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Supervisor's PYD Toolkit


Positive Environments

Effective youth programs offer safe, inclusive, and supportive environments for young people. Research tells us that a supportive social context is critical for learning and thriving. Researchers have also recognized that young people grow in a variety of social settings -- families, schools, youth programs, health care environments, child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and more -- and we can best support youth development by strengthening connections among these settings [1].

The resources in this section of the Supervisor's PYD Toolkit support the creation of positive program environments.

Developmental Settings

Community Programs to Promote Youth Development

In its 2002 review of rigorously evaluated, community-based youth programs, the National Research Council (NRC) provided an evidence base for effective youth development settings. National Academies Press.

Research Review

Features of Positive Developmental Settings

This chart offers a descriptor of what each of the eight features of effective youth development settings is, and what it is not. In the companion document, resources are provided for each of the eight features. ACT for Youth.



Whole-Child Design: Supportive Environments

We know that for learning and development, context matters. Here, research-based resources are offered to help set the stage for developmentally supportive environments. Turnaround for Children.


Safe and Inclusive Environments

In recent years we have learned that young people experience trauma and toxic stress much more commonly than previously thought. Certain groups are especially affected by trauma and stress, such as young people living in economically disadvantaged families and communities, system-involved youth, and those who face stigma and injustice based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, and ability [1].

Youth benefit when program staff approach their work with an understanding of trauma and chronic stress. Use the resources below to build awareness and equip youth work professionals with strategies for creating safe and inclusive environments for young people.

Trauma and Stress

Offer professional development resources to staff to learn about trauma, toxic stress, and trauma-informed approaches to programming.

Stress and the Brain

This guide for educators promotes a deep understanding of how adversity and stress impact the developing brain. Turnaround for Children.

Guide for Educators

Trauma-Informed SEL Toolkit

This toolkit for educators offers research, resources, and strategies to promote social and emotional learning. Transforming Education.


Registration/Enrollment Questions

You can better understand program participants right from the start if you incorporate questions to assess stressors, strengths, and coping skills in program registration forms. ACT for Youth.

Sample Questions

Equity and Inclusion

Commit to anti-bias education and inclusive organizational policies and practices.

Project Implicit

Implicit Association Tests (IAT) are brief, eye-opening exercises that shed light on personal biases that are outside of our conscious awareness and control. Ask staff to do IATs about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics -- and be sure to do them yourself as well. Project Implicit.

Bias Assessment Tool

Outsmarting Human Minds

Outsmarting Human Minds is an interactive media series that explores the quirks and blind spots of the mind using insights from psychological science. Harvard University.

Videos, Readings, Activities

Creating an Anti-Bias Learning Environment

This article and checklist offer ideas for working with students to create respectful, inclusive learning environments. ADL.

Tips and Assessment

Understanding and Confronting Racial Injustice

This collection of resources was compiled to help youth work professionals confront racial injustice by 1) starting with ourselves, 2) engaging with others, 3) addressing systemic change, and 4) contributing to community healing. University of Minnesota Extension.

Resource Collection

Creating Inclusive Program Environments for Youth with Different Abilities

This 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.

Training Manual

Inclusiveness: Building Stronger Connections

Resources gathered here will help youth work professionals understand and address bias and create more inclusive environments. ACT for Youth.

Resource Collection

Whole Child Design: Expectations, Norms, and Routines

These tools for educators can help create the foundation for an inclusive, predictable, and consistent environment. While they are designed for schools, many of the resources are applicable to out-of-school-time settings. Resources include a Core Practice Continuum that may be helpful to supervisors and educators. Turnaround for Children.


A Leader's Guide to Talking About Bias

A binary view of racism can inhibit productive conversations about race. This brief article suggests ways for leaders to improve conversations so that staff -- especially white staff -- can learn, grow, and create safer learning environments. Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Young People Matter and are Valued

As a supervisor of youth work professionals, you advocate for young people to be valued in the organization. Adults tend to disregard or dismiss (at times unconsciously) young people's contributions due to their age and lack of experience or training. This behavior, which is based on negative assumptions adults make about young people, is called adultism. It's important for supervisors to address adultism issues, promote positive relationships and youth-adult partnerships, and establish opportunities for meaningful youth involvement. Organizational support includes allocating staff time and resources to prepare young people for meaningful engagement, including young people serving on your board of directors.

What is Adultism?

Adultism is the assumption that young people are inferior to adults simply because of their youth. Here you can explore what adultism looks like and ways young people and adults can tackle adultism. Youth on Board.

Web Page

Framework for Understanding Adultism

We see adultism at work in a variety of ways that are described here; examples are also provided. ACT for Youth.


Youth and Adult Leaders for Program Excellence (YALPE)

YALPE is a comprehensive toolkit for organizations that are ready to assess the quality of their youth development programming and the participation of youth in organizational governance and planning. The YALPE toolkit provides assessment instruments and practical guidance for collecting and analyzing data. University of Wisconsin-Extension and ACT for Youth.


Youth-Adult Partnership Rubric

This assessment tool can be used for professional development and youth-adult partnership program evaluation in a variety of settings. Michigan State University.

Assessment Tool

Youth- and Family-Friendly Environment

By collaborating with administrators and young people, supervisors can create a physical environment that is welcoming to youth and families. Consider inviting young people and staff to assess the physical environment and climate.

PYD Environmental Scan

This tool can be used to do an informal assessment of the physical environment and climate of the agency. It is based on many PYD trainings and discussions with youth work professionals. ACT for Youth.


Access to Programming

Recognizing that many young people experience inequities and may not be able to access youth programs, you can be proactive by endorsing the following strategies:

  • Assess and modify program's fee schedule
  • Collaborate with other community agencies to expand youth programming to other locations (if young people cannot access current location)
  • Participate and advocate in community coalitions to address inequities
  • Enable staff to participate as well, for example, by joining a community board on work time

Community Connections

Youth programs do not operate in a vacuum. Young people attending youth programs are also connected to families, schools, and other community organizations. As a supervisor, you are well positioned to promote collaboration and connection.

  • Promote family involvement: Invite families to attend programming, open houses, and events
  • Encourage staff to familiarize themselves with other community organizations that work with youth (including time to visit other agencies)
  • Establish referral processes with other agencies; make referrals regularly when young people express needs for services
  • Promote staff voice as well as youth voice


[1]   National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). The Promise of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity for All Youth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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