Center for the Study of Social Policy - 40 Years of Innovation
Ideas Into Action


Youth Thrive Theory of ChangeYouth Thrive™ is both a research-informed framework based on a synthesis of research on positive youth development, resilience, neuroscience, stress and impact of trauma on brain development and the name of CSSP's national initiative to improve the well-being outcomes of all youth (ages 9-26), with a particular focus on youth in, or transitioning from, foster care. The Youth Thrive™ Framework functions as a 'lens' for assessing current efforts and for making changes to the policies, programs, training, services, partnerships and systems that impact young people.

New research suggests brain development may play more of a role than previously understood in causing negative outcomes for youth. Established research on how to promote positive youth development and help youth grow into mature, successful adults; combined with insights from emerging research in neuroscience and brain development, provide an opportunity for fresh thinking on improved adult outcomes for at-risk youth. CSSP's research synthesis identified five protective and promotive factors that increase the likelihood that adolescents can develop into healthy, thriving adults. The protective and promotive factors are:

1. Youth Resilience: Managing stress and functioning well when faced with stressors, challenges or adversity. The outcome is personal growth and positive change.

2. Social Connections: Having healthy, sustained relationships with people, institutions, the community and a force greater than oneself that promote a sense of trust, belonging and feeling that s/he matters.

3. Knowledge of Adolescent Development: Understanding one's behavior and stage of maturation in the context of the unique aspects of adolescent development (e.g., brain development, the impact of trauma); services that are developmentally and contextually appropriate (e.g., postive youth development strategies).

4. Concrete Support in Times of Need: Understanding the importance of asking for help and advocating for oneself; receiving quality services designed to preserve youth's dignity, providing opportunities for skill development and promoting healthy development (e.g., strengths-based, trauma informed practice).

5. Cognitive and Social-Emotional Competence: Acquiring skills and attitudes that are essential for forming an independent identity and having a productive, responsible and statisfying adulthood (e.g., self-regulation, executive functioning and character strengths).

Youth Thrive™ is not a specific program or intervention, rather it is an approach that is relevant to everyone who works with young people including: public child welfare system administrators, supervisors and caseworkers, teachers, staff at private agencies and nonprofits, judges and legal advocates, parents, caregivers and others who are concerned about teenagers and young adults.

Youth Thrive™ Vision Statement

To increase the likelihood that all youth, including those involved in child welfare, juvenile justice and other systems, are supported in ways that advance healthy development and well-being and reduce the impact of negative life experiences. The Youth Thrive™ approach endeavors to ensure the developmental needs of young people will be better attended to and that youth will receive the supports, opportunities and experiences necessary to thrive.

Youth Thrive™ Desired Outcomes

All youth thrive as evidenced by: physical and emotional health, success in school and workplace, ability to form and sustain caring, committed relationships, hopefulness, optimism, compassion and curiosity, and service to community, school or society.


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