Youth Worker Fundamentals: Using a Strengths-Based Approach

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A Strengths-Based Approach (SBA) in youth work is one that not only genuinely recognizes and validates that every young person has strengths, but also that there is strength in every action and decision they make. How we identify “strengths” and “success” is, by default, subjective and based in systems of oppression. This workshop seeks to transform that by highlighting youth behavior as an intelligent response to meeting core needs; safety, agency, dignity and belonging.

what is a strength_chalk talkThis full-day workshop focuses on breaking down “simple” concepts: What does strength, resilience and leadership actually mean? Participants will explore positive youth development theory and identify concrete ways to apply strengths-based interventions with the young people they work with. In the afternoon, we will center youth leadership and empowerment as a core set of skills to support young people in a strengths-based way.


  1. Articulate what it means to center a strengths-based approach in their practice
  2. Problem-solve challenges to using a strengths-based approach consistently in their practice
  3. Describe the Positive Youth Development model and how it applies to homeless youth work
  4. Apply practical strategies to support the innate strengths and resilience of young people they work with
  5. Gain confidence in empowering young people to become leaders

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The Strengths-Based Approach curriculum was built and will be facilitated by Former YouthCare Training Program Manager Ashley Barnes-Cocke. In their role at YouthCare, Ashley Coordinated both the King-County-wide Young Adult Diversion program as well as the Youth Worker Institute, providing ongoing, high quality training and professional development opportunities for homeless youth service providers across King County. Ashley has over seven years of experience working with youth and young adults, primarily in the areas of youth leadership and empowerment, and firmly believes that centering youth voice is an essential part of youth work.

SBA Tools for One-on-One Meetings 

  • Art Activities. These activities are great for supporting young people in healing, reflecting and post traumatic growth. They can also be useful for goal setting, confidence-building and as a creative outlet for the young person.
  • Community Project SBA Tool – Supporting a Young Person in Participating in and Creating Meaningful Roles in the Community. This activity format can be modified to support the young person in participating in program and in feeling empowered to advocate for their interests and needs.
  • Eco-map (coming soon)

SBA Training Resources & Additional Information