Youth Thrive™

Youth Thrive is a research-grounded model that combines current science about adolescent brain development, trauma, resilience, and the importance of social connections into one framework for promoting young people’s wellbeing and healthy development.

This dynamic framework is designed for educators, youth-serving staff, social workers, law enforcement personnel, foster parents and any other adults in the community who regularly interact with young people. If you want to connect effectively with youth, particularly those who have experienced traumatic life events, Youth Thrive is for you.


In the 1980s, the new concept of Positive Youth Development (PYD) swept the youth work field. PYD put forward an idea that at the time seemed counter-intuitive: young people with troubling behaviors could not be controlled or corrected through top-down authoritarian approaches. Hardball tactics simply did not work, and in fact often promoted precisely the behavior they were meant to quell. PYD told adults to change their own attitudes: to see youth as individuals who may be experiencing some problems but who also had extensive innate strengths to build upon. From a PYD perspective, youth would do better if allowed to craft their own plans within a relationship rich, supportive--not punitive--framework. Although a standard among many youth work professionals, deep knowledge and practice of PYD still remains inconsistent among many who impact the lives of children and youth.

Youth Thrive tells us how to build young people’s capacity for growth and development by changing how we interact with them.

In 2012, the federal government issued a memo to child welfare systems acknowledging that despite decades of hard work and refinement, state systems were still failing to meet young people’s basic developmental needs. This failure resulted in thousands of youth entering adulthood with poor chances for success. The memo told state systems that assuring physical safety was no longer enough. Their work must now reflect new scientific understandings of adolescent development, impact of trauma, resilience, and social/emotional learning. Though many states had adopted PYD principles, in practice they were falling far short of integrating it into their work with youth. Now states were being asked to redouble their efforts by employing an approach firmly grounded in PYD, but also incorporating new understandings of adolescent development. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for the Study of Social Policy developed Youth Thrive to help states fulfill that mandate. CSSP synthesized research on resiliency, positive youth development, neuroscience, and traumatic stress in order to understand how to truly promote healthy growth and optimal outcomes for young people. Youth Thrive became a set of principles that translate into clear and concrete recommendations for any adult working with young people—particularly those from challenging circumstances.

Overarching Goal
Based in strengths-based and positive psychology perspectives, the Youth Thrive framework gives educators, social workers, policymakers, law enforcement personnel and direct-service workers in any setting the concrete knowledge they need to understand young people and promote their long-term wellbeing.

Five Critical Premises
Youth Thrive is based on five premises that reflect what adults need to do, but even more importantly, how they need to do it. Simply put, young people are best supported by professionals who:

  • Understand current research on neuroscience and adolescent development, and its implications for working with young people
  • Particularly understand the impact of traumatic stress and how to use trauma-informed approaches
  • Recognize relationships as a primary source of growth and learning for young people
  • Competently provide culturally appropriate services
  • Assess and modify their own beliefs and practices, and take care of themselves in challenging environments

For more information about Youth Thrive, or to schedule a training event on the framework, please contact:

Donna Duffey
Email: donna@bolstercollaborative.com
Ph: (800) 294-4322

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