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Youth Development


“All Iowa youth will be safe, healthy, successful, and prepared for adulthood.”

Definition and Philosophy

Youth Development is defined by the Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development as the ongoing growth process in which all youth strive to:

  1. Meet the basic personal and social needs to feel cared for and to be safe, valued, useful, and spiritually grounded and 
  2. build character, skills and competencies that permit functioning and contribution in daily life.

Youth development approaches focus and build on the strengths and assets of young people, rather than concentrating solely on the prevention or treatment of problems.

To become healthy and productive adults, youth must develop the attitudes, behaviors, competencies and skills that allow them to succeed as parents, citizens and workers.  Youth who do not have opportunities to develop these attributes and test them in a supportive environment are at risk of a variety of negative behaviors and poor outcomes.

From a public policy perspective, a youth development approach shifts the focus away from youth problems and categorical youth programs, to a more holistic, positive approach to supporting and engaging all youth in healthy and positive development.  A youth development public policy approach, while not ignoring youth problems, is based on the principle that many youth problems are interrelated and can best be addressed through comprehensive and proactive strategies that engage youth in positive ways.

The Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development is working to align policies and strengthen programs within and between four areas to improve common, positive results across systems. These areas include:

  • Academic and Workforce Preparation (e.g., school improvement, employment and training, school-to-work)
  • Prevention (e.g., violence, alcohol and tobacco use, drug abuse, adolescent pregnancy, school failure, delinquency)
  • Intervention and Treatment (e.g., child welfare, juvenile justice, social services, substance abuse, public health)
  • Participation and Involvement (e.g., leadership, citizenship. service)