Evaluating Youth Drop-In Programs: The Utility of Process Evaluation Methods

  • Derek J Chechak Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Judith M Dunlop School of Social Work King’s University College at Western University
  • Michael J Holosko School of Social Work University of Georgia
Keywords: process, program evaluations, youth drop-in programs, youth engagement


In North America, neighbourhood youth centres typically off er essential community-based programs to disadvantaged and marginalized populations. In addition to providing pro-social and supportive environments, they provide a host of educational and skill-development opportunities and interventions that build self-esteem, increase positive life relationships and experiences, and address social determinants of health. However, evaluators of such centres often have to work with moving changes in temporal components (i.e., service users, services, programs, and outcomes) that are unique and idiosyncratic to the mandate of the centre. Although there is an abundance of research on youth programs in general, there is a void in the literature on drop-in programs specifically, which this study aims to address. Th e lack of empirical research in this area inhibits knowledge about the processes of these centres. For this reason, the article concludes that process evaluation methods may be effectively used to substantiate the practice skills, knowledge, and managerial competencies of those responsible for program implementation. 

Author Biographies

Derek J Chechak, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Derek Chechak, PhD, RSW, is an Evaluator with the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. His background includes working with adults with serious and persistent mental illnesses in acute care, outpatient, and forensic mental health care settings. He has served in various evaluation capacities through university-community partnerships, and as a research associate for principal investigators in the non-profit sector.
Judith M Dunlop, School of Social Work King’s University College at Western University
Judith M. Dunlop, PhD, RSW, is Professor Emerita in the School of Social Work, King's University College at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. She has taught community organization and development at both undergraduate and graduate levels across Canada and the United States. She has also worked as a community planner and research consultant on projects in public health, child welfare, neighborhood regeneration, and service user/service provider planning groups.
Michael J Holosko, School of Social Work University of Georgia
Michael J. Holosko, PhD, is the Pauline M. Berger Professor of Family and Child Welfare at The University of Georgia, School of Social Work. He has taught in schools of social work, nursing, public administration, and applied social science in Canada, the United States, Hong Kong, Sweden, Australia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also works as a consultant to a variety of health and human service organizations and industries in the areas of program evaluation, organizational development, leadership, visioning, and organizational alignment.
Practice Note- English