CHAPTER 10
Conclusions and Recommendations

In recent years, a number of social forces have changed both the landscape of family and community life and the expectations for young people. A combination of factors have weakened the informal community support once available to young people: high rates of family mobility; greater anonymity in neighborhoods, where more parents are at work and out of the home and neighborhood for long periods, and in schools, which have become larger and much more heterogeneous; extensive media exposure to themes of violence and heavy use and abuse of drugs and alcohol; and, in some cases, the deterioration and disorganization of neighborhoods and schools as a result of crime, drugs, and poverty. At the same time, today’s world has become increasingly complex, technical, and multicultural, placing new and challenging demands on young people in terms of education, training, and the social and emotional skills needed in a highly competitive environment. Finally, the length of adolescence has extended to the mid- to late twenties, and the pathways to adulthood have become less clear and more numerous. In addition, many youth are entering the labor market with inadequate knowledge and such skills as the ability to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and prepare for and succeed in a job.



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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development CHAPTER 10 Conclusions and Recommendations In recent years, a number of social forces have changed both the landscape of family and community life and the expectations for young people. A combination of factors have weakened the informal community support once available to young people: high rates of family mobility; greater anonymity in neighborhoods, where more parents are at work and out of the home and neighborhood for long periods, and in schools, which have become larger and much more heterogeneous; extensive media exposure to themes of violence and heavy use and abuse of drugs and alcohol; and, in some cases, the deterioration and disorganization of neighborhoods and schools as a result of crime, drugs, and poverty. At the same time, today’s world has become increasingly complex, technical, and multicultural, placing new and challenging demands on young people in terms of education, training, and the social and emotional skills needed in a highly competitive environment. Finally, the length of adolescence has extended to the mid- to late twenties, and the pathways to adulthood have become less clear and more numerous. In addition, many youth are entering the labor market with inadequate knowledge and such skills as the ability to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and prepare for and succeed in a job.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development Concerns about youth are at the center of many policy debates. The future well-being of the country depends on raising a new generation of skilled, competent, and responsible adults. Yet at least 25 percent of adolescents in the United States are at serious risk of not achieving “productive adulthood” and face such risks as substance abuse, adolescent pregnancy, school failure, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Depending on their circumstances and choices, they may carry those risks into their adult lives. Public investments in programs to counter such trends have grown significantly over the past decade or so. For the most part, these efforts have targeted specific problems and threats to young people. Substantial public health investments have been made to prevent teen smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, and other health risks. Major funding has been allocated to the prevention and control of juvenile delinquency and youth crime. This report has explored the research and evaluation on adolescent development and community programs for youth. This chapter presents the committee’s primary conclusions and recommendations. We had the task of considering various aspects related to community programs for youth—from developing a general understanding of adolescent development, the needs of youth, and the fundamental nature of these programs, to critically examining the research, evaluation, and data instruments they use. We have organized the conclusions and recommendations around two primary themes: (1) policy and practice and (2) research, evaluation, and data collection. POLICY AND PRACTICE The committee began its work by drawing up a set of core concepts about adolescents that serve as a foundation for this report. Some youth are doing very well. The good news for many young people is that many measures of adolescent well-being have shown significant improvement since the late 1980s. Young people are increasingly graduating from high school and enrolling in higher education. Almost half of the high school seniors participate in community service. Most young people are participating in physical exercise. Serious violent crime committed by adolescents, some illicit drug use, and teen pregnancy are down. Some youth are taking dangerous risks and doing poorly. Some social indicators suggest continuing problems, particularly for minority youth living in poor communities and youth living in poor, single-parent

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development families. Youth from poor inner-city and rural areas are doing substantially worse on national achievement tests than youth from more affluent school districts. School dropout is particularly high among Hispanic youth and adolescents living in poor communities. Many young women and men are engaging in unsafe sex, exposing them to sexually transmitted infections. Smoking cigarettes, obesity, and gun violence on school campuses have all increased. All young people need a variety of experiences to develop to their full potential. All youth need an array of experiences to reduce risk-taking and promote both current well-being and successful transition into adulthood. Such experiences include opportunities to learn skills, to make a difference in their community, to interact with youth from multicultural backgrounds, to have experiences in leadership and shared decision making, and to make strong connections with nonfamilial adults. These experiences are important to all young people, regardless of racial or ethnic group, socioeconomic status, or special needs. Some young people have unmet needs and are particularly at risk of participating in problem behaviors. Young people who have the most severe unmet needs in their lives are particularly in jeopardy of participating in risk behaviors, such as dropping out of school, participating in violent behavior, or using drugs and alcohol. Young people with the most severe unmet needs often live in very poor and high-risk neighborhoods with few opportunities to get the critical experiences needed for positive development. They are often experience repeated racial and ethnic discrimination. Such youth have a substantial amount of free, unsupervised time during their nonschool hours. Other youth who are in special need of more programs include youth with disabilities of all kinds, youth from troubled family situations, and youth with special needs for places to find emotional support. Promoting Adolescent Development at the Program Level Understanding adolescent development and the factors contributing to the healthy development of all young people is critical to the design and implementation of community programs for youth. A priority of the committee’s work was identifying what is necessary for adolescents to be happy, healthy, and productive at the present time, as well as successful, contributing adults in the future. Adolescence is a time of great change: biological changes associated with puberty, major social changes associated with transitions between

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development grade levels and changing roles and expectations, and major psychological changes linked to increasing social and cognitive maturity. With so many rapid changes comes a heightened potential for both positive and negative outcomes. Although most individuals pass through this developmental period without excessive problems, a substantial number experience difficulty. The committee reviewed the basic tenets of human development, particularly during adolescence, and summarized the key characteristics of adolescent development. We focused on aspects of adolescent development and successful transitions to adulthood that have implications for program and policy design. Beyond eliminating problems, the committee agreed that young people need skills, knowledge, and a variety of other personal and social assets to function well during adolescence and adulthood. But deciding what constitutes positive youth development is quite complex. Many characteristics were considered, and the committee recognized that selecting any particular set involved judgments regarding what is good. Nonetheless, longitudinal research does provide support for the links of some youth characteristics to subsequent positive adult outcomes. We were able to agree that there are some universal needs—such as the need to feel competent, to be socially connected, and to have one’s physical needs taken care of—that provide a basis for suggesting a set of assets and experiences very likely to be important for well-being. We also agreed that the failure to have these needs met is very likely to have negative consequences for well-being. We also agreed that there is extensive cultural specificity in exactly how these needs are met, as well as in the exact nature of how the assets are manifested in particular individuals. This means that the local cultural context must be taken into account as programs are designed and evaluated. Based on a review of theory, practical experiences, and empirical research in the fields of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and others, the committee identified a set of personal and social assets that both represent healthy development and well-being during adolescence and facilitate successful transitions from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood. We grouped these assets into four broad developmental domains: physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional, and social development. Box ES-1 summarizes the four domains and specifies the assets within each.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development Conclusions Individuals do not necessarily need the entire range of assets to thrive; in fact, various combinations of assets across domains reflect equally positive adolescent development. Having more assets is better than having few. Although strong assets in one category can offset weak assets in another category, life is easier to manage if one has assets in all four domains. Continued exposure to positive experiences, settings, and people, as well as abundant opportunities to gain and refine life skills, supports young people in the acquirsition and growth of these assets. The committee recognized that very little research directly specifies what programs can do to facilitate development, let alone how to tailor it to the needs of individual adolescents and diverse cultural groups. Few studies have applied the critical standards of science to evaluate which features of community programs influence development. Despite these limitations, there is a broad base of knowledge about how development occurs that can and should be drawn on. Research demonstrates that certain features of the settings that adolescents experience make a tremendous difference, for good or for ill, in their lives. There is good evidence that personal and social assets develop in developmental settings that incorporate the features listed below and in Table ES-1. The exact implementation of these features, however, needs to vary across programs, with their diverse clientele and differing constraints and missions. Young people develop positive personal and social assets in settings that have the following features: Physical and psychological safety and security; Structure that is developmentally appropriate, with clear expectations for behavior as well as increasing opportunities to make decisions, to participate in governance and rule-making, and to take on leadership roles as one matures and gains more expertise; Emotional and moral support; Opportunities for adolescents to experience supportive adult relationships; Opportunities to learn how to form close, durable human relationships with peers that support and reinforce healthy behaviors; Opportunities to feel a sense of belonging and being valued; Opportunities to develop positive social values and norms;

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development Opportunities for skill building and mastery; Opportunities to develop confidence in one’s abilities to master one’s environment (a sense of personal efficacy); Opportunities to make a contribution to one’s community and to develop a sense of mattering; and Strong links between families, schools, and broader community resources. Since these features typically work together in synergistic ways, programs with more features are likely to provide better supports for young people’s positive development. Although all of these features are key to the success of children and adolescents at all ages, specific settings may focus their priorities differently to meet the developmental needs of particular participants—for example, younger children need more adult-directed structure and supervision than older youth and the skills that one needs to learn in childhood are different from those that need to be learned in adolescence. Supportive, developmental settings, as a result, must be designed to be appropriate over time for different ages and to allow the setting to change in developmentally appropriate ways as participants mature. Positive development is also best supported by a wide variety of these experiences and opportunities in all of the settings in which adolescents live—the family, the school, the peer group, and the community. Still, exposure to such opportunities in community programs can compensate for lack of such opportunities in other settings. Community programs can expand the opportunities for youth to acquire personal and social assets and to experience the broad range of features of positive developmental settings. Programs can also fill gaps in the opportunities available in specific adolescents’ lives. Among other things, these programs can incorporate opportunities for physical, cognitive, and social and emotional development; opportunities to deal with issues of ethnic identity, sexual identity, and intergroup relationships; opportunities for community involvement and service; and opportunities to interact with caring adults and a diversity of peers who hold positive social norms and have high life goals and expectations.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development Recommendation 1—Community programs for youth should be based on a developmental framework that supports the acquisition of personal and social assets in an environment and through activities that promote both current adolescent well-being and future successful transitions to adulthood. Serving Diverse Youth at the Community Level Community programs are provided by many different individual organizations, each with their own unique approach and programmatic activities. They may be provided by local affiliates of large national youth-serving organizations or may be an independent organization that is affiliated with a public institution, such as a school or public library. They also may be small, autonomous grassroots organizations that exist independently in a community. The focus of the activities may be sports and recreation, faith-based lessons, music and dance, academic enrichment, or workforce preparation. Programs may be targeted only to girls or only to boys; to a particular ethnic or religious group; or to young people with special interests. In addition, programs differ in their objectives, and some may choose to give more emphasis to particular program features. Community-wide organizing of youth policies, as well as support for individual programs, also varies from community to community. Where there is a community infrastructure for support, the organizing body in a community might be the mayor’s office, a local government agency, or a community foundation. It might be a private intermediary organization or an individual charismatic leader, such as a minister or a rabbi of a local religious institution. However, it is often the case that there is no single person or group that is responsible for either monitoring the range and quality of community programs for youth or making sure that information about community programs is easily accessible to members of the community. Conclusion Adolescents in communities that are rich in developmental opportunities for them experience reduced risk and show evidence of higher rates of positive development. A diversity of program opportunities in each community is more likely to support broad adolescent development

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development and attract the interest of and meet the needs of a greater number of youth. The complex characteristics of adolescent development and the increasing diversity of the country make the heterogeneity of young people in communities both a norm and a challenge. Therefore, effective programs must be flexible enough to adapt to this existing diversity among the young people they serve and the communities in which they operate. Even with the best staff and best funding, no single program can serve all young people or incorporate all of the features of positive developmental settings. A diversity of program opportunities in each community is more likely to support broad adolescent development and attract the interest of and meet the needs of a greater number of youth. To provide for the most appropriate kinds of community programs for the diversity of youth in a community, communities should regularly assess the needs of adolescents and families and review available opportunities for their young people. While individual communities will invariably answer this challenge differently and make different judgments about the most appropriate ways to meet adolescent and community needs, there are several specific steps that the committee recommends be taken to support this kind of community mapping and monitoring. Recommendation 2—Communities should provide an ample array of program opportunities that appeal to and meet the needs of diverse youth, and should do so through local entities that can coordinate such work across the entire community. Particular attention should be placed on programs for disadvantaged and underserved youth. Recommendation 3—To increase the likelihood that an ample array of program opportunities will be available, communities should put in place some locally appropriate mechanism for monitoring the availability, accessability, and quality of programs for youth in their community. Recommendation 4—Private and public funders should provide the resources needed at the community level to develop and support community-wide programming that is orderly, coordinated, and evaluated in reasonable ways. In addition to support at the community level, this is likely to involve support for intermediary organizations and collaborative teams that include researchers, practitioners, funders, and policy makers.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development RESEARCH, EVALUATION, AND DATA COLLECTION The multiple groups concerned about community programs for youth—policy makers, families, program developers and practitioners, program staff, and young people themselves—have in common the fundamental desire to know whether programs make a difference in the lives of young people, their families, and their communities. Some are interested in learning about the effectiveness of specific details in a program; others about the effects of a given program; others about the overall effect of a set of programs together; and others about the effects of related kinds of programs. Research, program evaluation, and social indicator data can play a significant role in answering such questions, improving the design and delivery of programs, and thereby, improving the well-being and future success of young people. Research The committee first reviewed research on both adolescent development and the features of positive developmental settings that support it. In both cases, the research base is just becoming comprehensive enough to allow for tentative conclusions about the individual assets that characterize positive development and features of settings that support it. The committee used a variety of criteria to suggest the tentative lists of both important individual-level assets and features of settings that support positive development outlined in Box ES-1 and Table ES-1. These suggestions are based on scientific evidence from both short- and long-term experimental and observational studies, one-time large-scale survey studies, and longitudinal survey studies reviewed by the committee. However, much more comprehensive work is needed. Conclusions More comprehensive longitudinal and experimental research, that either builds on current efforts or involves new efforts, is needed on a wider range of populations that follows children and adolescents well into adulthood in order to understand which assets are most important to adolescent development and which patterns of assets are linked to particular types of successful adult transitions in various cultural contexts.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development The list of features of positive settings, as well as both personal and social assets, that the committee has developed is provisional, the boundaries between the features are fuzzy, and the specific names given to each feature and asset reflect the terminology of the scientific disciplines in which the research was done. Research on a diverse group of adolescents followed well into adulthood is needed to understand which patterns of assets best predict successful adult transitions in various cultural contexts and how these assets work together in supporting both current and future well-being and success. Longitudinal research meets these objectives by collecting extensive psychological, social, and contextual information on the same individuals at different points in time. More experimental research that focuses on changing specific assets and characteristics of settings assumed to affect other assets is also needed in order to test causal hypotheses more sensitively. Despite its limitations, research in all settings in the lives of adolescents—families, schools, and communities—is yielding consistent evidence that there are specific features of settings that support positive youth development and that these features can be incorporated into community programs. Community programs have the potential to provide opportunities for youth to acquire personal and social assets and have important experiences that may be missing or are in short supply in the other settings of their lives. Whether they are packaged as teen pregnancy prevention programs, mental health programs, or youth development programs, such programs can lead to positive outcomes for youth. There is limited research, however, measuring the impact of these experiences on the development of young people and therefore limited evidence on why program effects are or are not obtained. Few researchers have applied the critical standards of science to evaluate which features of community programs influence development, which processes within each activity are related to these outcomes, and which combinations of features are best for which outcomes. Thus, there is very little research that will help organizations decide how they should tailor program activities to the needs of individual youth and diverse cultural groups. Consequently, research is needed to sharpen the conceptualization of features of community programs and to explore whether other key features should be added to the list. This work should focus on how

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development different populations are affected by different program components and features (e.g., age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, community environment, developmental readiness, personality, sexual orientation, skill levels). It should also focus on how to incorporate these features into community programs and on how to maintain them once they are in place. Finally, such research should identify program strategies, resource needs, and approaches to staff training and retention that can cultivate and support the features of positive developmental settings in community programs for youth. In the committee’s judgment, current evidence supports the replication of a few specific integrated programs for positive youth development: the Teen Outreach Program, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Quantum Opportunities are three prime examples. Very few integrated programs have received the kind of comprehensive experimental evaluation necessary to make a firm recommendation about replicating the program in its entirety across the country. However, there is sufficient evidence from a variety of sources to make recommendations about some fundamental principles of supportive developmental settings and some specific aspects of programs that can be used to design community programs for youth. These are captured by the features of supportive settings outlined in Table ES-1. Recommendation 5—Federal agencies that fund research on adolescent health, development, and well-being, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education, should build into their portfolios new or more comprehensive longitudinal and experimental research on the personal and social assets needed to promote the healthy development and well-being of adolescents and to promote the successful transition from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Recommendation 6—Public and private funders should support research on whether the features of positive developmental settings identified in this report are the most important features of community programs for youth. This research should encourage program design and implementation that meets the diverse needs of an increasingly heterogeneous population of youth.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development Program Evaluation Evaluation and ongoing program study can provide important insights to inform program design, selection, and modification. Program evaluation can also help funders and policy makers make informed choices about which programs to fund for which groups of youth. The desire to conduct high-quality evaluation can help program staff clarify their objectives and decide which types of evidence will be most useful in determining if these objectives have been met. Ongoing program study and evaluation can also be used by program staff, program participants, and funders to track program objectives; this is typically done by establishing a system for ongoing data collection that measures the extent to which various aspects of the programs are being delivered, how are they delivered, who is providing these services, and who is receiving them. Such information can provide useful information to program staff to help them make changes to improve program effectiveness. Finally, program evaluation can test both new and very well developed program designs by assessing the immediate, observable results of the program outcomes and benefits associated with participation in the program. Such summative evaluation can be done in conjunction with strong theory-based evaluation or as a more preliminary assessment of the potential usefulness of novel programs and quite complex social experiments in which there is no well-specified theory of change. In other words, program evaluation and study can help foster accountability, determine whether programs make a difference, and provide staff with the information they need to improve service delivery. Clearly there are many purposes for evaluation. Not surprisingly then, there are different opinions among service practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and funders about the most appropriate and useful methods for evaluating community programs for youth. In part, these disagreements reflect different goals and different questions about youth programs. In part, they reflect philosophical differences about the purposes of evaluation and nature of program development. Program practitioners, policy makers, program evaluators, and others studying programs should decide exactly which questions they want answered before deciding on the most appropriate methods. The most comprehensive experimental evaluation, which involves assessment of the quality of implementation as well as outcomes, is quite expensive and involves a variety of methods. It also provides the most comprehensive information regarding both the effectiveness of specific programs and the reasons for their effectiveness.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development Conclusions Very few high-quality comprehensive experimental evaluations of community programs for youth have adequately assessed the impact of the programs on adolescents. This is presumably due to many factors—including the low priority accorded to evaluation by organizations struggling to fund services; inadequate funding for such evaluations and overreliance on program staff to conduct such evaluation, despite the fact that they have limited training to conduct such evaluations and limited time and funds to devote to such an effort; ethical concerns among practitioners and policy makers about the random assignment of some youth to programs and others to a control group receiving no services; unrealistic demands by many program funders for quick answers about the impact of programs they fund; and scarcity of the type of collaborative teams involving the research, practice, and policy communities needed to design and implement high-quality, comprehensive experimentally based evaluations. Comprehensive experimental evaluation takes time, money, and technical knowledge—features not always plentiful within agencies providing services to youth. Some high-quality experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations show positive effects on a variety of outcomes, including both increases in the psychological and social assets of youth and decreases in the incidence of such problem behaviors as early pregnancy, drug use, and delinquent behavior. Usually, as expected given the complexity of the behaviors being assessed and the wide range of influences on these behaviors, these effects are small for the population being studied. Nonetheless, at the individual level, the effects can be quite large and life-transforming. Such impacts are rarely reported in standard experimental evaluations, because their goal is to estimate the average effect size. Most of these evaluations also tell us little about which components of programs are the most important contributors to the positive results, the cost-effectiveness of the programs, or the reasons why programs fail. Randomized trial experimental evaluation is often recommended as the best method for assessing whether a program influences youth development, but this design can be costly, and time-consuming and may not always be the most useful and most appropriate method of study. In

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development addition, unless coupled with an evaluation of the implementation and with methods designed to assess the reasons for the experimental effects, experimental evaluations by themselves provide only limited information about a program’s effectiveness. Experimental designs are still the best method for estimating the impact of a program on its participants and should be used when this is the goal of the evaluation. Comprehensive program evaluation is an even better way to gather complete information about programs. It requires asking a number of questions through various methods. The committee identified six fundamental questions that should be considered in comprehensive evaluations: Is the theory of the program that is being evaluated explicit and plausible? How well has the program theory been implemented in the sites studied? In general, is the program effective and, in particular, is it effective with specific subpopulations of young people? Whether it is or is not effective, why is this the case? What is the value of the program? What recommendations about action should be made? All six questions may not be answered well in one study; several evaluations may be needed to address these questions. Thus comprehensive experimental evaluation can be quite expensive and time-consuming—but it provides the most information about program design, as well as fundamental questions about human development. Thus, it is particularly useful to both the policy and research communities, as well as the practice community. In order to generate the kind of information about community programs for youth needed to justify large-scale expenditures on programs and to further fundamental understanding of role of community programs in youth development, comprehensive experimental program evaluations should be used when: the object of study is a program component that repeatedly occurs across many of the organizations currently providing community services to youth;

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development an established national organization provides the program being evaluated through many local affiliates; and theoretically sound ideas for a new demonstration program or project emerge, and pilot work indicates that these ideas can be implemented in other contexts. Comprehensive experimental evaluations are usually not appropriate for newer, less established programs or programs that lack a well-articulated theory of change underlying the program design. A variety of nonexperimental methods, such as interviewing, case studies, and observational techniques, and more focused experimental and quasi-experimental studies are ways to understand and assess these types of community programs for youth. Although the nonexperimental methods tell us less about the effectiveness of particular community programs than experimental program evaluations, they can, when carefully implemented, provide information about the strengths and weakness in program implementation and can be used to identify patterns of effective practice. They are also quite helpful in generating hypotheses about why programs fail. Programs that meet the following criteria should be studied through nonexperimental or more focused experimental and quasi-experimental methods, depending on the goals of the evaluation: An organization, program, project, or program element that has not matured sufficiently in terms of its philosophy and implementation; The evaluation has to be conducted by the staff of the program under evaluation; The major questions of interest pertain to the quality of the program theory, the implementation of that theory, or to the nature of its participants, staff, or surrounding context; The program is quite broad, involving multiple agencies in the same community; and The program or organization is interested in reflective practice and continuing improvement. Whether experimental or nonexperimental methods are used, high-quality, comprehensive evaluation is important to the future development and success of community programs for youth and should be used by all programs and youth-serving organizations.

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development Recommendation 7—All community programs for youth should undergo evaluation—possibly multiple evaluations—to improve design and implementation, to create accountability, and to assess outcomes and impacts. For any given evaluation, the scope and the rigor should be appropriately calibrated to the attributes of the program, the available resources, and the goals of the evaluation. Recommendation 8—Funders should provide the necessary funds for evaluation. In many cases, this will involve support for collaborative teams of researchers, evaluators, theoreticians, policy makers, and practitioners to ensure that programs are well designed initially and then evaluated in the most appropriate way. Data Collection and Social Indicators Over the past decade, social indicator data and technical assistance resources have become increasingly important tools that community programs can employ to support every aspect of their work—from initial planning and design, to tracking goals, program accountability, targeting services, reflection, and improvement. There are now significant data and related technical assistance resources to aid in understanding the young people involved in these programs. Community programs for youth benefit from ready access to high-quality data that allow them to assess and monitor the well-being of youth in their community, the well-being of youth they directly serve, and the elements of their programs that are intended to support those youth. They also benefit from information and training to help them use these data tools wisely and effectively. Conclusions Even when exploited to their full potential, administrative, vital statistics, and related data sources can cover only limited geographic areas and only some components of a youth development framework. Adding local survey data in diverse communities, as has been done in a number of states and individual communities, can help create a more complete picture. Community programs for youth are interested in building their capacity to assess the quality of their programs. To produce useful process

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development evaluations, performance monitoring, and self-assessment, however, program practitioners need valid, reliable indicators of the developmental quality of the experiences they provide. Such information would also facilitate the ability of communities to monitor change over time as new program initiatives are introduced into the community. If communities know how their youth are doing on a variety of indicators for an extended period of time both before and after a new program is introduced, they can use this information as preliminary evidence that their program is effective. Such inferences are strengthened if information on the same indicators is available in comparable communities that did not introduce that program at the same time. Research is needed to determine whether appropriate indicators vary depending on the characteristics of the specific youth population served by a program and as understanding of the determinants of positive youth development improves, these indicators should be periodically revisited and, if necessary, revised. Many community programs also lack staff knowledge and the funds to take full advantage of social indicators as tools to aid in planning, monitoring, assessing, and improving program activities. Individual programs and communities would benefit from opportunities to increase their capacity to collect and use social indicator data. Recommendation 9—Public and private funders should support the fielding of youth development surveys in more states and communities around the country; the development, testing, and fielding of new youth development measures that work well across diverse population subgroups; and greater coordination between measures used in community surveys and national longitudinal surveys. Recommendation 10—Public and private funders should support collaboration between researchers and the practice community to develop social indicator data that build understanding of how programs are implemented and improve the ability to monitor programs. Collaborative efforts would further the understanding of the relationship between program features and positive developmental outcomes among young people. Recommendation 11—Public and private funders should provide opportunities for individual programs and communities to improve their capacity to collect and use social indicator data. This requires better training for program staff and more support for national and regional

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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development intermediaries that provide technical assistance in a variety of ways, including Internet-based systems. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS The desire among program practitioners, policy makers, scholars, scientists, parents, and society to make sure young people are healthy, happy, safe, and productive is not new. Offering formal and informal programs in the community for adolescents during nonschool hours is not new. These programs have a long history of providing positive opportunities to keep youth safe and to facilitate their development and well-being. Various individuals and professional organizations are committed to better understanding these programs and providing technical assistance to encourage their success. The scientific evidence that elucidates the ways in which community programs for youth provide opportunities to promote adolescent development and well-being, however, is less well developed. This report has explored these programs from this perspective and presented a set of recommendations targeted at various stakeholders: practitioners (program developers, practitioners, managers, and staff); community leaders (staff and leaders in a mayor’s office, local government agencies, community foundations, private intermediaries, as well as individual community leaders); and national leaders (public and private funders, policy makers, researchers, and evaluators). The recommendations in this report have the potential to enhance existing community programs for youth, promote adolescent development among diverse groups of youth and varied communities, and increase knowledge about the links between community programs for youth and adolescent development.