Youth Programs Can Improve Engagement by Reducing Barriers and Strengthening Relationships

Child Trends reviewed the available literature on improving program engagement, but found little methodologically strong research that could guide programs with actionable suggestions. Moreover, the existing research is often conducted with program participants and misses the youth who are least likely to participate in programs. In the review of available literature, four basic themes emerged as field-sourced suggestions for improving program recruitment, retention, and engagement. 1) To improve recruitment and participation, programs should identify and address barriers to program attendance, such as transportation and its costs, child care, food, and scheduling issues. 2) Programs can use strategic financial incentives to improve recruitment and retention, especially for young adults. 3) Involving recruiters from the community that is being recruited can improve recruitment, as can drawing upon existing relationships and connections. 4) Making programs interesting, fun, and enjoyable for young people can improve engagement with afterschool programs. The recent literature also consistently stresses the importance of positive, respectful, and supportive relationships between youth and staff for retaining young people and promoting active program engagement. #childcare #foodsecurity