and funders – Colorado Youth Matter strengthens leadership and advances the movement by:
- Increasing access to youth-positive, inclusive and developmentally appropriate information and education on sexual health, identity and rights of youth.
- Increasing access to safe, legal youth-friendly sexual health services, in a culturally-relevant and youth-friendly way, including but not limited to confidential STI testing and treatment, contraception, emergency contraception, abortion and quality child care and health care for young families.
- Increasing the capacity and promoting the involvement of trusted adults, including but not limited to parents and families, who wish to work as advocates and allies in partnership with youth, to advance youth sexual health.
- Working to ensure that all Colorado youth have equitable access and educational opportunities, regardless of geography, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, documentation, or physical ability. This means advocating for safe and thriving communities that are free of racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty and other forms of marginalization.
- Teen pregnancy and STI/STD/HIV among youth is a complex issue that requires multifaceted analyses and solutions, including an understanding of and solutions to unequal social conditions that contribute to health disparities in pregnancy and STI/STD/HIV rates among youth of color and low-income and GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) youth.
- Recognizing adolescents as consumers of their own care and increasing opportunities for youth decision-making and leadership within family, school and healthcare systems.
- Youth can and do make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health when they have complete, balanced, accurate, inclusive, and age-, gender-, and developmentally-appropriate information, skills, resources, and support.
- Society must value the needs, contributions, and voices of youth and demonstrate that value through policies and practices, which inform responsible decision-making by youth concerning their reproductive health, sexuality, and over all well-being.
- Therefore, developing genuine partnerships between youth and adults is the most effective strategy for leveraging the capacity of young people to make decisions about their own lives.
- Recognizing sexual health as a holistic, integrated aspect of overall health, and reducing the stigma and shame around youth sexuality and sexual decision making.
- Increasing access to safe relationships and environments that support health, equal responsibility and respect.
Colorado Youth Matter's theory of change supports its overarching belief that all youth have the right to dream and be supported in carrying out those dreams. Youth who have aspirations for their future, and resources and support to work towards those aspirations, have positive and improved health, education and economic outcomes.
**Key concepts in our Theory of Change were inspired by our sister organization, ICAH (Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Annual Report FY12).