Can the Most "At Risk" Youth Get Better?

Yes, with the right support- the “most at-risk” youth can develop assets that help them become more resilient and avoid violence, anti-social peers, and other risky behaviors.  ASR analyzed the developmental assets of youth in an evaluation of eleven San Mateo County-based programs funded by the Juvenile Probation and Camps Funding (JPCF) and the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA). Results showed that the most at-risk youth made big strides in their developmental assets.  What exactly are developmental assets? They are building blocks such as family communication, a caring school climate, having a sense of purpose, and adult role models (see all 40 youth assets from the Search Institute here.)

In most cases, the youth served by JPCF and JJCPA programs exhibited risk factors such as poor school engagement, violence in the home and/or community, challenging family dynamics, mental health issues, and alcohol and drug dependency.  While in the programs, 2,672 youth between the ages of 12 and 17 received services ranging from individual/group counseling, treatment for mental health and/or substance use issues, mentoring, and after-school activities during FY 2012-2013. 

Of these 2,672 youth, 542 were assessed at two points in time with the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets Profile survey.  Upon entry to the programs, over half of the youth assessed (55%) reported significantly impaired levels of internal assets relating to their commitment to learning, social competencies, positive identity and values.  Additionally, nearly half (47%) of these youth reported low levels of external assets such as empowerment (feeling valued and safe), boundaries (having clear rules at home and school, and being monitored), constructive use of time and support from their parents and/or communities.

The inspiring news is that 52% of the youth with the absolute lowest level of assets – the “most at-risk” - succeeded in moving up by at least one asset level.  This notable improvement means that the life trajectory of these youth was likely altered, while positive developmental pathways were created.  

 To view the report, click here.

For more information please contact Jen Van Stelle, Project Manager at 

Print Friendly and PDF