In this chapter we review these resources in light of the youth development framework developed in Part I and the variety of practical applications for which the data and resources are needed. Our review of data and resources includes: (1) relevant administrative and vital statistics data that are commonly available at the community level, (2) community surveys and topic-specific instruments that can be used to track aspects of youth development not well covered by administrative data, and (3) selected national surveys focusing on youth. We then discuss data collection to support implementation and reflective practice in individual community programs for youth. Finally, we review the efforts of key national intermediary organizations that have developed resources and technical assistance materials for use by local youth development efforts interested in social indicator data. The chapter concludes with suggestions regarding: (a) the need for enhanced access of community youth programs to social indicator data and to the training needed to use them effectively, (b) the development and fielding of new measures, and (c) an expanded role for national intermediaries to support these goals.
The uses of social indicator data for community programs for youth and youth initiatives include needs assessment, service targeting, goals tracking, program accountability, and reflective practice to improve program and policy effectiveness over time. Any assessment of available data resources to support this work needs to be understood in the context of their use.
Assessing the needs of youth in a community is a common starting point for many community youth initiatives. Whole communities may do a general assessment using available data to identify the areas of greatest need for their youth, which can then be addressed in a coordinated fashion by multiple programs and agencies. Organizations (e.g., the United Way, the YWCA, a local synagogue) can also use such data to shape their own programs, targeting their efforts in areas of greatest need (United Way of America, 1999). Strengths in the community (cultural, financial, etc.) that could be mobilized to meet the needs are often identified as part of the same process.
Most communities are limited to available administrative data