Youth at Heart (Yesh Matzav) Multidisciplinary Youth Centers: Evaluation of a Pilot

Yesh Matzav (Youth at Heart) Youth Centers offer adolescents at the “start of, or midway along, the risk continuum” and their parents a comprehensive community response of various preventive and/or therapeutic activities for afternoon and evening hours. The model was developed as a multi-system partnership of JDC-Ashalim, the ministries of Social Affairs (MSAS), Education, Health, Environmental Protection, Culture and Sports, and the Society for Advancement of Education (SAE), who also served as members of the study’s steering committee. The centers were implemented as a pilot in Arad, Yafia, Kiryat Arba, Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva from 2010 to 2013.

The study was designed to learn about the implementation of the pilot and examine the perceived contribution of the centers to participants as a basis for improvement and decision-making on further development and dissemination of the model. The data were collected in 2012-13 through: interviews with center directors, members of the national steering committee, center staff, and members of the local steering committees; questionnaires completed by staff regarding all the participants (344 youth); and self-completion questionnaires for the youth.

Summary of Main Findings:

  • The characteristics of the participants matched those of the target population: Youth attending school, at various levels of risk, mainly moderate. As expected, 26% were identified as being at higher risk and requiring a more intensive response.
  • Different aspects of the model, including staff composition and work principles, were implemented as planned but some were found in need of reinforcement, including: structuring of work processes, increasing the involvement of the adolescents in the community, and developing the work with parents. The program has taken steps to introduce the appropriate changes.
  • The centers worked holistically: The characteristics and needs of the youth were examined as a basis for planning work at the levels of the center and the individual, and the work was performed by a multidisciplinary team. Diverse activities were held in all predetermined areas: welfare, informal education, promotion of a healthy lifestyle, environmentalism, and work with parents.
  • Most of the youth expressed great satisfaction with the warm atmosphere at the centers and the staff. However, some reported violence.
  • The adolescents felt that the main contributions of the program having somewhere to spend their time, improving their sense of personal well-being and introducing them to new areas of activity. The staff noted a decline in loitering and increased expressions of initiative and involvement in the center and the community.

The partners relied on the findings to develop a work model, and continue to study them for purposes of improvement. The findings were presented to the steering committee; at a day seminar on the program; and to senior staff of the Children and Youth Service, MSAS and of the Youth and Society Authority, Ministry of Education.

The study was initiated by Ashalim and funded with its assistance and that of Ms. Karen Lombart, Virginia Beach.