Academic journal article Child Welfare

Community Youth Development: Learning the New Story

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Community Youth Development: Learning the New Story

Article excerpt

Community youth development is a challenging approach to youth work that focuses on the incorporation of new values at the practice, management, and community levels. This article explores the implementation of a community youth development approach within the context of learning organization theory, and describes the experiences of three youth-focused agencies making the transition to a community youth development approach.

Listen, stories go in circles. They don't go in straight lines. So, it helps if you listen in circles because there are stories inside and stories between stories and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you're lost, you really start to open up and listen.

Coming from a Great Distance Fischer et al. [1980]

Stories define us. The stories we tell about ourselves, our work, our hopes, and our frustrations define us as individuals and as members of groups. They reveal the assumptions and beliefs of our organizations and professions. Stories also tell us about the people we work with, the people we try to help. The youth services field is now in between stories. It is in transition from an old story to a new story. This transition is a time of change that generates both challenges and frustrations, creativity and confusion. This article discusses the old and new stories and offers examples of how the new story is being enacted in three different types of organizations within the National Network for Youth.

The new story is called community youth development (CYD). CYD was launched by the National Network for Youth in 1992. It represents ways of thinking and approaches to youth work that may seem quite foreign and quite familiar at the same time. This is because CYD grows out of the old story. Built on the National Network's Guiding Principles [1997] and the principles and best practice of its member agencies and allied organizations, CYD works with those parts of the old story that have been the most successful and have offered young people and communities the most hope for the future. It seeks to mold those successes and hopes into approaches that value and respect young people, encompass the whole person rather than just one aspect, involve families and other systems of support in efforts to work with youths, and involve young people in efforts to change communities.

To understand CYD, one must understand that its roots are in the old story. The old story is well known and its enactments, in the form of programs and services, are evident in communities across the country. In fact, the old story is so well known it hardly seems like a story. It seems more like reality.

The Old Story: Development of Services for Youth

The focus of the old story is the individuals who make up families and communities. Its grounding assumption is that healthy individuals will build healthy families and healthy communities. By focusing on individuals, communities can be improved.

The individuals are clients-recipients of services-the young people and families who consume the products developed by the youth services system. These products and services are developed by providers, using the specialized knowledge and tools of the profession, and based on the provider's understanding of clients' needs. Because clients' needs are complex, providers develop specialties in particular problem areas. These specialties are practiced in well-defined programs designed to respond to the needs of clients sharing a particular problem. To gain access to those programs, clients must be identified as having that specific problem. Since resources and programs are limited, providers try to serve clients in greatest need first.

Providers define the outcomes that they hope to achieve through these programs. Generally, programs are deemed successful if individuals' behaviors change as a result of involvement in the program. …

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