Children and Young People Programmes

The Board has been developing a guideline document on prevention and promotion with children and young people. The programmes and resouces that have been of interest during this work are listed below. Hyperlinks will be added at a future date.

We would draw attention to the work of 


Millions of children and youth grow up without parents - in orphanages, foster care, migrant and refugee camps. Due to overworked, uneducated and underprivileged caregivers and teachers, only half of these children pass the 9th grade and enter the job market in adulthood. To improve mental health and learning, the Fairstart Foundation offers four month, research based training programs online for groups of caregivers in attachment based care. In cooperation with NGOs, governments and professional organisations, Fairstart so far has developed 20 free language versions, applied by partners in 26 countries. To further support local care systems expertise building, the international online instructor education in group training has educated 420 students from all continents, forming an international exchange network working from uniform standards of quality care. These instructors have now trained the caregivers of more than 30.000 placed children and youth, making Fairstart the only program to educate underprivileged caregivers from Greenland to Chile. Fairstart is promoted by the Danish, the European and the American Psychologist Associations, World Association of Infant Mental Health, Eurochild, a.o. See site for all language versions and instructor curriculum.”

Much of the work in identifying these programmes has been based on contributions from the Social Adventure Team and are can be found in the book navigation through unknown waters

Matos , MG (2015) Adolescents in safe navigation through unknow waters; Lisbon: Coisas de Ler
pp. 217-264 (


This is a school-based program for children aged between 5 and 15 years, from grade 2 to year 9. It includes environmental resources and personal skills that promote resilience in children and young people. The program focusses on teaching confrontational skills that help children and young people positively respond to complex daily events. Just as the origin of the word resilience says, children are taught to recover after experiencing sad, difficult, frustrating situations, or other difficult moments. The program’s contents are organized into three big areas: self-knowledge (courage, optimism, and success), social awareness (basic values, emotions, relations, and bullying), and self-management (emotions, positive thinking, and humour). The program’s evaluation presents positive results in terms of behaviours, which are still present at least a year after the end of the program.

School and community based, this program involves the individual, family, peers and surrounding community. It was developed for adolescents with special educational needs. The program focusses on the promotion of social and emotional skills, determinant for autonomy, resilience and inclusion of SEN students. It is based on the Bonnie Bernard´s model of youth positive development, with ten components organized into two groups: external resources, where affective relationships are worked on, such as high expectations and opportunities to participate in life contexts (family, peers, school community); Internal resources, where cooperation and communication skills are developed, such as empathy, problem solving, self-efficacy, self-knowledge, objectives and desires, and self-esteem. The experimental application of the program with parents, teachers and other technicians indicates that the program is relevant for the acquisition of knowledge on adolescence, resilience, special qualities and needs in SEN adolescents, as well as for the acquisition of essential skills that help promote protective factors and resilience.

This is a school and community based program for several age groups: 4-7 years old – FUN FRIENDS; 8-11 years old – FRIENDS for Life; 12-15 years old – My FRIENDS Youth; over 16 years old – Adult Resilience. It is a cognitive-behavioural intervention that promotes emotional resilience for the prevention or early intervention on anxiety or depression. It aims to develop social and emotional skills for an effective management of challenges and adversity, present throughout life. The program consists of a set of 10 sessions that include group discussions, practical activities and role-playing (in the more advanced groups). The program was developed at the beginning of the 90’s and over 800 thousand children and adolescents have participated, all over the world. It is recognized by the World Health Organization as an effective program for the prevention of anxiety. Its evaluation shows positive results in the decrease of anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as in the acquisition of coping strategies, and social and emotional skills.
This school-based program consists in a one-day workshop for students attending years 9 to 12. Its objective is to promote resilience, help overcome educational and social barriers in young people, and reduce school violence. The program’s activities and contents are based on the concept of positive development, highlight the importance of union, emotional resilience and moral competence, a clear and positive identity and opportunities for pro-social involvement. The activities aim to work on several behaviours and values, such as: bullying, search for help, the ability to express one’s self, value others, empathy, and future expectations. During the 6 hour workshop, young people participate in a series of activities designed to incentive their participation and interaction. Students are also involved in small and big group discussions on relevant topics, and reflect on their own behaviours. The workshop occurs outside the school premises and includes 80-120 students with an adult or student leader for every seven students. Results show that this program has positive results in the promotion of empathy and interpersonal relationships in school settings.

This program aims to prevent and treat social, emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents through their families, by creating family environments that encourage children to understand their potential. In addition, the program offers parents skills and confidence to become self-sufficient and able to manage their family without continuum support.

This program aims to reinforce parental skills and foster parental involvement in their children’s school activities, through the promotion of cognitive, emotional and social skills and the reduction of behavioural problems.

The ABCD program is based on the respect for each family’s values and objectives. It offers several strategies for problem solving, and decreases problematic situations that interfere with the communication among family members. Each family is adjusted to its own needs.

These are intervention programs targeted at children and adolescents and are composed of six models: “Identity and Assessment”; “Dealing with Emotions”; “Peer Relations”; “Relationships with Adults”; “Conflict and Peace” and “The Future”. Each module has 2 to 5 sessions, with about 90 minutes each one. Children and adolescents work on several activities that explore important issues in their life. The module “Peer Relations” aims to help children become involved in positive relationships with their peers.

Life Skills Training (LST)
This is a personal and social skills program with the objective to prevent substance use. The program works on several areas: resistance to peer influence, social anxiety, anger management and interpersonal communication. The authors refer that the results revealed a significant reduction in the consumption of tobacco and alcohol, when comparing the intervention group and the control group.

Stanford Heart Health Curriculum
This program has the objective to prevent/reduce cardiovascular diseases among adolescents, through the prevention of tobacco consumption, promotion of physical activity and prevention of stress. The program works on self-regulation, self-efficacy and resistance to social pressure, among others. The authors mention that the adolescents who participated in the program acquired knowledge on cardiovascular diseases and their prevention, and the level of tobacco consumption gradually decreased.

With over a century of existence, this program is targeted at children and adolescents aged between 6 and 18 years who are in disadvantaged situations, such as single parent homes, families with low income or with one absent parental figure (military father or imprisoned parent). Each child or adolescent is paired with a mentor (adult or high school student) after a selection process and training. This pair has weekly meetings at school or at the community. The mentor and child or adolescent use this time to talk, do school work, manual or sports activities or, in case the mentorship is set on a community setting, may include joint participation in cultural activities or others. The agencies responsible for this program (there are over 500 in the USA) have over 70 000 children and adolescents, offering support, training and resources to both the mentor and supported person, that enable the development of a positive and trustful relationship. The agencies may organize events for the mentors and young people to participate together, and are responsible for raising funds and implementing the program with all its general guidelines and recommendations, along with its model of service provision. Each agency can organize specific programs for specific groups, such as young people with Hispanic origins, Native Americans, or children with imprisoned parents. The expected results are associated to the reduction of drug use, school competence and success, social functioning and decreased violence. This program has research evidence as a promising example.

A school-based program for the prevention of substance use in young people aged 9 to 13 years. In this program, the mentors are over 55 year old adults that offer support to young people who are transitioning to middle school. The overall goal is the promotion of protection factors in students who are at a high level of risk, through the prevention, reduction or delay of alcohol, tobacco or other drug use and the problems associated to it. The mentors previously participate in a structured training session, with a guidebook. The expected results are associated to alcohol, education, family relationships, tobacco, and the reactions to drug use, attitude towards school and the future, school attendance, knowledge and attitude towards the elderly population. This program has research evidence as a promising example.

For youth at risk, identified by teachers, counsellors, justice or health technicians, or by child protection services, this program exists since 1979 and is aimed at children and adolescents from several ethnic backgrounds, low socio-economic backgrounds or in situations of poverty. It is focused on the creation and maintenance of long-lasting individual mentoring relationships. The program offers new learning and growth opportunities based on positive development, academic success, health and wellbeing, prevention and competences for self-sufficiency. The program’s goals are: a) increase positive behaviours, reduce risk behaviours and improve self-concept to help young people make healthy choices and achieve their potential; b) improve academic involvement and performance, to help young people define objectives for the future, with effective and rich outside school support; c) build a caring community through networks and collaborations; d) promote good practices in community based mentoring programs. This program has promising research evidence.

This program is targeted at adolescents aged between 9 and 11 years who are placed in social support structures due to situations of family negligence and abuse. It is a mentoring program that lasts 30 weeks, with hour and a half weekly meetings. The group has a structured curriculum that combines cognitive-behavioural strategies with activities designed to help the participants’ process the experiences related to their placement in such social structures. The contents include the recognition of emotions, problem solving, anger management, cultural identity, change and loss, and peer pressure. Each participant is paired with a mentor (college student), in a single relationship for 30 weeks, 2 to 4 hours a week. The mentor has to: create a relationship with the child as a positive relationship role model, help the child practice and assimilate the skills learned in the group sessions, involve the child in educational, social, cultural and recreational activities, and promote a positive view of the future. The long-term goals are to decrease the probability of drug use, risky sexual behaviours, school failure and drop out and delinquency. This program has promising research evidence.

This is a mentoring program developed in schools, where pre-school students to 12th graders are paired to community volunteers. Each mentor chaperons a child or adolescent through an established relationship, one hour a week throughout the whole school year. The objectives of this relationship are to improve academic and social skills, as a complement to family and teacher efforts. The overall objectives are the decrease in disciplinary problems, the improvement of school attendance and of social relationships. Mentors do not need specific qualification but must be criteriously selected and trained. The mentors’ main job is to offer support and encouragement to the child or adolescent, helping him/her discover and build new strengths and skills to better and positively plan the future. Teachers, parents or other professionals in the school, or even by the students themselves, based on their academic, social or emotional needs, select the supported students. To avoid stigma, the program is open to all students no matter their academic or socio-economic situation. The pairing is based on the supported student’s needs and interests. There is a coordinator on scene that is responsible for training and supervising the mentor, offering resources whenever necessary.

This program is for children and adolescents. Typically, the 9th-11th grade students are mentors to students of years 6th-8th, with focus on the supported students and mentors. With the objective to promote social, emotional and cognitive development, the purpose of the program is to have mentoring relationships work as facilitators in the connection to school, peers, family and community; help improve academic performance and citizenship, self-efficacy, confidence and self-esteem. In addition, improvements in the competence to deal with peer pressure are expected, and violent or delinquent behaviours prevented. Emotional development is promoted through the influence of the mentoring relationship on two basic developmental needs: need of empathy, complements and attention, and the need of competent and consistent role models. The selection of the students that need support is done at the beginning of the school year. The mentors participate in a training session and general meetings where they meet the chosen students. Mentors and supported students choose the person they would like to establish a mentoring relationship with, to ensure that the paring is based on the participant’s preferences. During the academic year, the meetings have a weekly basis and last for two hours each. Throughout the year, there are 3 or 4 meetings on Saturdays and others during the summer holidays. At the end of the program, there is a ritual to help end the process.

This program has several components, is based on a developmental perspective and is aimed at children aged between 6 and 12 years who are at risk for behaviour problems and substance use. The program uses several integrated interventions (mentoring, for example) aimed at the child, the school and family with the purpose of facilitating the child’s developmental growth. Results are focused on academic skills (performance and behaviour), behavioural self-regulation, social competence, parental investment and effective discipline. Given research evidence, this program is considered a reference.

This project involves peer mentoring at school, inside the classroom. It aims to prevent alcohol consumption and road accidents and is targeted at students from year 1 to year 5 (aged 6-11 year) and high school students (11th and 12th grade). The objectives are the reduction of injuries and deaths associated to the consumption of alcohol, and road accidents due to alcohol consumption. It includes 40 sessions on health and science topics, 8 for each grade (year 1 to year 5). The topics are: 1) brain development in childhood and adolescence, and the consequences of alcohol consumption; 2) vehicle safety, and what can be done for protection if we are travelling with someone under the effect of alcohol; 3) decision making skills, stress management, media awareness, resistance competences and communication. The sessions are introduced on a weekly basis and last 20 to 50 minutes according to the year grade. The curriculum can be delivered by teachers or prevention specialists, and includes the possibility to be implemented by mentors (high school students) that become responsible for the primary school curriculum.

PALS is a program for the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use for middle school students. Its objectives are: 1) decrease the intention to consume alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, 2) increase the skills for refusal, 3) increase knowledge on the effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, peer pressure and healthy decision making. The program is delivered through group activities, laboratory experiments, videos, games, creative writing, art projects and group decisions. The curriculum has 5 units organized into 10 sessions, and the following topics: 1) learning styles; problems associated to disability and how to overcome them; 2-4) effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, 5) peer pressure and healthy decisions. The program includes peer mentoring to reinforce the curriculum.

Both these programs use research participative methodologies for youth who live in communities with high levels of social problems. The method used by both programs is called Photovoice, which has been used in several international programs. It consists in the photographic documentation of the contextual factors that affect health behaviours and participants’ wellbeing. Studies show that this methodology has promoted an increase in social participation in vulnerable populations, with a subsequent transmission of the collected information to political decision makers.

Other projects for vulnerable populations, not led by adolescents, are:

This Portuguese program aims understand young people personal and social behaviour in social contexts and to promote social and personal competences , focusing on universal prevention and on young people from vulnerable socio-economic contexts. It is focused on youth positive development theories. Through specific community projects, the program enables vulnerable Portuguese youth to be socially active participants and develop life skills.

This Portuguese program aims to promote social inclusion of young people from vulnerable socio-economic contexts. Through specific community projects, the program enables vulnerable Portuguese youth to be socially active participants and develop life skills.

In the form of a family and community mentorship program, its aim is to offer youth a positive development, to improve attitude towards school and plans, reduce the involvement in risky behaviours, improved social support, and improve relationships with parents and peers. This program has proved to be effective in improving future perspectives and lives of vulnerable young people.

This program involves both family and school, and aims to foster the protective factors part of affective relationships (families, school and communities) in young people that live in poverty. Studies have shown effectiveness in the FAST program in terms of behaviour, social competences and academic expectations.

ME! Lessons for Teaching Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy
This school-based program aims at helping teachers work with their special needs students and offer them specific aptitudes for their transition into adult life, such as self-representation and self-conscience. The authors advocate that learning about one’s self and one’s own disability, the development of the ability to solve problems, the establishment of objectives and self-management, and the knowledge on available services and resources are strong predictors of future success in disabled students. Studies show that this program improves self-awareness, knowledge on self-representation and behaviour. Longitudinal studies are now being conducted.

Student-Directed Transition Planning - A student-directed transition planning process
This school-based program offers teachers, students and families specific tools that enable them to become partners and build a successful plan for the child’s transition into adulthood. Students are given information and the necessary tools to actively participate in the meetings that aim to plan their future. The authors believe that with this program and the development of self-determination, students will become more aware of their involvement in the process of planning their transition to adulthood. Evaluation studies show good results in the increase of the perception of self-efficacy in the process of planning the transition into active life.

Steps to Self-determination
This program promotes self-determination in youth. Parents participate in the activities, which increases their interest in the program, as of other family members. It teaches parents about self-determination, and how to foster knowledge and awareness on self-determination in their children. Studies have confirmed this program’s usefulness.

These models are based on cognitive-behavioural theories. Both present significant improvements with group interventions and suggest that interventions that focus on the caretaker’s behaviour, without a direct action on the child, may have a positive effect on the child’s levels of anxiety.

These programs show a reduction of early childhood anxiety symptoms. However, the PCIT’s applicability in the school setting is yet to be established.

This program presents promising results on improving social and emotional skills, self-regulation and social interaction in children, within the school context.

These programs significantly reduce the diagnosis of anxiety disorders.
It is important to develop strategies that promote mental health in children and facilitate positive support between parents and their children. Schools offer a key structure for an accessible and effective intervention. The study of early intervention programs for young children must be a priority for future research, as well as interaction therapy for parents and their children, family therapy based on attachment, protocols between parents and their children, and studies that evaluate the applicability of these approaches in school settings.

Type 2 Programs: these include abstinence as a personal option, such as contraception and safe intercourse. These programs are often referred to as ‘overall sexual education’, as opposed to ‘abstinence’ alone.

Type 3 Programs: these programs include the characteristics of programs type 2, but are focused on a wider perspective of personal and sexual growth and development. These programs are referred to as ‘holistic sexual education programs’.

In the past decade, type 1 programs were mainly developed in the United States of America. When type 1 and type 2 programs were compared, results showed that type 1 programs 1 did not have positive results on sexual behaviours, or on the prevention of teen pregnancy. Differences between types 2 and 3 are not very clear, but it is known that they depend to how they are applied.

This is a school-based program targeted at young people attending years 5,7,9 and 11 in Californian public schools. The authors state that the implementation of a Program for the Promotion of Physical Activity through structured games (playworks) helps improve protection factors, which increases wellbeing in young people with low academic performance.
This program’s evaluation suggests that school principals have the opportunity to create strategies that help promote health in their students, as well as improve their resilience and academic performance.

This is a community-based program for young people attending high schools in the metropolitan area of Porto. Its authors advocate that parental and peer support are essential social support systems in the promotion of the practice of physical activity, both moderated and vigorous. This program’s evaluation highlights the significant association between parental support and predisposition factors, ability to enjoy and the promotion of the perception of self-efficacy. On the other hand, there is also a direct effect on moderated and vigorous practice of physical activity.
Regarding peer support, there is a significant influence in the ability to enjoy and the perception of self-efficacy, as well as a direct influence on moderated and vigorous practice of physical activity.

These programs aim to change life styles through health promotion in the community, by integrating physical activity into the population’s life routine. To implement the various programs, other changes were necessary. Therefore, the following programs were created: – increases physical activity through the design of community spaces; – works with several government leaders in the creation and promotion of active communities. – builds national cohesion with the objective of increasing the levels of physical activity practices. – focusses on policy research and the involvement that supports active communities. – offers technical assistance for the creation of active communities.

This is a program designed and based on Social Cognitive Theory. It aims to stabilize adolescents BMI, increase levels of physical activity, improve cardio and respiratory abilities, increase the consumption of fruit, reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and the time spent on sedentary behaviours. Results are promising for a multifaceted approach and its impact on the fight against obesity, on the increase in physical activity levels and cardio and respiratory abilities.

This program involves 4905 adolescents from 24 schools in the United States. The objective is to verify if 90 minutes of moderated or vigorous physical activity in the school setting have a significant effect on the reduction of obesity. Results show that the program increased levels of physical activity, as well as levels of satisfaction with physical activity. Regarding obesity, results were not significant. However, the program may prevent the increase of BMI.

This is an experimental program designed with the objective to prevent risk factors associated to a negative body image, and improve self-esteem. The program has been applied in Australian and British schools. Results show that there was a reduction in factors associated to a negative body image and eating disorders. On the other hand, self-esteem was improved.

This is an interactive program that uses PowerPoint, magazine and DVD presentations. The program’s objective is to improve adolescents’ perception of body image and self-esteem. Overall, the program has positive results in both boys and girls. However, the use of magazines with stereotyped attractive body images is counter-productive.
Oregon Study is a community-based program for children and adolescents with the objective to stimulate walking and cycling to school using identified and safe routs through educational and motivational strategies and improved infrastructures. The study’s results show that the program is associated to an increase in walking and cycling, presents a strong potential to change young people’s behaviours and incentives the community to adopt active practices when travelling.

This community-based program has the objective of conditioning traffic in neighbourhoods or streets during specific periods of the day to offer children (and adults) more space to play. This program is a great impact measure, especially for neighbourhoods with great space limitations. It is flexible and allows each community to adjust the measure to its own needs and resources.

This community-based program aims to improve recreational spaces in order to expand environmental policies and interventions that promote physical activity. This program intervened on game fields and other spaces on Elm Street Park (Greenville, EUA), made them more accessible, inclusive and universal for all users. Several equipment’s were made available for all kinds of games and motor abilities. The program was evaluated through the SOPARC  protocol. Results show a significant increase in the number of users and, consequently, in the number of people practicing physical activity.

This program is available on the Institute for Drugs and Addictions’ website “Tu alinhas?” (are you in?). It has the purpose to develop reflection on typical teenage topics for youth aged 12 to 18 years and to promote personal and social growth through decision-making, confrontation and search for information. Along with other addictions, the program also addresses internet addiction, “law and drugs”, legal framework for tobacco, alcohol and other psychoactive drugs, and presents a network of care services related to drugs. In 2012, the program presented a significant increase in the participants’ levels of emotional control.

This program is delivered on a platform that offers 5/6 interactive classes on the history of luck games, game fallacies, alert signs, risk factors, what causes gambling problems, decision-making strategies and problem solving. It is focussed on a ‘smart player’ perspective, through the determination of probabilities and analysis of behavioural consequences. Four months after the study was conducted, the participants presented less negative attitudes regarding gambling, more knowledge on the issue, an increase in decision-making and problem solving, less frequent and lower levels of gambling .
There is a lack of programs targeted at new addictions. It is therefore important to develop new empirically validated programs for children and adolescents that contemplate all the new addictions’ standards.

This is a universal prevention program targeted at the involvement in risk behaviours, at the promotion of healthy behaviours in dating violence and among peers, and in risk behaviours (sexual behaviours and substance use and abuse). The evaluation of this program’s effectiveness presented significant changes in (in)tolerant attitudes regarding violence in dating, mainly in male youth.

This program has the objective of evaluating the impact of an intervention targeted at the decrease of aggressive behaviours and at the regulation of delinquent behaviours in young people. Results show a significant improvement in anger management and emotional regulation ability, as well as more adequate pro-social thoughts.

In the United States of America, Child Trends is a reference and a source of knowledge. It collects and shares research information on several dimensions of child and adolescent functioning .
In an effort to extend interventions to a wider range of countries, in 2013 the World Health Organization promoted an initiative that culminated with the creation of a global network for the prevention of injuries in children.
From a field intervention point of view, the responsibility to implement these changes must first occur within the family when in interaction with educational and health systems.  Due to the time our young people spend in school, and to the socialization part of this process, some of the programs use the educational community. Outside the school setting, or in collaboration with it, formal and informal social networks must be encouraged to create opportunities for family and peer participation, and to create conditions for behavioural changes within the community and the individual. These interventions can and should highlight the media’s constructive work, putting it into context within social, health and educational inclusive policies, for an active and engaging youth participation in society.

THE ADOLESCENT LEADERSHIP COUNCIL (TALC) (Hasbro Children’s Hospital - Rhode Island, USA)     
Begun in 2005, this program is for young people (13-18 years old) and mentor (older) students who live with chronic diseases. The program also includes a group of parents and has a format for children aged 8 to 12 years (TALC Junior), where young people are the mentors.

THE CHIPS (The Royal Children’s Hospital - Melbourne, Australia)
This is a mentorship intervention program for young people with chronic diseases. The participants may choose to engage in supervised social, educational, recreational and leadership activities.

This is an intervention program for students with different chronic conditions and disabilities. It aims at the promotion of self-determination through the development of competences, peer and adult mentoring and support.

COOL FRIENDS - Befriending  (Queen Margaret University - Edinburgh, Scotland, UK) A mentoring program for young people with quistic fibrosis.

CAMP ABILITY (Illinois Spina Bifida Association – Chigaco, USA)
Summer camp focused on the self-management of the disease.

This is a mentoring program on asthma for the school setting.

PROGRAMS FOR DIABETICS (Republic of Ireland)
These are six specific programs for type 1 and type 2 diabetics, focused on learning and self-management, empowerment and decision-making processes.

ON YOUR OWN FEET (“Opeigenbenen”, Holland)
This is an initiative developed by the University of Rotterdam. It is focussed on the level of care offered to young people with chronic diseases during transition periods.

Specific programs for the adult population, focussed on brain and vascular diseases, oncology, diabetes and respiratory diseases.

A health institution and an association for the defence of diabetic’s rights and their integration in society. It organizes summer camps and other interventions on health promotion and wellbeing for young people with diabetes.

This association has the objective to defend the interests of diabetic young people, promote social clarification of what is diabetes and how the disease affects people, their family and the population in general. It has a national scope, organizing sports activities and summer camps for youth.