National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Dilemmas of Practice: Challenges to Program Quality Encountered by Youth Program Leaders

Larson, R. W.,
Walker, K. C.
Year Published: 2010
Journal Article
Am J Community Psychol 45 (338?349) 2010
William T. Grant Foundation

To create and sustain high quality youth development programs, these authors say, it is important to understand the challenging situations and dilemmas that emerge in program leaders' daily work with youth. In this research, they followed the experiences of leaders in 12 programs over a 2-9 month period, identifying 250 dilemma situations the leaders encountered during that time. Qualitative analyses revealed 5 categories and 12 subcategories of dilemmas that reflected distinct types of considerations (e.g., youth's personalities, relationships with the community). The analyses also showed that the experienced leaders typically responded to these dilemmas in ways that were youth-centered and that balanced multiple considerations. The authors argue that researchers need to go beyond identifying features of high quality programs, and more fully examine how effective leaders create and sustain high quality in response to the challenging situations of practice. Modified Author Abstract.

Correspondence to: R. W. Larson; The Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA e-mail:
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