Youth Development Specialists


You are on the front line, in the trenches helping to improve the condition for raising children. If things do not go well, you are there intervening to lend support and guidance.

More and more parents and people in communities are seeking “professionals” to intervene in the lives of their children. While there may be many options, there are certainly less resources and the needs are increasing and becoming more complicated. As caring individuals on the front line of responding to the needs of children and youth, you are in the center of the storm surrounding youth services.

As a caring person who is committed to helping youth, you know that without the involvement of parents/guardians, families and other significant people and resources in the lives of children and schools and youth serving organizations, you alone are unable to meet the challenges of growing up and solving all the problems that arise. As such, you may be unable to create conditions that support the healthy development of the whole child.

When the individual is considered the single most important entity of our species the idea of business as nourishing life becomes segregated into isolated service delivery silos by specialty, problem, and solutions. Programs spring from disconnected service providers who are oriented within their own narrow specialty to focus on the individual. Natural relationships, with others and with our environment, can provide authentic nourishment for life. Professional service delivery has usurped these natural relationships which occur everywhere, and which can be brought to bear on the challenges of living in a complex world. There is no greater challenge than raising our children and grappling with the problems of living in a complex world.

By remembering the traditional wisdom of rites of passage, we can guide the community to come together to nourish life and to raise children in a way that they develop deep feelings of belonging to all their relations so that the most important story we share is the one about how we nurture and support our children come of age. When we get that story RITE, we get our future right.

If it "takes a whole community to raise a child”, then you can become a community organizer through the story of rites of passage. This strategy has clear and specific design principles that engage all aspects of the community.

Here are some initial steps you can take as a Youth Development Specialist to start the conversation:

  • Become familiar with some of the language of rites of passage and associated activities. You will then be able to recognize where patterns, symbols and forms of initiation and rites of passage are already occurring in your community.
  • Seek out and talk to a few of your colleagues, friends, parents/guardians, educators and especially youth about the potential for rites of passage to integrate and strengthen all of your efforts. Rites of passage is a way to reframe teenage problems and the process of counseling/therapy is a part of the initiatory process and rite of passage experience. To learn more about rites of passage and adolescent development click here.
  • Talk with others at home, in your agency and among your peers and colleagues about rites of passage. Think back on your own coming of age experiences. Were there any significant events, any “tornados” that made an impact and marked for you a transition, moving from childhood to adulthood? What made it significant? Who was there?
  • Think about where do rites of passage already exist in ways that compromise healthy development and lead to potentially devastating outcomes, like drinking, drug use and gang membership.
  • Become more conversant and proficient in the methods used to organize your school and community to join collaboratively in designing rites of passage. Where are patterns, themes and symbols of rites of passage already happening? Where do resources already exist that can easily join in the story of rites of passage to transform the community? Explore what the minimum conditions are for rites of passage to become a potent ally in your youth development and education arsenal. Use methods such as:

Trinity of Inquiry – for assessing existing approaches and resources.

  • Asset mapping for Rites of Passage
  • How rites of passage promotes all 40 developmental assets and social-emotional learning
  • Community Readiness for Rites of Passage
  • Conditions for Educating & Raising Children through rites of passage designs


Visit our Learn More section for additional resources and support.


The Swedish word for business is närings – liv. It means nourishment for life or nurturing life. Are we nourishing the lives of our children? Read more: The Busyness of Raising Children