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Youth and Youth-At-Risk Programs

This page provides examples of local government programs in Washington State that target youth, and particularly at-risk youth, along with related resources.


There appears to be no general definition of youth at risk, though there is a definition for at-risk youth in RCW 13.32A.030, as it relates to juvenile courts and juvenile offenders. A report done for the Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families on resources for serving at-risk youth, uses the term at-risk youth to refer to young people for whom the probability of successfully transitioning to adulthood and achieving economic self-sufficiency is low (see Synthesis of Research and Resources to Support at-Risk Youth).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adolescent and School Health page lists adolescent health and risk behaviors. It notes that government agencies, community organizations, schools, and other community members must work together in a comprehensive approach to have the most positive impact on adolescent health. Providing safe and nurturing environments for our nation's youth can help ensure that adolescents will be healthy and productive members of society.

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, composed of 19 federal agencies that support youth programs, notes on its Violence Prevention page that youth violence and crime affect a community's economic health, as well as individuals' physical and mental health and well-being. Each neighborhood and community has unique experiences with violence and different resources available to them. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to preventing youth violence. However, communities can help reduce youth violence by developing a city-wide strategy that combines prevention, intervention, treatment, and re-entry strategies.

Examples of Local Youth Programs

Below are examples of various local government programs in Washington State that focus on youth and at-risk youth.

  • Bellevue Youth Link - Youth leadership program sponsored jointly by the city and the school district. Past projects include establishing a youth court to reduce recidivism, creating skate parks and other youth recreation centers, and addressing youth clothing gaps at local clothing banks.
  • Clark County Youth Program - Provides a number of programs and projects, including mentoring, substance abuse prevention, and peer-to-peer "teen talk" hotline to help youth through difficult times
  • King County Safe Place Program - Partnership with local nonprofits and businesses to quickly connect youth in crisis to help through a network of "safe places." Youth can call a hotline, stop at a participating business, or talk to a bus driver for help.
  • Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Department - Dedicated city department provides services for youth, families, and seniors, including drug and alcohol prevention, mental health counselors in schools, youth volunteer programs, and diversion programs for arrested youths.
  • Sammamish Youth Board - Youth body coordinates activities and community service events, meets quarterly with the school superintendent, and partners with police department on projects like reducing substance abuse and speeding.
  • Stanwood Youth Programs and Services - Community Resource Center provides services such as after-school and summer classes and activities and a mobile dental clinic.

Youth Law and Justice Programs

Below are examples of jurisdictions that have established special services within their law enforcement systems to help deter youth criminal activity, engage youth with law enforcement, and reduce youth incarceration and recidivism rates.

Some jurisdictions have also established specialized youth courts; for more information see our page on City and County Court Services (in the section "specialized courts").

Youth Park and Recreation Programs

A number of cities, counties, and park districts offer indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities to keep youth engaged and safe. A few examples are below.

  • Bainbridge Island Metro Parks Teen Center - Provides recreation center amenities, teen activities, concerts, youth service projects.
  • Ellensburg Youth Center - Game room, lounge, and computer lab, supervised by adult staff and volunteers.
  • Metro Parks Tacoma Middle School Youth Development Program - Provides after-school clubs, dances, and events, as well as field-trips on holidays and in-service days.
  • Redmond Teens - Old Fire House Teen Center provides events and activities for high school students, while several middle schools offer after-school clubs.
  • Seattle Teen Programs - Wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities for teens, as well as job opportunities for teens in the parks and recreation department.
  • Vancouver Teens - After-school and late-night activities at local community centers, as well as outdoor camps and community service opportunities for teens.

Youth Transportation Programs

Most transit agencies offer some sort of discounted youth fares, but some have summer fare specials to provide youth with more mobility while school is out and encourage them to use the transit system. Others offer bus drivers as a resource for youth who need help.

Youth Advisory Boards and Commissions

Many cities and counties in Washington have established youth advisory boards to provide input on youth issues, as well as to engage youth in local government. For examples, see our page on Youth Participation in Local Government.

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: August 17, 2017