Youth Thrive

Catalyzing systems to stand with youth

What We Work For

Youth Thrive works to transform the systems serving our nation’s youth in equitable ways, so that all young people have the opportunity to succeed.

When youth become involved in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and homeless systems, the normal adolescent challenges they experience are heightened by their circumstances. Despite best intentions, they rarely receive the support they need to heal, advocate for themselves, and grow. This is particularly acute for youth of color and youth who identify as LGBTQ or gender expansive.

How We Do It

We address this by ensuring these systems do no further harm to young people, and instead, listen to them and offer the supports they need to heal, reach their full potential, connect to a permanent caring adult, and, ultimately, succeed.

We are inspired by the strengths and resilience of young people, and are dedicated to helping them develop into thriving adults.

Youth Thrive is being implemented in six sites across the country: Georgia, Nebraska, New Jersey, Vermont, New York City, and Brevard County, Florida.

Youth Thrive trainings have been conducted in 14 additional states around the country, including California, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

We support healthy adolescent development by:

Working on the ground in communities to provide training and technical assistance for the people who work most closely with youth. We empower youth; help case workers; provide resources for families and foster parents, youth workers, and probation and police officers; and help stakeholders understand and deliver what young people need to become healthy and productive adults.

Mobilizing youth to become change agents in their communities and within public systems—working to reimagine policies and programs so that they reflect what youth need. This process places youth at the center of decisionmaking—working from their strengths and desire for justice to catalyze change.

Advocating for national and state policies based on the latest research in adolescent development and programs that best assist young people.

Partnering with organizations and agencies across cities, regions, and states to advance understanding of the skills and supportive environments all youth need to thrive. This enables systems to overcome historical inequities, so that every youth—even those experiencing difficult circumstances—can benefit.

Building a network of champions by identifying leaders from programs that exemplify the values of Youth Thrive to serve as its ambassadors.

This mix of service and advocacy offers compelling examples of how to reframe the prevailing narrative about youth and create system changes to support the strengths and potential of all young people.


As Youth Thrive is implemented across the country, more youth will have their needs met within the context of their families and communities, and fewer youth will remain involved with intervening child welfare, juvenile justice, or homeless systems.

And, when it is necessary for intervening agencies to be involved, these systems will work with youth in ways that reflect a deep understanding of adolescent development; demonstrate a commitment to listening and partnering with young people; build Protective and Promotive Factors; and achieve positive and equitable results for youth.

Already we are seeing entire agency’s youth-serving staff being trained in Youth Thrive, new policies being implemented which better reflect what the research says youth need to thrive, and practice expectations and contracts with private providers changing to reinforce the Youth Thrive Protective and Promotive Factors.

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Youth Thrive Training

To bring a deeper understanding of adolescent development and its implications for working with youth, we have developed a comprehensive train-the-trainer curriculum in collaboration with the National Resource Center for Youth Services and the Academy for Competent Youth Work. The training is designed to be a 3- to 4-day intensive experience, packed with relevant information and engaging activities. Content is organized around the five Youth Thrive Protective and Promotive factors:

  1. Knowledge of adolescent development
  2. Social connections
  3. Cognitive & social/emotional competence
  4. Concrete supports in times of need
  5. Resilience

The training teaches practical techniques for applying Youth Thrive in programs, practices, and communities and is relevant to all staff who have direct contact with young people—caseworkers, youth workers, supervisors, probation and police officers, other service providers.

In addition to the Youth Thrive Training curriculum, Families Thrive is a new training curriculum developed and offered by Youth in Focus. It combines Strengthening Families and Youth Thrive content to cover the full child development continuum from infancy through early childhood to school-age and into adolescence. Practitioners who complete the Families Thrive Training for Trainers are authorized to teach both Youth Thrive and Families Thrive curricula. This training is provided by Youth in Focus; contact for more information contact.

To report on current Youth Thrive training activities:

  • Youth Thrive Training Database (COMING SOON)

To learn more about Youth Thrive Training:

For Resources used in Youth Thrive Training:

To access an additional training module on resilience:

The Youth Thrive Framework

Advances in brain science shows that adolescent brains are at a key stage of development, which can be nurtured when a young person’s strengths are supported.

The Youth Thrive Protective and Promotive Factors Framework puts this knowledge into action. Youth Thrive shifts the attention away from a primary focus on risk reduction toward one that builds those Protective and Promotive Factors associated with risk reduction and promotion of youth well-being

The framework identifies key characteristics and conditions associated with youth well-being, such as:

Youth Resilience. Resilience is youths’ power to meet life’s challenges, giving them the ability to manage stress, function in their daily lives, and “bounce forward” when faced with adversity or trauma.

Social Connections. To find meaning in their lives, youth need to feel connected to someone or something. It is important for youth to have people in their lives who matter to them and to whom they matter.

Knowledge of Adolescent Development. Understanding and applying the latest research in adolescent brain development can help adults relate to youth experiencing challenges and support their growth and help youth better understand why they act the way they do.

Concrete Support in Times of Need. All youth need help at some time or another. When they are faced with difficult life circumstances, youth need a network that can provide them with specialized supports providing the right kind of intervention at the right time.

Cognitive and Social-Emotional Competence. Skills in executive functioning and expressing and managing emotions are essential to youths’ success. Adults who work with youth can play a key role in helping them develop and integrate these skills.

Training on the Framework helps people who work with youth learn about and implement the supportive environments all youth need to succeed. It provides information and tools so that they think about youth experiencing challenges from a place of strength, view their behaviors as normal stages of development, and intervene in different and more productive ways.

Youth Thrive Survey 

The Youth Thrive Survey is a valid and reliable web-based instrument that measures the presence, strength, and growth of the Youth Thrive Protective and Promotive Factors as proxy indicators of well-being. Co-designed with youth and young adults and taking less than 15 minutes to complete, the survey can be an effective tool for informing case planning and practice, evaluation, and continuous quality improvement (CQI) purposes. The Youth Thrive Survey provides reports and a full array of data visualization options complete access to the instrument is free of charge. Learn more in our one-pager.

Existing Survey participants may log in here

Click here to access the Youth Thrive Survey User Manual. Find a tip sheet for youth-serving professionals to understand the relevance of the Youth Thrive Survey and how it can best help young people.

To obtain a log in, please click one of the following links:

Organizational User Registration


Independent User Registration


Our Experts

Charlyn Harper Browne

Charlyn Harper Browne

Senior Associate
Leonard Burton

Leonard Burton

Senior Fellow
Lisa Primus

Lisa Mishraky

Senior Associate
Martha Raimon

Martha Raimon

Senior Associate
Francie Zimmerman

Francie Zimmerman

Senior Associate
Susan Notkin

Susan Notkin

Senior Vice President, Systems Change