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Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs Develops Common Language on Positive Youth Development

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs supports several subgroups, including one focused on Positive Youth Development. Eight Federal youth-serving departments participate actively on this subgroup, which is focused on identifying promising approaches, strategies, and evidence related to positive youth development, youth-adult partnerships, and youth engagement in youth programs.

As part of its effort to reduce duplication and align efforts across federal departments and agencies, this subgroup reviewed existing discussions of positive youth development in federal definitions and funding announcements, and together created common language about positive youth development strategies and approaches that can be incorporated into federal grant announcements. The subgroup is now working on integrating this language, as appropriate, into future funding announcements.

Positive youth development is an intentional, pro-social approach that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances youths' strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing multiple opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build their skills, sense of mastery, and leadership strengths. Positive youth development programs promote a number of outcomes in youth, including social skills, emotional competence, positive relationships with peers and adults, and civic and school engagement.

  • Youth participation and involvement in program design, implementation and evaluation. Although adults may set the structure, youth are involved as active agents in the program and are not just the recipients of services. Adults engage youth in creating a respectful and inclusive program environment.
  • Positive environments and safe and structured places. Programs provide appropriate youth-to-adult ratios for supervision, a system for ensuring youth are welcomed when they arrive, and a balance for different learning styles in programmatic activities. Programs respect diversity and different cultures.
  • Skill and asset development opportunities. Programs develop, acknowledge and employ youth assets. Programs engage youth in exploring career and workforce opportunities and provide occasions for goal setting. Programs provide opportunities to master and apply skills, and engage youth in determining choices that help them progress toward new levels of learning.
  • Opportunities to serve others. Youth have opportunities for civic involvement and civic engagement. Youth contribute to their communities through service. Programs create opportunities to make a difference through service learning or peer support.
  • Positive relationships with adults. Adults and youth work in partnership through the program. Adequately trained, caring staff members who understand and respect the developmental needs and contributions of young people are essential.