Standards for child and youth development programs

2020 Edition

Out-of-School Time (CYD-OST) 3: Building Supportive Relationships Between Program Participants and Adults

Personnel develop positive, caring, and supportive relationships with children and youth.
2020 Edition

Currently viewing: OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME (CYD-OST)



Children and youth who participate in Out-of-School Time programs gain the personal, social, emotional, and educational assets needed to support healthy development, increase well-being, and facilitate a successful transition through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood. 
Note: Please note that the strategies personnel employ in supporting and managing behavior, and facilitating program activities, will also impact relationship development.  See CYD-OST 4, 5, and 8 for more information.  Treating children and youth in a culturally responsive manner and accommodating their written and oral communication needs, as addressed in CYD-OST 14, will also support the development of positive relationships.
The program’s practices fully meet the standard, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • A description of how personnel support, and develop positive relationships with, children and youth
  • Policies and/or procedures defining appropriate boundaries and unacceptable personnel conduct (CYD-OST 3.05)
No On-Site Evidence
  • Interview:
    1. Program Administrator
    2. Site Director
    3. Program Personnel
    4. Children, youth, and families
  • Observe personnel interactions with children and youth

CYD-OST 3.01

Personnel actively engage with children and youth in a warm, friendly, and respectful manner that helps them feel welcome, comfortable, and supported.


 Personnel may demonstrate implementation of this standard in a number of ways.  For example, personnel should know and call children and youth by name; acknowledge children and youth when they arrive and depart; project a tone of welcome and cheer in their voices and gestures; use kind and supportive language; show interest in what children and youth say and do; and spend most of program time interacting with children and youth (including both during activities and when snacks are served).  Personnel should also take care not to intrude on, interrupt, dismiss, belittle, or distance themselves from children and youth, and should make an effort to spend only minimal time during program hours on tasks that do not involve children and youth. 
Youth report that they are more engaged and get more out of program activities when they feel emotionally supported by program staff.

CYD-OST 3.02

Personnel encourage the development of trust by:
  1. treating all children and youth without favoritism or discrimination; and
  2. being consistent and dependable, following through on what they say they will do.
Related Standards:


As noted in CYD-OST 14, children and youth have the right to fair and equitable treatment, including the right to be treated in a non-discriminatory manner, regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, culture, language, religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity and expression, sexual identity, sexual orientation, disability, or ability. Given that there may be a tendency to employ discipline strategies differently when children are minorities or have disabilities, personnel should make a special effort to ensure that they treat children without favoritism or discrimination when upholding rules and implementing policies and procedures for behavior support and management, as addressed in CYD-OST 4 and 5. Programs should ideally also review their discipline-related data on a regular basis to determine whether children are indeed being treated without discrimination or if improvement/corrective action may be needed, as addressed in CYD-AM 11.
Note: See CYD-OST 4 and 5 for additional information regarding the importance of fairness and consistency related to rules and behavior support and management.

CYD-OST 3.03

In an effort to truly get to know children and youth, personnel take the time to:
  1. give children and youth individualized attention;
  2. check in with children and youth to see how they are doing;
  3. ask open-ended questions that encourage children and youth to share information about their lives, cultures, feelings, perspectives, needs, and interests; and
  4. pay close attention to what children and youth say and do, making a special effort to learn about their individual interests, abilities, temperaments, learning styles, and needs, including any special needs they may have.


Please note that the special needs referenced in element (d) of the standard include, but are not limited to, needs related to disabilities or a history of trauma.
Literature emphasizes that personnel should make a concerted effort to get to know youth so that they are equipped to be responsive to their needs during the course of program involvement, including when challenges arise.  

CYD-OST 3.04

Personnel support children and youth by:
  1. responding to them with interest, acceptance, and appreciation; and 
  2. responding appropriately to their individual needs, interests, and abilities.
Related Standards:


Personnel should recognize that all children and youth have different strengths and skills; support and cultivate children’s and youths’ special interests and talents; demonstrate interest in children’s and youths’ cultures and experiences; and respond to the range of children’s and youths’ feelings, temperaments, and abilities, making sure that they receive any specialized attention or support they may need.  For example, personnel should encourage children and youth to pursue their interests; respect the different ways children and youth express their feelings; try to assess a child’s or youth’s feelings before attempting to solve a problem; comfort children and youth who appear hurt, upset, or disappointed; find ways to nurture and include shy or introverted children who find it difficult to speak up; accept a child’s or youth’s desire to be alone; and modify both their actions and program activities in ways designed to help children and youth engage regardless of their age, ability, or temperament.
Note: Please note that more detailed expectations regarding ways to address the needs, interests, and abilities of children and youth are included throughout this section of standards.  See CYD-OST 4, 5, 8, and 9 for more information regarding the importance of responding appropriately to children’s needs in the context of both program activities and behavior support and management.  See CYD-OST 14 for more information about meeting written and oral communication needs, and responding appropriately to children and youth with special needs.

CYD-OST 3.05

Personnel maintain clear and appropriate boundaries with children and youth.


The exact nature of “appropriate boundaries” may vary by age and can be hard to define, but programs should establish policies and/or procedures that outline the type of conduct that would be deemed unacceptable. While personnel should strive to develop strong and supportive relationships with children and youth, as addressed throughout this core concept standard, they should also understand, and make clear to children and youth, that their role is to be a coach, instructor, and role model rather than a peer or friend. For example, personnel should be aware that some details of their personal lives may not be appropriate to disclose to children and youth, and should be careful not to share too much. Personnel should also consider whose needs are being served in their interactions with program participants, and make sure that the relationship and interactions serve the needs of children and youth, rather than their own needs.

It is also important to note that the program’s policies and/or procedures should include guidelines regarding any contact that might occur outside program time, whether via in-person contact, telephone, or electronic communications and postings (including social media postings). Personnel behavior in these contexts should be consistent with personnel behavior at the program, and should not threaten or blur the boundaries established there.