Supportive Relationships and Environment

Building Block 2

building block 2

What It Means

Programs purposefully create a welcoming environment.  It’s an emotionally safe place that young people want to come back to again and again, a place where they feel a sense of security, belonging and ownership.


Why It Matters:

A young person needs a time and a place to develop – a place to safely fail and try again, a place to explore their interests or discover new passions.  A secure, welcoming, positive environment best supports learning and development.  


What Effective Practices Look Like:

  • Program structure provides opportunities for staff and youth to build trusting, appropriate relationships.

  • Program fosters a sense of community.  Staff are welcoming, and encourage youth to connect with one another.

  • Staff and youth have shared high expectations and consistency of appropriate norms and behaviors.

  • Staff uses positive guidance to direct youth behavior and model positive behaviors to youth and to each other.

  • Staff engages with youth as individuals to help them learn and develop.

More Building Blocks

Research and Reports

Search Institute. (2014). Developmental Relationships Framework.

Metz, R., Goldsmith, J., & Abreton, A. J. A. (April, 2008). Putting it all together: Guiding principles for quality after-school programs serving preteens. p. 7 -8. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

Rhodes, E. Jean. (2004). The critical ingredient: Caring youth-staff relationships in after-school settingsNew Directions for Youth Development, No. 101. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Tools and Templates

University of Minnesota REACH Lab. An Overview of Supportive Adult-Youth Relationships.

Community Network for Youth Development. (2004). Making It Happen: Relationship Building.

Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA). “From At-Risk to ‘Untapped Potential’.” (Online YIPA training; must be a YIPA member)