Youth Development

Youth Development is the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical processes that all youth uniquely experience from birth to career. At the Y, we know that a successful development process fulfills children and teens’ innate need to be loved, spiritually grounded, educated, competent, and healthy. We believe that all kids deserve the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve. Through YMCA programs, 129,000 children across Virginia are taking an interest in learning, making smarter life choices and cultivating the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. The Y is the largest provider of child care, offering families affordable, high quality care through pre-school and after-school programs. Scholarships, subsidies and outreach provide critical assistance to low-income families.


Protecting Our Kids


At the Y, the safety and well-being of kids in our care has always been a top priority. Creating safe environments where children can learn, grow and thrive is essential to each YMCA’s ability to strengthen community. However, child sexual abuse is a serious and too-common crime in the United States today: one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by age 18. These are heartbreaking statistics, but there is good news - child sexual abuse is preventable. As one of the nation’s leading youth-serving organizations, the Y must do everything in our power to protect the 9 million children and teens we engage each year from those who would do them harm.


The Virginia Alliance of YMCAs set a priority to be the leader in child sexual abuse prevention and has partnered with the YMCA of the USA to galvanize the culture, practices and behavior needed to prevent child sexual abuse. Y-USA partnered with Praesidium, a nationally recognized leader in creating safe environments for kids, to make enhanced abuse-prevention tools and resources available to all YMCAs. This includes the opportunity for Ys to work directly with Praesidium to assess the strength of their existing policies and procedures, enhance them where necessary and develop a plan to sustain a culture of abuse prevention. YMCAs across the Commonwealth are joining cohorts to access these enhanced resources and Praesidium’s personalized, expert guidance. As part of a cohort, YMCAs:


  1. Establish a Child Abuse Prevention Committee and designate a staff person as a Praesidium Guardian;
  2. Complete Know Your Score!, Praesidium’s online self-assessment to privately and systematically assess their abuse-prevention policies; and
  3. Implement best practices in eight operational areas—as identified by Praesidium’s Safety Equation®—to strengthen their capacity to prevent incidents of child sexual abuse.



Closing the Achievement Gap


Kids from low-income families often start school unprepared. Despite progressing at the same rates during the school year, gaps widen each summer— and students fall farther behind their peers. The gap culminates in low High School graduation and college attainment rates, limited job prospects, and negative economic impact. Learn more about the Y's Summer Learning Loss Prevention program.