Dept. of Justice

Rethinking the Best-Laid Plans

Dwight Eisenhower once said, "In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." President Eisenhower's message was clear: while plans can go awry, it's the planning process that allows one to accept what hasn't worked in the past, preserve what has, and develop a new strategy that can withstand an ever-changing landscape. When it comes to reducing youth violence, San Jose, Calif., has accomplished this in spades.”

Salinas Walks For Life

This is cross-posted in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention June 2014 newsletter. See the original post here (PDF, 6 pages).

Youth Speakers Share Their Hopes for the Future

I know now it's not where I'm from; it's where I'm going. It's not what I drive; it's what drives me. It's not what's on me; it's what's in me. And it's not what I think; it's what I know. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. And that's exactly what I plan to do: I will make my own trail and set my own goals. — Chardae Anderson, age 18

October 14, 2009

Positive Youth Development

Positive Experiences + Positive Relationships + Positive Environments = Positive Youth Development

Based on the literature, the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaboration of 21 federal departments and agencies that support youth, has created the following definition of positive youth development (PYD):

PYD is an intentional, prosocial 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 young people’s strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths.

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs developed a research agenda focused on positive youth development. Through a collaborative consensus-building process, representatives from federal agencies identified three research domains (conceptual issues, data sources and indicators, and program implementation and effectiveness) and key research questions that could benefit from future research.

PYD has its origins in the field of prevention. In the past, prevention efforts typically focused on single problems before they surfaced in youth, such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency.

Over time, practitioners, policymakers, funders, and researchers determined that promoting positive asset building and considering young people as resources were critical strategies. As a result, the youth development field began examining the role of resiliency — the protective factors in a young person's environment — and how these factors could influence one's ability to overcome adversity. Those factors included, but were not limited to, family support and monitoring; caring adults; positive peer groups; strong sense of self, self-esteem, and future aspirations; and engagement in school and community activities.

Researchers and practitioners began to report that young people who possess a diverse set of protective factors can, in fact, experience more positive outcomes. These findings encouraged the development of interventions and programs that reduce risks and strengthen protective factors. The programs and interventions are strengthened when they involve and engage youth as equal partners, ultimately providing benefits for both for the program and the involved youth.

Reconnecting Youth

Disconnected youth1 are often defined as young people ages 14-24 who are homeless, in foster care, involved in the justice system, or are neither employed nor enrolled in an educational institution.  Across the U.S., there are approximately 6.7 million youth that exhibit one or more of the above risk factors and touch multiple systems.2

The economic burden of disconnected youth is significant, as these young people not only fail to meet their personal potential, but also cost the U.S. billions of dollars every year in lost earnings, incarceration costs, and expenditures on social services. Moreover, siloed administrative and reporting requirements can make it unintentionally difficult for providers to give youth the comprehensive, effective services (PDF, 2 pages) they need.

To address issues faced by disconnected youth and the entities serving them, the 2013 Budget included proposals for Performance Partnership Pilot3 authority and targeted funding. The Interagency Forum on Disconnected Youth (IFDY) was established in March 2012 as an out-growth of these budgetary proposals. The IFDY is committed to improving educational, employment and other key outcomes for this population through interagency and intergovernmental collaboration. Learn more about the shared goals and approach of the IFDY to support and reconnect disconnected youth and see additional action steps being taken by Federal agencies and interagency groups.

A Request for Information (RFI) on disconnected youth was published by the Department of Education in the Federal Register in June 2012. The RFI yielded 171 responses from a wide range of organizations and individuals. View a summary of the key themes that were identified and the approach used for analyzing the responses.

Hear from Youth

Hear what young people have to say about what youth need to become healthy and productive adults. Read a summary of the input provided by youth during a series of listening sessions held to gather input toward the development of a strategic plan for youth.

Collaborations Working to Reconnect Youth and Prevent Disconnections

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a community-based program that leads, trains, and mentors young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who are unemployed and have left school so that they may become productive citizens in America's future. Results from a three year evaluation showed that ChalleNGe participants are more likely than their control group counterparts to have obtained a GED certificate or high school diploma, to have earned college credits, and to be working. Participants’ earnings are also 20 percent higher than control group members’ earnings. Collaboration between the ChalleNGe program and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) supports leadership opportunities for disadvantaged and out-of-school youth serving in their programs.

Project U-Turn is a citywide collaborative effort to address the dropout crisis in Philadelphia. Project U-Turn identifies and examines the problem, promotes the crisis as a system-wide issue rather than an education issue, involves and sustains a diverse array of partners, and works to both prevent students from dropping out as well as re-engage those who have already dropped out. Learn more.

Partnership for Results is a model of local governance designed to implement a broad spectrum of evidence-based programs for the benefit of youth at risk. Operating in Cayuga County in Central New York, it has improved outcomes for children and youth and their families since its founding in 2000. Evaluation results indicate reductions in substance abuse, arrests, juvenile detention expenditures, and foster care placements. Partnership for Results has been associated with increases in standardized test scores, particularly for elementary schools serving low-income children.

The Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development coordinates and aligns state policies and practices to support positive youth development and increase high school graduation rates.

Navicate (formerly Linking Learning to Life, Inc.) supports a collaboration of schools, businesses, colleges, and other organizations to foster opportunities for community service, leadership development, career and college exploration, internships, and employment for youth in Vermont as they transition from school to careers and postsecondary education.

SBIRT/YouthBuild, an employment and training programs funded by the US Department of Labor (DOL), and the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), partnered to address alcohol and drug use among students. The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) tool developed by SAMHSA to identify people who have or are at risk for substance use problems and to identify people who need further assessment or referral for treatment. The “SBIRT” was adapted to best suit the young people, ages 16-24, served within the YouthBuild program, and piloted in 15 programs.

Youth Topics

Transition age youth (ages 16 to 24), sometimes called “youth in transition” or “youth aging out,” can experience a number of challenges on their path to a successful adulthood. Efforts to reconnect transition age youth to school and work should consider the following issues:

Youth Employment

Knowing how to find and keep a job is not only critical for admission to the adult world, it is also an important survival skill.

   

Juvenile Justice

The primary goals of the juvenile justice system, in addition to maintaining public safety, are skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, addressing treatment needs, and successful reintegration of youth into the community.
   
Service Learning

Service learning is a strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and self-reflection to support academic learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

   

Preventing Youth Violence

Youth violence and crime affect a community's economic health, as well as individuals' physical and mental health and well-being.

   
Mentoring

Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal, but the essential components include creating caring, empathetic, consistent, and long-lasting relationships, often with some combination of role modeling, teaching, and advising.

   

Youth Mental Health

Mental health involves being able to navigate successfully the complexities of life, develop fulfilling relationships, adapt to change, and utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to achieve well-being without discrimination.

   
Teen Pregancy Prevention

Despite declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S., the national teen pregnancy rate continues to be higher than the rates in other Western industrialized nations.

1 Belfield, C.R., Levin, H. M., Rosen, R. (2012). The economic value of opportunity youth. Available on the Corporation for National and Community Service’s website at http://www.civicenterprises.net/MediaLibrary/Docs/econ_value_opportunity_youth.pdf.
2Ibid.
3http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40535.pdf

Juvenile Justice

Youth under the age of 18 who are accused of committing a delinquent or criminal act are typically processed through a juvenile justice system1. While similar to that of the adult criminal justice system in many ways—processes include arrest, detainment, petitions, hearings, adjudications, dispositions, placement, probation, and reentry—the juvenile justice process operates according to the premise that youth are fundamentally different from adults, both in terms of level of responsibility and potential for rehabilitation. The primary goals of the juvenile justice system, in addition to maintaining public safety, are skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, addressing treatment needs, and successful reintegration of youth into the community.

Learn more about the juvenile justice process.

1States, however, have the right to set lower age thresholds for processing youth through the adult system. In addition, some states automatically process any individual, regardless of age, through the adult criminal justice system for some serious offenses.

Gang Involvement Prevention

Preventing youth involvement in gangs is an important issue. Compared to non-gang members, gang members commit a disproportionate amount of violent crimes and offenses across the country. Gangs and gang involvement result in short- and long-term negative outcomes for gang-involved youth, their friends and families, and the surrounding communities.1 Gangs are typically defined as groups having the following characteristics:

  • Formal organizational structure
  • Identifiable leadership
  • Identified territory
  • Recurrent interaction
  • Involvement in serious or violent behavior2

In an effort to replace older adult gang members who are incarcerated, gangs often try to recruit youth.3 Youth often succumb to these efforts at early ages because of their vulnerability and susceptibility to recruitment tactics.4  As a result, it is necessary to begin prevention efforts at a young age, identify risk and protective factors for gang involvement, and utilize a comprehensive approach that involves multiple sectors and disciplines working together (e.g., justice, education, labor, social services, public health and safety, businesses, philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations, and other youth, family, and community-serving groups).5

1 Howell, 1998
2 Howell, 1994
3 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 2011
4 FBI, 2011
5 National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, 2011

Mentoring

Positive youth development research has long demonstrated that youth benefit from close, caring relationships with adults who serve as positive role models (Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002). Today, 8.5 million youth continue to lack supportive, sustained relationships with caring adults (Cavell, DuBois, Karcher, Keller, & Rhodes, 2009). Mentoring—which matches youth or “mentees” with responsible, caring “mentors,” usually adults—has been growing in popularity as both a prevention and intervention strategy over the past decades. Mentoring provides youth with mentors who can develop an emotional bond with the mentee, have greater experience than the mentee, and can provide support, guidance, and opportunities to help youth succeed in life and meet their goals (DuBois and Karcher, 2005). Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal with substantial variation, but the essential components include creating caring, empathetic, consistent, and long-lasting relationships, often with some combination of role modeling, teaching, and advising.

Dating Violence Prevention

Healthy relationships consist of trust, honesty, respect, equality, and compromise.1 Unfortunately, teen dating violence—the type of intimate partner violence that occurs between two young people who are, or who were once in, an intimate relationship—is a serious problem in the United States. A national survey found that ten percent of teens, female and male, had been the victims of physical dating violence within the past year2 and approximately 29 percent of adolescents reported being verbally or psychologically abused within the previous year.3

Teen dating violence can be any one, or a combination, of the following:

  • Physical. This includes pinching, hitting, shoving, or kicking.
  • Emotional. This involves threatening a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, controlling/jealous behaviors, consistent monitoring, shaming, bullying (online, texting, and in person), intentionally embarrassing him/her, keeping him/her away from friends and family.
  • Sexual. This is defined as forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent.

It can negatively influence the development of healthy sexuality, intimacy, and identity as youth grow into adulthood4 and can increase the risk of physical injury, poor academic performance, binge drinking, suicide attempts, unhealthy sexual behaviors, substance abuse, negative body image and self-esteem, and violence in future relationships.5

Teen dating violence can be prevented, especially when there is a focus on reducing risk factors as well as fostering protective factors, and when teens are empowered through family, friends, and others (including role models such as teachers, coaches, mentors, and youth group leaders) to lead healthy lives and establish healthy relationships. It is important to create spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships. The message must be clear that treating people in abusive ways will not be accepted, and policies must enforce this message to keep students safe.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011
2 CDC, 2010
3 Halpern, Oslak, Young, Waller, Markin, & Kupper, 2001
4 Foshee & Reyes, 2009
5 CDC, 2012

Substance Abuse Prevention

Substance abuse and problematic patterns of substance use among youth can lead to problems at school, cause or aggravate physical and mental health-related issues, promote poor peer relationships, cause motor-vehicle accidents, and place stress on the family. They can also develop into lifelong issues such as substance dependence, chronic health problems, and social and financial consequences.1

Substance abuse is the harmful pattern of using substances—such as tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs—leading to impairment or distress with one or more of the following behaviors: 

  • Recurrent substance use resulting in failure to fulfill major responsibilities at work, school, or home such as repeated absences, suspension, and expulsion
  • Recurrent substance use in situations where it is physically dangerous, such as driving while impaired
  • Recurrent substance-related legal problems, such as arrests for disorderly conduct that are substance-related
  • Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurring social or personal problems caused or worsened by substance use2

One of the most highly abused substances among youth in the U.S. is alcohol.3 Youth engage in binge drinking, a pattern of drinking that elevates the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or above, more than adults do.4 This can lead to risky and potentially harmful behaviors, and many times substance abuse (60-75 percent of youth with substance abuse problems) co-occurs with mental health disorders.

Substance use, abuse, and dependence can negatively impact every aspect of an individual’s life. Child-serving systems need to intervene early in the lives of youth to prevent or treat abuse, support young people, and provide them with the tools to choose the right path.

1 Department of Justice, 1998
2 American Psychiatric Association, 2000
3 Johnston, O’Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2012
4 For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks [men], or four or more drinks [women], in about 2 hours.