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The Youth Development System (YDS) is based upon adolescent theory, and leadership principles noted by Hersey and Blanchard. The YDS is designed to provide juvenile offenders opportunities to learn, grow, and experience progress in their daily living activities, even if some of their behaviors are negative or inappropriate.

Product Summary

Key Benefits

· A System to manage behavior of anti-social, criminal, aggressive youth

· Based upon adolescent development theory, and situational leadership

· Matches staff interventions with youth according to youth maturational developmental tasks

· Curtails system manipulation by youth and staff

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Youth Development System

                 Theoretical Foundation
     The Youth Development System (YDS) is based upon adolescent theory, and leadership principles noted by Hersey and Blanchard. The YDS is neither a level system nor a token economy system, both of which are based upon principles of Behavior Modification. Instead the YDS is designed to provide juvenile offenders opportunities to learn, grow, and experience progress in their daily living activities, even if some of their behaviors are negative or inappropriate. Since the YDS is firmly rooted in adolescent development, it relies on those developmental tasks that juvenile offenders must acquire in four key areas of adolescence: the Physical, Cognitive, Emotional, and Social. The YDS requires that juvenile offenders, by acquiring pro-social skills and appropriate problem solving techniques, will develop responsible behavior based upon positive thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes. It is this cognitive restructuring combined with skill development that produces responsible behavior and in turn warrants privileges. As juvenile offenders advance their stages of development by demonstrating increased levels of responsible behavior, they are given more opportunities to exercise their own control in behavior and decision making.
     Staff is critical to the successful implementation of the Youth Development System. Staff differentiates their actions and behavior with youth based upon the youth’s stage of development. As such, staff learns to assess the situation in which the youth behaves, accounts for the youth’s developmental stage as defined by the YDS, and interacts accordingly. While staff techniques are standardized and dictated by the YDS and Situational Leadership Theory, staff uses their own style and preference to accomplish the appropriate behavior outcome for each youthful offender. As a result of learning and understanding Adolescent Development, Situational Leadership, and the concepts of the YDS, staff will expand their own tools and methods, which they will be able to transport with them, no matter where they work.

      Situational Leadership–An Overview
     Situational Leadership is an approach developed by Hersey and Blanchard (1981, 1985), to help manage individuals. It originally was developed for supervisors in a work situation, and later applied to a variety of human services settings including corrections. Situational Leadership combines the amount of direction and control (Directive Behavior) a leader gives to a subordinate; the amount of support and encouragement (Supportive Behavior) a leader provides; and the competence and commitment (developmental Level) that a follower exhibits in performing a specific task in any given situation.

1. Directive Behavior is the extent to which the leader engages in one-way communication; spells out the subordinates role and specifically tells the followers what to do, where to do it, how to do it, when to do it, and closely monitors and supervises the subordinate’s performance.
2. Supportive Behavior is the extent to which a leader engages in two-way communication, listens, provides support and encouragement, facilitates interaction, and involves the subordinate in decision making.
3. Developmental Level is comprised of competence (the follower’s job knowledge and skills) and commitment (the follower’s motivation and/or confidence). The more competent and committed, the more responsibility the subordinate will take to direct his or her own behavior.
Staff learns how to combine the two types of behaviors to interact with juvenile offenders. The combination and balance between Directive and Supportive behavior is directly related to the stage at which the youth perform. By combining these two types of behaviors, four leadership styles are available for staff to use. Once staff masters the four different leadership styles, they are in a capable position to manage youth behavior and direct their growth.

     These Leadership styles are:
1. Directing: High directive/low supportive behavior. Staff using this leadership style provides specific instructions for youth and closely supervises task completion.
2. Coaching High directive/high supportive behavior. Staff explains the decisions they make and solicits suggestions from juvenile offenders, but continues to direct task achievement.
3. Participating High supportive/low directive behavior. Staff makes decisions together with the youthful offender and supports efforts toward their task accomplishment.
4. Delegating Low supportive/low directive behavior. Staff allows the youthful offender to implement and achieve the assigned task independently, exercising responsibility and decision making as appropriate.
Thus, the YDS provides guidance to staff as to how they should approach juvenile offenders in any given situation. Based upon the youth’s developmental stage as defined by the YDS, staff choose the appropriate leadership style in order to best manage the youth’s behavior in any given situation. Staff are always the final authority and in control of any situation, but exercise great latitude as they interact with the youth they manage. The YDS creates a learning environment in which juvenile offenders are provided opportunities to grow and develop by exploring their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes. Using developmental tasks they have already acquired and learning new ones, juvenile offenders are constantly challenged to increase responsible behavior and advance their developmental stages through a variety of experiences and learning aids.

The Youth Development System
 Youth are assessed through Interdisciplinary Team Reviews and placed in one of four Stages. Stages are determined by the youth’s developmental level as defined by Situational Leadership Theory (i.e.: competence and commitment). The following chart identifies a youthful offender’s Developmental Stage (in general terms), given any specific situation. The Developmental Stages ranges from low to high, identifying juvenile offenders from “in the process of developing to having fully developed”. 

Each developmental stage has its own set of responsibilities that the youthful offender must acquire in order to move onto higher stages. Once acquired, a stage may not be taken away, and so it is incumbent upon staff to insure that when a youth is certified as reaching a certain stage of development, that the youth has indeed demonstrated the responsibilities required of that stage. Each stage of the YDS has a set of responsibilities that a youth must demonstrate competency and in turn a set of developmental tasks in which the youth must be proficient. Because the YDS is based upon adolescent development principles, youth need not complete all stages of the YDS in order to be released from program or be successful in their habilitation. Rather, staff must be able to accurately assess their developmental stage and insure that those significant others understand the competencies and commitment the youthful offender has, given situations they encounter.
Documenting progress is reported during regular case conferences and youth records, as any staff log or note would be recorded. The YDS also has certain tools to aid staff as they interact with youth at various stages. These include:

• Youthful Offender Progress Reports
• Youthful Offender Evaluation Forms
• Criteria for Stage Advancement
• Stage Review Process
• Youthful Offender Behavior Improvement Plans
• Mentor Weekly Progress Report

     At each Stage, youth are provided with a color coded identifier (e.g.: tee-shirt; wristband; id-card) to signify the Stage they have achieved. Staff are able to better identify YDS stages of youth, group youth accordingly and manage behavior, both individual and group. Specifics of the YDS may be found in the YDS Rule Book for Juvenile offenders, The Youth YDS Handbook, and The YDS Staff Manual.


Low Competence Low            Commitment

Some Competence     Low            Commitment

High Competence Variable     Commitment

High Competence    High           Commitment

Stage I



Stage II



Stage III



Stage IV



Developed                                                                                                                                    Developing    


High                                    Moderate                         LOW

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