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July/August 2019Vol. 20, No. 6Research Addresses Afterschool Program Practices That Support Positive Youth Development

Child Trends issued a white paper for policymakers in afterschool programming that looks at evidence-based practices that support positive youth development and affect substance use patterns, potential problem behaviors, and academic performance in children and adolescents—issues that are often magnified in youth with child welfare involvement. The goal is to show how afterschool programs can promote practices that will benefit youth. 

The paper summarizes findings related to a literature review, evidence-informed practices, and the development of a conceptual model for afterschool programs. Child welfare stakeholders can use the model to strengthen the protective and promotive factors associated with positive youth development and improve outcomes related to substance use, behaviors, and academic performance.

Based on the literature review, the following protective and promotive factors showed the most promise in supporting the development of positive outcomes:

  • Community and school factors (e.g., a sense of belongingness, participation in structured youth programs and extracurricular activities)
  • Peer factors (e.g., association with positive peers, supportive and nonjudgmental friendships)
  • Parental or other caregiver support (e.g., positive parenting, clear and consistent rules and expectations)
  • Individual factors (e.g., self-esteem, self-regulation, self-efficacy/agency, problem solving, interpersonal skills)

The evidence-informed practices that showed promise for building these factors in the afterschool context included intentional organizational practices that support the daily implementation of high-quality programs; high-quality learning environments that provide youth with a safe, supportive environment as well as a variety of high-quality learning opportunities within the afterschool setting; supportive and nurturing youth-staff interactions; and a focus on youth skills development that further supports the development of youth's individual level factors. 

Findings from the review suggest that afterschool programs that engage in practices that support high-quality learning environments, build supportive and nurturing relationships with youth, and engage in activities that focus on youth skills development can help youth avoid negative outcomes, such as substance use and behavior problems, as well as promote positive outcomes, such as improved academic performance.

LA's BEST: Protective Factors Afterschool Project April 2018-December 2018, White Paper 1, Promising Practices for Building Protective and Promotive Factors to Support Positive Youth Development in Afterschool is available at (1,020 KB).