Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Out-of-School Time Services (PA-OST) 5: Promoting Positive Behaviors and Healthy Peer Relationships

Personnel partner with children and youth to build a nurturing, inclusive community that supports positive behavior and encourages respectful, cooperative interactions.
2020 Edition




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.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Program schedule/routine
  • Program rules and behavioral expectations
  • Program climate assessment tools 
  • Documentation that leaders have sought stakeholder input regarding the program climate
  • Improvement/corrective action plans regarding program climate, if applicable
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Children, youth, and families
  • Observe program space and activities
  • Observe interactions of children and youth with peers and personnel

PA-OST 5.01

Program space, materials, and activities are designed to be welcoming to and supportive of all children and youth regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, culture, language, religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity and expression, sexual identity, sexual orientation, disability, or ability.
Examples: Diversity can be incorporated and embraced throughout all aspects of the program, from the pictures displayed, to the books read, to the games and music played, to the holidays celebrated, to the food served.

PA-OST 5.02

The agency supports positive behavior by establishing a consistent routine that: 
  1. is clearly communicated to children, youth, and families;
  2. supports achievement of program goals;
  3. encourages active participation and engagement;
  4. provides stability and predictability;
  5. includes time for children and youth to settle in and adjust upon arrival;
  6. facilitates smooth transitions and minimizes the need for waiting or rushing; and
  7. allows children and youth to meet their physical needs (e.g., for water, food, or the restroom) in a relaxed way.


Participants should be prepared in advance when changes or exceptions to the daily routine will occur.

PA-OST 5.03

Children and youth are involved in developing, and helped to understand, rules and behavioral expectations that:
  1. establish clear expectations for interactions and behavior;
  2. are designed to encourage the development of a safe, caring, respectful, and inclusive environment that supports self-expression and learning; and
  3. are appropriate to the ages and developmental levels of program participants, as well as to the goals of the program.

PA-OST 5.04

In an effort to facilitate the development of peer relationships and foster a sense of community, children and youth are provided with opportunities to:
  1. socialize with their peers; and
  2. participate in structured community-building activities such as introductions, icebreakers, or community circles.
Examples: Opportunities for socialization may be provided both within and between program activities.

PA-OST 5.05

In an effort to help children and youth learn to self-regulate their emotions and behavior, personnel:
  1. model healthy strategies for expressing and managing emotions;
  2. help children and youth learn how to recognize and understand emotions and their causes and effects, including how emotions can influence thoughts and behaviors;
  3. help children and youth learn strategies for expressing and managing their emotions in an appropriate and constructive manner;
  4. provide opportunities for children and youth to practice handling their emotions in healthy and responsible ways; and
  5. offer coaching and guidance to help children and youth appropriately express and manage their emotions, as needed.
Examples: Opportunities to practice handling and expressing emotions will likely occur within the context of social interactions with peers (as addressed in PA-OST 5.04) and program activities (as addressed in PA-OST 9), as well as within the context of managing interpersonal conflicts and behavior-related challenges, as addressed in PA-OST 6.

PA-OST 5.06

Personnel support children and youth in developing empathy, openness, and respect for others by: 
  1. explaining that all people are unique individuals;
  2. helping children and youth learn about diversity and difference, including diversity of perspectives, cultures, temperaments, needs, and abilities;
  3. modeling inclusiveness and respect for difference;
  4. teaching children and youth to be kind and stand up for others; and
  5. facilitating opportunities for children and youth to listen to and learn about the experiences, feelings, and perspectives of others.
Examples: Personnel can facilitate opportunities for program participants to listen to and learn from one another by engaging children and youth in explicit discussions, as well as by encouraging children and youth to interact with their peers, including those who may be perceived as “different” (e.g., children and youth with special needs, children and youth with different personalities or temperaments, or children and youth who speak a different language). In addition to learning about the experiences, feelings, and perspectives of peers and personnel, the agency can also facilitate opportunities for children and youth to learn about the experiences of others by providing resources that illustrate different perspectives and cultures, or inviting guests with different backgrounds or experiences to visit.

PA-OST 5.07

Personnel use modeling, instruction, practice, and coaching to help children and youth develop interpersonal skills and knowledge that facilitate appropriate interactions and collaboration, including: 
  1. treating others with fairness and respect;
  2. understanding social norms and cues;
  3. demonstrating an awareness of different perspectives and cultures;
  4. listening actively and deeply, without interrupting;
  5. effectively conveying their points of view; and
  6. resolving conflicts and disagreements.

PA-OST 5.08

Program and agency leaders demonstrate a commitment to establishing a positive climate that allows all children and youth to feel socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually safe and supported.


Leaders can demonstrate that they are committed to establishing a positive climate by: (1) proactively establishing and communicating values that underlie a positive climate and are sensitive to the cultures of program participants; (2) identifying and implementing practices that support those values and foster the development of a positive climate; (3) seeking the input of children, youth, and families regarding the climate that exists at the program; and (4) implementing improvement/corrective action plans to address any problems or negative elements.
Examples: According to the National School Climate Center (NSCC), factors that contribute to a positive school climate include: (1) respect for diversity; (2) rules and norms that are clearly communicated and consistently enforced; (3) a sense of safety, including physical, social, and emotional safety; (4) supportive and caring relationships with adults; (5) supportive relationships with peers; (6) encouragement for the development of social and emotional learning; (7) supportive teaching practices; (8) a sense of connection with the school; and (9) an adequate physical environment, including both facilities and resources.
Note: Please note that practices that support the development of a positive program climate are included throughout PA-OST. For example, see PA-OST 4 regarding the importance of building supportive relationships between children and youth and adults, PA-OST 5.01 through PA-OST 5.07 regarding the importance of establishing a respectful and inclusive culture that encourages positive behaviors and interactions, PA-OST 6 regarding the importance of employing positive approaches to guiding behavior, PA-OST 7 regarding the importance of involving and meeting the needs of program participants’ families, PA-OST 9 regarding the importance of ensuring children and youth are engaged in activities that support learning and positive development, and PA-OST 16, PA-OST 17, and PA-OST 18 regarding the program environment.