Youth Intervention: Causes, Interventions, and Outcomes

The circumstances that lead to a young person needing Youth Intervention have a common theme…they are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These experiences include forms of abuse, neglect, or other family/household challenges.

It is difficult enough even in a loving, caring, and supportive environment to help youth develop into healthy adults. Most young people who need Youth Intervention live in unstable environments where productive life skills are often not demonstrated or taught.

These are youth who were dealt hands most of us would not want or wish upon anyone. It is wrong to simply label them as “bad kids”. They want a better future than what they see among adult family members and neighbors.

Their adult family members and caregivers are not bad people either. Like you and me, they are trying to find their way in the world.

Youth Intervention supports and/or offers environmental factors that are needed for healthy human development.

In the most global sense, Youth Intervention provides:

  • Unconditional positive regard – Regardless of the quality of the building or the logistical planning that goes into programming, the ability of a caring adult to build a trusting relationship will best determine the success of that program. These caring adults love youth unconditionally for who they are while holding them accountable for what they do.
  • A connection to their community – Too often youth feel disconnected and rejected from their community. Common responses are to act out (e.g. anti-social behaviors) or withdraw (e.g. chemical abuse or mental health issues). Youth Intervention connects youth in a positive way to their community.
  • A choice for social interaction – Youth with ACEs in their history tend to find each other and become friends. This situation leads to them developing more bad habits that hinder healthy development. Community-based programs provide youth with healthier alternatives for social interactions and friendship selection options.

Youth intervention replaces skill deficiencies with skill assets.

The Search Institute outlines the developmental assets that are needed to help young people be contributing members of the community and be personally invested in the community’s well-being. These assets can be taught and role-modeled.

For youth struggling to develop these assets, often their adult family members and caregivers are living with their own developmental liabilities as a result of childhood experiences. These limitations make it difficult to be effective role models for some or many of the developmental assets.

Youth Intervention supports youth and their caregivers in filling that gap. By supporting asset development, Youth Intervention helps young people become part of the community.

Working with youth is difficult, but that’s not the biggest hurdle.

The biggest challenge is not proof of positive outcomes. The biggest challenge facing Youth Intervention is that not enough people understand its real value.

As a result, too many youth do not get the help they deserve. It means youth workers don’t have access to the resources they need to effectively work with youth in building these core developmental assets.

Too many in the community see youth and their caregivers as ‘problems’ and that perspective has not served us well. It has created an unsustainable situation and we all pay the price for the service gap.

Youth Intervention works, it saves money and we need more of it.

Paul Meunier is the Executive Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA)