Using the Web of Support Framework

By Shannon M. Varga and jonathan f. zaff

Every day young people attend schools, participate in after school programs, show up for jobs, and navigate their neighborhoods filled with adults and peers who have the potential to help them as they pursue their education, work, life, and health goals. Yet, too often, the potential power of these relationships remains unfulfilled, leaving young people without the full impact social supports and capital resources can provide. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing inequities in young people’s access to resources they need to thrive in school and throughout their lives. These inequities were most evident in places where young people spend the most time, school and work, and illustrate the essentiality of relationships to young people’s (and all people’s) well-being. As schools rapidly change and test models for the fall after a year of continuous disruption, designing programs, policies, and curricula that acknowledge the power of relationships has never been more important; with designs that appreciate the need to align these emerging strategies with the relationships and resources already available to young people and their families.

Informed by decades of research from multiple fields (psychology, sociology, anthropology, network systems, economics), we developed the Web of Support framework to offer a systems approach to understanding and visualizing how the constellation of of social relationships and social, cultural, and financial capital in a young person’s life facilitates or impedes their opportunities to achieve their goals and live happy, healthy, purposeful lives.

 Using the Web of Support Framework  is a tool designed for use by youth-serving professionals and by youth, themselves,  to:

  • define and visualize current and potential supports in a young person’s life in an interconnected web
  • identify areas where greater support or more coordinated support or intervenion efforts would be more effective
  • brainstorm improving individual relationships and building connections across relationships for young people
  • organize programs, policies, and research from a perspective that centers relationships and networks for young people

 

 

OUR WORK

Relationship-Focused Schools Initiative

Relationship-Focused Schools Initiative

In partnership with MENTOR (the National Mentoring Partnership), CERES Institute is working with a set of school districts on how they can develop a “relationships strategy” for their schools. CERES Institute will serve as a research and evaluation partner for MENTOR during this three-year initiative.

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Choices and Challenges

Choices and Challenges

In Florida, thanks to a robust school choice environment, parents of students with disabilities have access to several educational options through two specific statewide scholarship programs. To shed light on how parents utilize these scholarships, a team of researchers from CERES Institute for Children and Youth, in partnership with the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, share findings from a mixed-methods study, conducted between fall 2020 to spring 2021, as well as implications for policy and practice.

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Debate-Inspired Classrooms Learning Plan

Debate-Inspired Classrooms Learning Plan

How can Debate-Inspired Classrooms better engage students as leaders in their own learning? The CERES Institute for Children & Youth is partnering with the Boston Debate League and Boston Public Schools’ Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion School to answer this question and more.

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Evaluation of the Department of Youth Services’ YES Initiative

Evaluation of the Department of Youth Services’ YES Initiative

The CERES Institute for Children & Youth is examining how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Youth Services’ Youth Engaged in Services Initiative – the YES Initiative – provides voluntary individualized supports to youth involved with the juvenile justice system and the impact of the YES Initiative on youth recidivism rates.

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The Center for Promise

The Center for Promise

The Center for Promise is the applied research institute of America’s Promise Alliance, housed at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Its mission is to develop a deep understanding of the conditions necessary for young people in the United States to succeed in school and life.

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