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Community Youth Development

ABCs of Youth Work Surveys

As part of the Cornerstones for Kids Human Services Workforce Initiative, Dr. Kathy Robinson carried out a survey of program directors and frontline workers in programs serving out-of-school children and youth in the Lowcountry.  The Lowcountry study will serve as a pilot for a planned national study that will help shape policies and practices that address recruitment, retention, and quality of youth work, and their relationship to developmental outcomes for children and youth.  These studies are intended to give the youth work profession increased national visibility and recognition, and to promote youth work as a viable career option for those interested in youth development.  Several national organizations are involved in the project, including The Forum on Youth Investment, Cornerstones for Kids, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Reports from the Lowcountry studies are:

Wilson-Robinson, K.  (2007).  A Brief Summary of Growing the Next Generation of Youth Work Professionals in the Lowcountry South Carolina: Workforce Opportunities and Challenges: Results of the Frontline Youth Worker Survey.  Houston, TX:  Cornerstones for Kids.

Wilson-Robinson, K.  (2007).  A Brief Summary of Understanding the Out of School Youth Director/Supervisor Workforce: Opportunities and Challenges for an Emergining Profession: Results of the Lowcountry ABC Youth Director Survey.  Houston, TX:  Cornerstones For Kids.

Wilson-Robinson, K.  (2007).  Growing the Next Generation of Youth Work Professionals in the Lowcountry South Carolina: Workforce Opportunities and Challenges: Results of the Frontline Youth Worker Survey.  Hilton Head Island, SC:  Community foundation of the Lowcountry.

Wilson-Robinson, K.  (2007).  Understanding the Out of School Youth Director/Supervisor Workforce: Opportunities and Challenges for an Emergining Profession: Results of the Lowcountry ABC Youth Director Survey.  Hilton Head Island, SC:  Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.

A summary report on the Lowcountry study is available at: (link temporary down)

Advancing Youth Development Professional Training and BEST Network Partner

In partnership with the Academy for Educational Development’s National Training Institute for Community Youth Work, the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and Cornerstones for Kids, IFNL organized and conducted 4 three-day training sessions for Lowcountry out of school youth workers and 1 two-day training session for Lowcountry Youth Directors.  Four youth directors were chosen to become nationally certified facilitators of the AYD trainings, and offered their first round of training in April-June 2007.  Clemson University/IFNL is now the SC state coordinator of AYD trainings.  To date, 79 youth workers and 19 youth directors have attended their full training sessions and have received AYD certifications and CEU certificates from Clemson University.  Our aim is to certify a total of 20 local trainers to build capacity of the Lowcountry to offer basic and advanced trainings in conducting out of school youth work that promotes positive youth development.

Networking the youth workers who attended the trainings begins in late 2007 was a part of the efforts to promote the profession. It also familiarized them with the standards of practice, resources available, and to build partnerships among providers.

Working with the new director of the Phyllis Wheatley Center in Greenville, we plan to bring the AYD training to the Upstate.  The first sessions will be held in October 2007.

We have also done everything qualified to become a national BEST Network Site.  BEST stands for Building Exemplary Systems for Training Youth Workers. Cities in the BEST network offer youth development training and other professional development opportunities to better equip youth program staff to serve young people from a developmental approach. Participants in the youth development trainings come from all types of youth-serving settings, including school-based after-school programs, residential juvenile justice facilities, parks & recreation centers, faith-based programs, independent out-of-school time programs, and many others.  

Building a Community Youth Development System in the Lowcountry

The term “community youth development system” was coined by the Ford Foundation to refer to the development of a coordinated decision making system within a geographic area that effectively identifies and coordinates resources, promotes effective practices, builds public awareness of the importance of such opportunities for family, child and youth development, monitors quality, secures sustainable funding, engages all sector leaders in securing a sustainable out-of-school learning system which compliments the learning done in the schools.

In the Lowcountry, this initiative is called the Schools Out Lowcountry (SOL) initiative.  The overarching goals of SOL is to create a high quality, effective community youth development system in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper Counties that 1) is supported and championed by the local community residents and leaders, 2) provides high quality out-of-school programs for children and youth, 3) makes available professional development opportunities to youth workers, 4) offers technical assistance to help out-of-school agencies operate effective programs, and 5) positively affects the development of every school-aged child and youth participating in out-of-school programs.  Funding for this effort currently comes from the Hilton Head Island Foundation, The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, and Cornerstones for Kids. It was started in 2002 and will go until at least 2010, at which time leaders hope sustained capacity will have been built.

Done in cooperation with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s (CFL) School’s Out Lowcountry Initiative, Dr. Robinson is working with Lowcountry youth work agencies to help build the region’s capacity to develop out of school constructive activities for school-aged children and youth in the Lowcountry, and build and sustain more opportunities for children and youth in all counties.  To date, an action plan has been developed, a Community Champions network formed for each county, a sample of children and youth in two counties were surveyed to determine their current use of out of school activities, a survey of all known out of school program agencies (directors and frontline youth workers) was done.  An evaluation design of the multi-year initiative was implemented.  The first phase of a professional development plan was implemented.  Resources were secured to begin the professional development program and fund small grants to 10 agencies.  Technical assistance over the years will include evaluation of outcomes, development of funding, social marketing of benefits, and equipping FBOs and CBOs to develop programs based on best practice.

This initiative is considered unique nationally because of the known difficulties in building such capacity in very rural, low-resourced, isolated situations.  In addition, most best practices reported in the literature relative to after school and out of school youth development programs occur in urban settings that have a great deal more connectivity, funding attention, and resources from which to draw.  Few out of school programs exist for children and youth in these counties currently.  SOL was recently featured nationally in the Human Services Workforce Initiative meetings because of its rural challenge and differences to what is known about systems development in urban settings (see below.)  It was also featured in the April Issue of the NexGen newsletter, published by the Forum on Youth Investment.

Robinson, K. (2007). The Challenges of Enhancing The Youth Out of School Program Workforce In Rural America: A Lowcountry South Carolina Case Study of the Schools Out Lowcountry Initiative. Houston, TX: Cornerstones For Kids