Best Practices

The purpose of this Guide for Best Practices in Positive Youth Development is to assist traditional and non-traditional organizations and individuals who want to improve their programs, places, and policies related to youth development.  This guide was developed from existing research-based quality standards.

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a framework for how a community can support all youth so they can grow up fully prepared, fully engaged, healthy, and develop to their full potential.

Policies and Practices

  • All spaces provide physical and psychological safety for all the youth they serve.
  • All adults receive orientation as well as ongoing training and support in working with youth using a PYD perspective.
  • PYD practices are written into policies and procedures.
  • All levels of youth-serving organizations (Board, Management, and Direct Care Workers) understand and apply the purposeful nature of PYD and can articulate the philosophy and the integration of practices within programs.
  • Youth and adults are active and equal partners in any youth development initiative.
  • Focus of opportunities and supports are on PYD rather than the prevention of negative outcomes.
  • Youth-serving organizations’ missions include language around youth development.
  • Evidence of PYD practices occurs at all levels of programs, places, and policies.
  • Measurable objectives are included in employee evaluations to assess their understanding and implementation of PYD practices, if applicable.
High Expectations

  • There are clear expectations for quality youth/adult interactions within opportunities and supports.
  • Opportunities and supports promote positive experiences, values, and norms for youth.
Skill Building

  • Opportunities and supports are focused on plans that promote action, responsibility, and accountability from youth.
  • Skill-building activities should begin from a perspective of youth strength, interests, and preferences.

  • Opportunities and supports encourage and teach youth to embrace and contribute to their community and likewise serve as an advocate for the community to engage and support all youth.
  • Opportunities and supports provide meaningful recognition of youths’ achievements.
  • Youth develop the 5 C’s (competence, connection, character, confidence, and caring/compassion) through programs and community efforts.
  • Opportunities and supports work with youth on personal development goals outside of referred concerns, if applicable.
  • Opportunities and supports help youth achieve their fullest potential by providing access to tools that break down barriers to opportunities.
  • Opportunities and supports empower youth to assume leadership roles, providing youth opportunities to consider themselves as resources.
  • Youth have the opportunity for skill building and intentional learning experiences through program activities and community involvement.
Routine and Structure

  • Adults serve as positive role models to youth through consistent support, empowerment, expectations, and constructive uses of time.
  • Opportunities and supports for youth are developmentally appropriate.
  • Opportunities and supports expose youth to protective factors, or factors that buffer youth from involvement in risky behaviors and mediate the impact of risk factors.
  • All programs and places have a clear daily structure.
  • All programs and places have an appropriate adult/youth ratio.
  • Adults clearly communicate expectations.

  • Youth satisfaction surveys are provided to all youth in a program or place AND the suggestions are implemented.
  • Meaningful youth-adult partnerships are visible throughout programs, places, and policies.
  • Youth and adults are mutually equipped to have healthy and positive relationships.
  • Youth have opportunities for long-term organizational involvement with adults, even after referred concerns have been achieved.
Strategic Support and Collaboration

  • Individuals and organizations work together to promote youth development through collaboration, linking resources, sharing expertise, and connecting people.
  • Individuals and organizations work together to encourage engagement and support of youth.


Click to download a PDF of the Best Practice Guide