The mission of the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. In 2011, the Center launched the Youth Thrive™ framework to capitalize on the inherent strengths that exist in youth. They hypothesized that these strengths would thereby reduce the troubling outcomes that all too often are experienced by young people, particularly those in foster care.
The Youth Thrive™ framework identifies key characteristics – known as protective and promotive factors – associated with youth well-being, including resilience, social connections, knowledge of adolescent development, concrete support in times of need, and cognitive and social-emotional competence. The framework is currently implemented in six states across the United States, with trainings conducted in an additional 14 states.
Youth-Informed Development Process
The Center contracted with Metis to assist with the development and validation of a survey aimed at measuring the presence, strength, and growth of the protective and promotive factors included in Youth Thrive™. The survey would serve as a proxy to determine youth well-being. The intent was to use the instrument to inform case planning, practice, evaluation, and quality improvement. Metis and CSSP created a systematic multi-step approach to ensure that young people who would ultimately take the survey were involved in the development process.
The process of building the survey began by creating an item bank from known instruments – over 200 in total – relating to the protective and promotive factors of interest. Young people were then invited to review the items and provide input on item clarity, duplicity, and “feel.” Based on this feedback, the Center and Metis pared the item bank to 162. This “final” item bank was then subjected to a rigorous testing process that included focus groups, cognitive interviews, field testing, and analysis. A sampling plan was developed to ensure that hard-to-reach and small populations such as LGBTQ+ and Native American young people had a voice in the survey’s development.
Four focus groups and text analyses were used to determine problematic items and questions with common themes. This reduced the item bank to 95 questions. Cognitive interviews were conducted with young people to further refine the items. This included rewording, re-ordering, and elimination of questions, and resulted in a draft instrument containing 92 items.
The first round of field testing was conducted with 316 individuals based on the sampling plan. Data from the field test were analyzed using data reduction techniques, resulting in a streamlined instrument of 66 items.
The second round of field testing was conducted with 204 individuals based on the sampling plan to confirm the validity and reliability of the 66-item instrument.
Putting the Survey into Action
Once the reliability and validity of the instrument was ensured, an online administration and data collection system was developed to launch the survey. Metis developed the system based on specifications defined by the Center’s and end-users’ planned uses for the survey, with modifications incorporated based on user feedback. Once finalized, Metis developed a user manual and provided a webinar that guided interested parties in the use of the survey system. Metis continues to administer technical support as necessary to ensure the smooth operation of the system. To date, over 1,000 surveys have been completed, and the data collected have been used locally to inform case planning and practice decisions. Plans for translating the survey into several different languages are currently being explored. The instrument can be accessed here.