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Adolescent Development Toolkit

ACT for Youth Highlight
If you are engaged in planning or delivering programs for youth, visit the Youth Work Professionals section, which includes additional helpful toolkits:

Social and Emotional Learning Toolkit

Supervisor's PYD Toolkit

Toolkit: Youth Program Planning

If we want to deliver effective youth programming, it's important to take adolescent development into account in the program planning process. Resources included in this section cover:
  • How adolescents learn (you may also want to review the cognitive development resources in Domains of Development)
  • Planning: engaging youth in program design and evaluation, creating trauma-informed and inclusive program environments, and planning for recruitment and retention
  • Activities and strategies that can be integrated into programming
  • Locating evidence-based programs


Science of Learning and Development

This brief presents the scientific foundations of a modern understanding of learning and development. Turnaround for Children.


SEL Tookit: Self-Management

Self-management is critical to learning. Resource topics here include promoting a growth mindset, perseverance, and motivation to learn. ACT for Youth.

Resources for Professionals

How Youth Learn: Ned's GR8 8

This brief, entertaining animation highlights eight conditions of learning based on recent findings in neuroscience. What Kids Can Do.

Video (6 minutes)

Multiple Intelligences Theory: Widely Used, Yet Misunderstood

One of the most popular ideas in education is applied in ways that its creator never intended. Here, find what to do -- and what NOT to do -- when applying the theory of multiple intelligences. Edutopia.

Blog Post


Community Programs to Promote Youth Development

How can youth programs be designed to promote adolescent development? This research brief includes a summary of the features of positive developmental settings. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.

Report Brief

Related Resources

Program Planning: Build a Logic Model

Using youth development programming examples, this presentation describes how to develop a logic model. The Logic Model Tool can be used in the program planning process. ACT for Youth.

Slide Deck

Logic Model Tool

Developing a Logic Model or Theory of Change

Learn how to create and use a logic model -- a visual representation of your initiative's activities, outputs, and expected outcomes. Community Tool Box.


Concept to Classroom: Key Principles of Developing an Afterschool Curriculum

What should you consider when designing a curriculum for an after-school program? This module, part of a longer online workshop, helps you think it through. WNET Education.

Online Module

NYS Network for Youth Success: Start a Program

The New York State Network for Youth Success is dedicated to building a youth-serving system that increases the quality and availability of after-school and expanded learning programs. Here you will find resources on program design and quality, as well as licensing, funding, sustainability, and more.

Planning Resources

Design Principles for Community-Based Settings

This guide describes principles for putting the science of learning and development into action in community-based settings. Forum for Youth Investment and others.


Engaging Youth in Program Design and Evaluation

Youth-Centred Design (YCD) Toolkit

Under the motto "Design with children and youth, not for them," the YCD Toolkit provides a process, guidelines, tools, and techniques to include child and youth voices in the development of meaningful programming that reflects their needs. One Youth Canada.


Youth Programming Assessment Tool (YPAT)

YPAT is both a tool and a planning process. It was designed to help youth-serving organizations reflect upon their programming and practices and identify areas for improvement. Youth voice is a critical part of the YPAT assessment and planning process. USAID.

Assessment Tool

Youth Participatory Evaluation (YPE)

YPE is an approach that engages young people in evaluating the programs, organizations, and systems designed to serve them. Through YPE, young people conduct research on issues that affect their lives, developing knowledge about their community that can be shared and used. This section of the ACT for Youth website provides YPE resources and describes YPE principles and benefits. ACT for Youth.

YPE Resources

Trauma-Informed Programming

SAMHSA's Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach

This report presents a working concept of trauma and a trauma-informed approach to human services in order to develop a shared understanding of these concepts across an array of service systems and stakeholder groups. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Framework for a Trauma-Informed Approach

Implementing a Trauma-Informed Approach for Youth Across Service Sectors

In this webinar, presenters discuss the concept and prevalence of trauma; techniques for coping with and recovering from trauma at an individual and systems level; the core principles for building a framework for understanding trauma; and implementation of elements essential for a trauma-informed system. Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs and SAMHSA.

Webinar Slides, Recording, and Brief

Integrating a Trauma-Informed Approach with Youth Development Programs

This issue brief introduces key components of a trauma-informed approach to youth development programs. Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, Inc.

Issue Brief

The 12 Core Concepts for Understanding Traumatic Stress

These interactive, online lessons lead participants through the Core Concepts: conceptual lenses used to better understand childhood trauma, trauma's causes and effects, and strength-based systems approaches to intervention planning. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Core Concepts

Online Course

Creating Safe Spaces: Facilitator's Guide to Trauma-Informed Programming

This guide to trauma-informed programming is for facilitators who deliver school- and community-based or one-on-one programs to young people. It includes checklists that facilitators can use before, during, and after program delivery to ensure that they are using a trauma-informed approach. Family & Youth Services Bureau.


A Checklist for Integrating a Trauma-Informed Approach into Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs

Use this checklist to find out where your program is already integrating principles of a trauma-informed approach and where you can improve. While the checklist was designed for teen pregnancy prevention programs, almost all of its points are more broadly applicable. A list of resources follows the checklist.

Assessment Form

Secondary Traumatic Stress

This webinar series addresses the complex impact of secondary traumatic stress, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Prevention and intervention strategies are addressed at various levels within an organization. Note that you must create a user account to access this course. National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Webinar Series

Inclusive Programming

Inclusiveness: Building Stronger Connections

Here we share resources to help professionals assess their own biases, address bias and inclusion in programming and classrooms, and create inclusive environments. ACT for Youth.


Creating Inclusive Program Environments for Youth with Different Abilities

This training curriculum aims to provide youth work professionals with information, practices, and activities that will help them promote inclusion and engagement for all young people. ACT for Youth.

Curriculum: Inclusive Program Environments

Recruitment and Retention

Five Strategies for Successful Recruitment and Retention of Children and Families in Human Service Programs

The goal of this toolkit is to increase participation in human service programs for such issues as behavioral health, substance use, stress management, parenting, and healthy relationships. This toolkit provides strategies for developing a strong recruitment and retention plan. RAND Corporation.


Recruitment and Retention Resource Guide

This guide for youth service providers includes information about promoting collaborative referrals, establishing strong partnerships, minimizing barriers to participation, and empowering youth to contribute. Family & Youth Services Bureau.

Recruitment and Retention Resource Guide

Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Participants in Prevention Programs

There are many obstacles to successful participant recruitment and retention. In this Research to Practice brief, the authors briefly outline strategies to overcome these obstacles. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Practice Brief

Recruitment of Program Participants: Planning Questions

Based on the University of Wisconsin-Madison resource above, these questions will help you consider the scope of planning needed for successful participant recruitment and retention. ACT for Youth.

Planning Questions

Internet Advertising to Recruit Youth

These brief videos offer tips and strategies for using online advertising to recruit youth into programs. Healthy Teen Network.

Brief Video Lessons

Activities and Strategies

Building Skills for Adulthood

This popular section of the ACT for Youth website features activities, curricula, and other resources designed to support young people in transitioning to adulthood. Skill areas include healthy development, relationships skills, parent-child communication, life skills, financial literacy, and career exploration and success. Resources for youth are also included. ACT for Youth.

Resources for Professionals

Inquiry-based Instruction: Engaging Youth in Deeper Thinking

How can educators set the stage for critical thinking? Inquiry-based instruction offers an approach that goes beyond simply conveying information. ACT for Youth.


Formatted for Screen Readers

Establishing a Culture of Questioning

When students consistently ask meaningful questions, they get comfortable taking the risks that lead to learning. Edutopia.

Blog Post

Youth Communication

Youth Communication publishes stories written by New York City teens about the issues they face. The stories can be used as tools to engage young people in conversations about a range of topics and challenges. Resource kits for educators include girls' issues, resilience, and diversity and cultural competence, among others. Lessons and leader guides are available as well.


Learning for Justice: Classroom Resources

This database of classroom resources, which can be searched by grade level and topic, offers a range of anti-bias activities. Learning for Justice.

Resource Database

Equity Conversation Guides for Young Leaders and Partners

This set of four guides provides instructions for facilitators to lead groups of young people in understanding the history of structural racism and how it operates today. Groups learn terms and concepts for discussing racism and equity, make group agreements that encourage open and productive conversation, and learn how youth organizing has produced lasting positive change. Annie E. Casey Foundation.


Evidence-Based Programs and Program Design

Building Protective and Promotive Factors in Afterschool

This brief summarizes research into what after-school programs can do to strengthen protective and promotive factors in the areas of substance use, problem behaviors, and academic performance. Child Trends.

Report Brief

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development

This site helps you identify evidence-based programs that help young people reach their full potential. Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado Boulder.

Program Database

Clearinghouses and Evidence-Based Resources

Designed for policymakers, this document provides a list of clearinghouses and evidence-based resources compiled by topic. Research-to-Policy Collaboration.

Guide to Evidence-Based Resources

Guide to Evidence-Based Clearinghouses

The purpose of this guide is to assist educators in using clearinghouses to select evidence-based practices, activities, strategies, and interventions. Designed for the education sector, this guide may also be of use to youth program planners. American Institutes for Research.

Guide to Evidence-Based Clearinghouses

Resources for Mentoring Programs

The National Mentoring Resource Center provides a collection of mentoring handbooks, curricula, manuals, and other resources that practitioners can use to implement and further develop program practices.

Resources for Mentoring Programs

The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring

This extensive website includes research, reflections, and practice tips for evidence-based mentoring programs.

Evidence-Based Mentoring Resources Program Directory

The Program Directory features evidence-based programs whose purpose is to prevent and/or reduce delinquency or other problem behaviors in young people.

Evidence-Based Youth Program Directory

HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review identified programs with evidence of effectiveness in reducing teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and associated sexual risk behaviors.

Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Programs

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