The research and input from youth presented in this document represents our current understanding of the ways young people develop. It also presents the views of a sample of Ontario's youth on how we can support them to succeed. This document is intended as a resource that will help support the positive development of young people, whether that involves developing programs or lesson plans, mentoring, community planning or designing policies. Moving forward, the information provided in this resource is meant as a tool that can be adapted, specialized and updated to suit the needs of youth in your community.

Make it relevant

This resource is designed to support work across provincial and local contexts

This resource is a step toward improving the way that young people are supported into adulthood in Ontario. It is intended as a tool that can be used to foster integration and collaboration across the youth-serving sector, and a platform for continuing conversations about how services can be better aligned to support youth. It also relies on the understanding that all those who have a role in supporting youth will use, adapt and advance the information in this resource to suit the needs of youth in communities across the province—from frontline service provision to developing specific community programming and organizing broader provincial planning.

The resource can be used to identify key opportunities to introduce new programs, services or supports for youth in your community. It could also be used to generate ideas about how to enhance existing services by integrating positive developmental opportunities into current programs and practices.

It also provides an important platform for ongoing dialogue

It is our intent that this resource will also serve as a valuable tool to prompt discussion and action at the government, community, organizational and family levels.

Government: partnering across ministries/departments, various levels of government and youth-serving organizations to align and focus services, policies and programs toward positive development.

Communities: partnering with community organizations to develop local networks that align efforts and create an awareness of the services offered by the community.

Service Providers: reforming programs in partnership with youth to engage them in the design of programs and implementation strategies.

Families: rethinking and enhancing daily routines to support their youth’s development.

Adapt this information to local needs

While this resource explores many "typical" aspects of youth development, it offers this information with acknowledgement that no two individuals are alike, and that context also plays an important role in the development of every early adolescent, adolescent and young adult.

For example, individual differences associated with ability, culture or identity will result in different pathways, as youth face unique opportunities and challenges. Likewise, environmental differences also have an impact on development, affecting the supports, opportunities and experiences that youth have access to. Also consider the spirit or sense of self in adapting your approach to supporting individual youth.

In the end, you know the youth you serve best. While using this document, consider the social, cultural, economic and geographical factors specific to youth in your community and how best you can support their development.

A living document

Our knowledge continues to evolve

This resource has brought together the best research and evidence on youth development available in 2011. It is clear, however, that the developmental research field is growing by the minute and that there are still gaps in this research. Similarly, the youth input that was gathered and reflected in this report is based on a sample of today’s young people—it is expected that youth across Ontario may have different experiences and ideas about the supports and opportunities that they will need in the future.

This resource is intended as a living document

This resource was created with the intent that it become a "living document" that is adapted and specialized to suit the needs of governments, communities, providers and families over time. It is important that we collectively remain current with new evidence, approaches and knowledge as they become available, taking an adaptive approach to harnessing and reflecting these advancements in our work with youth. Involving youth directly in ongoing conversations about their development will also help to ensure that this remains a living document that is relevant and personalised to meet the changing needs of all youth.

Working together

Supporting youth requires that we work collaboratively

There are many actors involved in supporting youth throughout Ontario—including governments, communities, frontline providers, and parents. These individuals and organizations have exceptional knowledge, expertise, insight and experience in supporting the development of youth.

Given the complexity of young people’s lives, and the youth services sector, it is clear that no one organization or group can single-handedly address and support all aspects of youth development. However, in partnership, we can effectively support the success of young people in Ontario and have a significant impact.

Ultimately, this resource is intended as a tool that fosters the development of a common language and understanding of youth development, placing young people at the centre of an integrated system of supports that maximizes their positive development.