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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," although there is a definition for "at-risk youth" in RCW 13.32A.030 as it relates specifically 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., a website established by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, which is composed of federal agencies that support youth programs,  notes on its Violence Prevention webpage that youth violence and crime affect a community's economic health.There is no one-size-fits-all approach to preventing youth violence. However, communities can help reduce youth violence by developing a city- or county-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 - This youth leadership program is 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 - In this program the county partners 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 - Provides services dedicated for youth, families, and seniors, including drug and alcohol prevention, mental health counselors in schools, youth volunteer programs, and diversion programs for incarcerated youths
  • Sammamish Youth Board - 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
  • Seattle Mayor's Youth Opportunity Initiative - Offers a variety of programs for youth, including housing for homeless youth, domestic violence prevention, suicide prevention, and youth employment programs
  • Stanwood Youth Programs and Services - Offers a Community Resource Center that provides services such as afterschool and summer classes/activities and a mobile dental clinic

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 the Washington State Association of Youth Courts website.

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

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.

  • Jefferson Transit Summer Youth Pass (2016) - Allowed youth 18 years and under unlimited transit rides for $20 between Memorial Day and Labor Day; Pass was also valid for transit agencies in Clallam, Grays Harbor, and Mason counties.
  • YouthCare Safe Place Program - Under the program youth can get help from a number of sources, including any King County bus driver

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: January 24, 2023