• November 2011
  • Vol. 12, No. 8

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Report Examines Programs That Support At-Risk Youth

A new report from the Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF’s) Office of Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE) presents research-based frameworks that can be used to develop programs for at-risk youth. Synthesis of Research and Resources to Support At-Risk Youth also describes the risk factors for at-risk youth and approaches that can help these youth achieve self-sufficiency. At-risk youth include youth aging out of foster care, runaway and homeless youth, youth receiving TANF, teenage parents, and juvenile offenders.

Two complementary theoretical perspectives provide a framework for evidence-based practices that can improve youth programs:

  • The risk and resilience perspective focuses on developing resilience among at-risk youth by improving mental health, forming nurturing attachments with caring adults, and identifying role models.
  • The capital development perspective focuses on developing the human, social, cultural, and economic capital that at-risk youth need to succeed in school and work.

The report uses these perspectives to examine an array of approaches for addressing the needs of this population. Resilience programs include mentoring programs and trauma and drug treatment. Capital development programs include alternative schools, career academies, and internships. Specific youth-serving programs sponsored by ACF's Family and Youth Services Bureau, Children's Bureau, Office of Child Support Enforcement, and Office of Family Assistance also are described. Four ACF programs are examined in detail:

  • Transitional Living Program for Runaway and Homeless Youth
  • The Chafee Foster Care Independence Program
  • The Parenting and Paternity Awareness Program
  • Teen REACH (Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring, and Hope)

The report suggests that programs for at-risk youth should reflect the specific needs of at-risk youth, target the youth as well as their families and communities, be culturally diverse, and incorporate both resilience and capital development perspectives.

This report was produced by Heather Koball and other researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, and Public/Private Ventures as part of the ACF Youth Demonstration Development Project. It is available on the OPRE website:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/fys/youth_development/reports/synthesis_youth.pdf (962 KB)

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