Title

Neighborhood youth centers in Connecticut: A process analysis

Date of Completion

January 2006

Keywords

Social Work|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

A process evaluation was conducted on a selected sample of inner-city Neighborhood Youth Centers (NYC's) operating within the State of Connecticut. One of the principal functions of a process evaluation is the use of evaluation data to inform programming policies and practices. Within this study, youths' perceptions of the "Positive Youth Development" principles present within the NYC programs were assessed. Summaries of these perceptions were shared with the directors of the centers who then worked on a program improvement plan. One year after the initial data were collected, youth were re-surveyed to determine whether or not the improvement objectives had been achieved. ^ In order to conduct the proposed program evaluation, it was necessary to create a measure to assess youth perceptions of supports and opportunities present within the programs. The second objective of the study, thus, revolved around the development and refinement of this assessment tool. This survey measure represents an attempt to operationalize the key supports and opportunities thought to be the foundation of programming that supports positive youth development. ^ These results contribute to the existing literature in two very important ways. First, findings clearly show that process evaluation information can have a very direct and focused impact on the programming found within youth programs. Second, findings depict that it is useful to examine what is actually occurring during program implementation and delivery in order to assess whether or not program goals are met and stakeholders are satisfied. That is, by using youths' perceptions of their program experiences and making programmatic changes based on these perceptions, youth participating in the program not only are empowered by playing a role in making such changes but also are more invested in center activities and program planning. ^ To date, process evaluations designed to elicit information useful to program planners are virtually nonexistent. This study contributes to the existing literature on positive youth development by using information provided by youth to implement programming changes, and, then, examining the degree to which the information and feedback provided to centers results in changes in how youth experience the centers. ^