Safe Places

To develop intellectually and emotionally, young people need physical and psychological safety at home, at school and in the community.   Without such “safe places” – environments that support and encourage inquiry, exploration, and play without fear of harm – children aren’t able to get support, form positive relationships and concentrate on school.

Development of these crucial cognitive and social/emotional skills is stunted when children are continually exposed to environments of high stress – circumstances in which their stress responses are activated and stay that way for long periods of time. Researchers emphasize the need for young people to have the constant engagement of caring adults in their lives, from family, school and community organizations, who can form an environment of nurturing relationships and safe places in and out of school for young Americans to experience as they grow.  Fear – real or imagined – of physical violence, bullying, injury or the effects of chronic neglect deprive children of the safe spaces they need to learn and develop.

Not only does over-exposure to stress interfere with intellectual and emotional development, it has long-term negative health effects.  With fear responses stuck in the “on” position, children’s bodies must cope with chronically elevated levels of heart rates, stress hormones, blood sugar, and immune system responses. Over a time, these conditions wear bodies down, create chronic health problems that include increased likelihood to develop diabetes or cardiovascular disease, abuse drugs, or experience adult depression.

The answer is for all young people to have safe places to learn and grow constantly.


Related Resources

Comprehensive Community Initiatives - Case Studies

Feb 22, 2015Collective impact – a collaborative approach to solving social problems - is a popular tool used by the government and community-based organizations. Communities across the country are embracing this approach to help children and young people access the fundamental resources - what we call the Five Promises – that they need to succeed. Decades of community change efforts demonstrate, however, that this strategy is far from a silver bullet. America’s Promise Alliance and its research center, the Center for Promise, presents a series of in-depth case studies highlighting collaborative efforts in the cities of Atlanta, Orlando, and New Orleans that distill important lessons about how organizations can work together effectively - and, ultimately, put young people on positive pathways.

Don't Call Them Dropouts

May 20, 2014“Don’t Call Them Dropouts,” a report by America’s Promise Alliance based on research conducted by its Center for Promise at Tufts University, was funded by Target. In the largest nationwide study of its kind to date, young adults who left high school without graduating spoke at length about their experiences and the reasons they did not complete high school on time. As the nation reaches the all-time high of an 80 percent on-time high school graduation rate, this report listens deeply to what the remaining 20 percent say is happening in their lives, and what they need to stay in school. Their answers defy some common beliefs about why they do not graduate on time, while giving deeper meaning to others. The researchers began with in-depth interviews with more than 200 young people who had not graduated from high school, and then conducted a quantitative survey of more than 2,000 young adults ages 18-25 who did not complete high school on time. In addition, 1,000 students who graduated on time were surveyed.

Don't Quit on Me

Sep 16, 2015This report examines, from the perspective of young people themselves, the roles that relationships with adults and peers play in decisions about staying in, leaving and returning to high school. Building on previous studies, including last year’s Don’t Call Them Dropouts, this report offers new insights about how support from adults and peers can help to close the remaining gaps between those who graduate from high school on time and those who don’t. “We know a great deal from previous research on youth development that relationships are instrumental in helping young people stay in school,” said Jonathan Zaff, PhD, the report’s lead author and executive director of the Center for Promise. “But now we need to know more about how, when and why these relationships matter and what it takes to make the right support available at the right time for young people who are not graduating on time. That’s what we set out to learn.” The title, “Don’t Quit on Me,” echoes the many young people who expressed gratitude to those who didn’t give up on them and represents a call to action for caring adults. We can’t quit on young people dealing with tremendous adversity, especially now that we know how powerful relationships are in engaging and re-engaging young people in education.

Every Child Every Promise: Turning Failure into Action

Jan 14, 2014This report presents the first national research that comprehensively measures the presence of the essential resources -- the Five Promises -- that correlate with success in both youth and adulthood. The report clearly shows that we have much work to do as a nation. But it also shows how we can turn failure into action and improve the lives of young people at risk.

Expanding Learning, Expanding Opportunities

Jan 14, 2011This guide, which accompanies an America's Promise video that highlights three successful ELO programs, describes a number of resources that can help bring expanded learning to a community, including studies that show the impact of ELO and links to organizations that offer advice on establishing strong systems.