Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a nationally recognized best-practice approach to working with youth that is based on a vast body of research into human resilience.

This research has demonstrated that when young people are exposed to environmental “Protective Factors”, their personal capacity to overcome the impact of past and future trauma and negative experiences is enhanced. Just as environmental “Risk Factors” (such as poverty, neglect, abuse, violence, and, specifically, alcohol and drugs) tend to inhibit an individual’s capacity for resilient behavior, Protective Factors foster resilience. By bringing a PYD approach to alcohol and drug treatment, De Paul Youth & Family Center strives to enhance each youth’s individual ability to utilize their personal strengths and resilience to overcome addiction and support recovery.

At the heart of the PYD approach are three primary Protective Factors which have influenced our program’s structure. These Protective Factors, and how they are being realized in our program, are detailed below.

Caring, Supportive Relationships

Defined as the youth’s perception that there are adults in their life who take a genuine interest in them and are willing to act as resources, this Protective Factor is being realized through program strategies that enable staff to act as guides and mentors, rather than authoritarians or enforcers.

Through enhanced supports and protocols and our robust family therapy program, we expose youth to a community of caring, supportive adults while in treatment, and strive to enhance the community of caring, supportive adults to which they will be returning.

High Expectations

Defined as the messages a youth receives from their environment and the people in their life that communicate a belief in their competence and capability, this Protective Factor is being realized through a self-regulated milieu; where youth have the ability to make choices in an environment where expectations are clear, consequences are consistent, and the environment communicates that they can and will succeed.

Our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) clearly defines all treatment expectations and program “rules” so that each youth understands exactly what is expected of them and what they need to do to be successful. Program consequences are clearly established through a “status” system that progressively matches a youth’s rights to the level of responsibility they are demonstrating.

Meaningful Participation

Defined as including youth as partners, particularly in decisions that directly affect them, this Protective Factor is being realized through strength-based counseling and support, and a partnership approach to treatment where youth have the ability to influence the design and implementation of treatment services. As part of this partnership, regular community and dorm meetings are held to solicit feedback and get young people’s perspective on program protocols and structures.

Our Path Through Treatment demonstrates Meaningful Participation. It is based on the Stages of Change, one of the evidence-based models that we use in our treatment services. Youth move through the Stages of Change based on their accomplishment of pre-determined goals, one of which is maintaining an individualized treatment plan that they develop with their Residential Counselor. Advancement along the Path Through Treatment is determined by the youth’s actions and choices rather than a determination made by staff. This puts their advancement under their control enabling them to be active participants in their treatment experience. Additionally, when they have advanced far enough, they become leaders in the community, giving them opportunities to participate as service providers as well as recipients.