New Data Highlights Risk & Protective Factors for VT Youth

New data from the Vermont Youth Project has been released that indicates risk and protective factors for teens around family, school, peer groups, and out-of-school time activities in addition to perceptions of substance use.

Currently, there are six communities participating in the Vermont Youth Project, which is a new initiative designed to boost positive youth development and protective factors on the local level. Participating communities are Enosburg, Fair Haven, Richford, Richmond, Rutland, and Swanton. Each community has committed to the project for five years and will build a local coalition including representatives from the school system, youth agencies, parents and caregivers, public health officials, afterschool and summer programs, clinical providers, law enforcement, policymakers, youth leaders, and/or community partners.

“Our ultimate goal here is to align and amplify existing prevention work, as well as amplify youth voice on the local level,” stated Robin Katrick. Katrick, who coordinates the project, currently works as the Youth and Community Health Coordinator at Vermont Afterschool.

The Vermont Youth Project uses the Planet Youth data tool, designed by researchers at the Icelandic Center for Social Research and Analysis, to survey middle and high school youth in the participating communities on risk and protective factors around family, school, peer groups, and out-of-school time activities in addition to perceptions of substance use.

Recently released data from the survey, which students took in Fall 2019, points out a few important take-aways for youth in the six communities:

  1. Substance use numbers are relatively high, particularly cannabis use
  2. Parental/caregiver support and monitoring are generally high but parental collaboration/co-communication are relatively low
  3. A high percentage of adolescents in middle school and high school report receiving caring and warmth from their parents
  4. There is a culture of acceptance, particularly around alcohol and cannabis
  5. Youth have a lot of unorganized free time and lack of structured activities in out-of-school time is a problem across all six communities

Based on this data, local teams are designing action plans and holding community meetings with the goal of helping youth feel more safe, connected, heard, and engaged.

“It’s the perfect time for us to connect the data to the practice to steer our efforts in a more cohesive way,” stated Chris Hultquist, executive director of The Mentor Connector and a member of the Rutland community team.

The Vermont Youth Project is supported by Vermont Afterschool, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that children and youth in every Vermont community have access to high-quality out-of-school time programs.

“We’re thrilled to launch this project and help these communities think about creative, collaborative ways to help their youth succeed,” stated Vermont Afterschool’s Executive Director Holly Morehouse. “Our goals are all the same: we want to make Vermont the best place for a young person to grow up.”