Safe Spaces for Young People

When adults speak about safety, we’re often referring to the scourge of physical violence that is redefining the lives of all children and youth across the United States today. With the horrors of school shootings, the terror of gang violence, and the rage of bullying tearing apart families and communities everyday, the presence of physical danger seems more real than ever before (and not without consequences, either.)
Unfortunately, adults often neglect to understand the real need to safety in the lives of young people today: Psychological well-being, or the very thought of being safe. Without this reality, young people often revert to simply surviving, and cannot thrive in any respect. 

Walking into an youth program environment, young people feel safe because of a variety of factors. In more than two decades experience working in a variety of youth spaces, I found that these factors include:
  • Trusting relationships between adults and young people.
  • A strong bond between young people and the purpose of the program.
  • Opportunities for young people to share their honest feelings and participate in making a difference in the program.
  • Facilitating regular small group activities. Removing economic barriers to participation.
  • Engaging parents, families, and schools opportunities to connect with our program.
  • Build trust with parents, families, and communities.
  • Ensuring effective communication between the program and home.
  • Conducting home visits on a regular basis.
  • Acting as a connector between young people, families, and social services when necessary.
  • Frequently making the afterschool program available as a community building opportunity.
None of this is to diminish the resiliency and survival instinct that all young people need in order to succeed as adults. I believe these factors and this concentration on safety in youth spaces builds that resilience.
Here are some resources I’ve found to support making youth spaces safe:
Let me know if you have anything you’d add to the mix.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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