Youth Development Across the Federal Government: A Thought Leader Conversation with Cheri Hoffman

Federal agencies offer a wide range of services and supports for children and young people, to help them grow into thriving adults. Those agencies, though operating with the best of intentions, often become siloed in their approaches due to their individual legislative mandates and practices.

Children and young people do not grow up in siloes or within the bounds of individual programs. Their lives are impacted by a wide range of factors, including their community, neighborhood, transportation network, health system, afterschool offerings, and school system. On any given day, their lives can touch on the work of multiple federal agencies.

Recognizing the vital importance of collaboration among federal youth-serving agencies to better support the whole child, the Interagency Working Group was founded in 2008 to promote achievement of positive results for at-risk youth through coordination and collaboration, evidence-based and innovative strategies, and youth engagement and partnerships.

Recently, Karen Pittman spoke with Cheri Hoffman, who chairs the working group and also directs the Division of Children and Youth Policy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services. The conversation explored how the working group helps federal agencies approach positive youth development and emerging ways that the working group is tackling its mission.

On this page you’ll find selected excerpts of the session along with the full recording, an interactive transcript, the slide presentation, and further resources.

  • The Interagency Working Group defines Positive Youth Development as:

“Positive Youth Development is an intentional, prosocial approach that engages youth within their families, peer groups, schools, organizations, and communities in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances youth’s strengths and assets; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths.”

During the conversation, Karen asked how the working group landed on this definition. There are so many aspects of youth development, and so many agencies that play a role, trying to look at the whole child can be seen through the metaphor of trying to tackle an entire elephant.

Hear Cheri’s insights into this question.

  • During the call, a question came in about media coverage around COVID-19 response. Currently, young people are often seen as a problem rather than as an asset. How do we change that narrative? 

Hear Cheri’s thoughts on how to really highlight the fact that young people are doing fantastic things across the country and how we can highlight their civic engagement in this effort.

  • Karen teed up an insightful question on the evidence around taking  a Positive Youth Development approach helps.

    What’s the evidence around why we need to use this bigger approach? As we’re acknowledging this approach, we also have the challenge that evidence-based programs often have fidelity and fit issues when organizations and communities start to implement them.

Listen to Cheri’s thoughts on how to think about these types of programs and strategies. 


Additional Resources Mentioned During the Discussion
Resources to Support Youth and Families During the Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak
Youth Engaged 4 Change
Youth Engagement at the Federal Level: A Compilation of Strategies and Practices
Advancing the Use of Core Components of Effective Programs
Karen Pittman's New Blog: What Happens When Out-of-School Time is All the Time?