black and white photo of young people playing the "untie the knot" relationship builder game.

Why equity is essential for developmental relationships

Image of father and daughter in black and white. The father is holding up his hands to hows his daughter painted his nails. The FrameWorks Institute and the Search Institute have done extensive work on how to help people understand just how broad and transformational developmental relationships can be. 

They suggested some mind-expanding shifts that can help organizations advocate for policies, programs and practices that bring developmental relationships to more kids in more places:  






Only family relationships make a difference. 


All kinds of adults and peers can make an impact on young people’s lives. 




Caring is the key component of developmental relationships. 


Positive developmental relationships are caring, and they are also challenging, mutually supportive, power-sharing and possibility-expanding. 




Developmental relationships happen      at home. 


Developmental relationships can happen anywhere. 




Developmental relationships help young people be more successful. 


Developmental relationships benefit young people, adults, create more inclusive and equitable communities, and improve society as a whole. 


How & When


Developmental relationships happen when individuals care enough to make them happen.


Lots of variables (context, place, equity, etc) influence whether developmental relationships can be created and maintained. 



Did you catch that? Cultivating developmental relationships isn’t as simple as finding and training individual caring adults who want to make a difference in young people’s lives. There are structural forces at work here, too—ones that can be explored, challenged, and improved. 

Think about it: 

  • If most of the adults in a particular neighborhood have to spend hours traveling on an inefficient public transit system to get to and from their jobs, do they have extra time to devote to the local after-school program?
  • If all of the leaders in a youth development program share the same culture/race/language, what message does it send kids who don’t?
  • If cost barriers prohibit kids from low-income families from attending positive youth development programs, how can they develop relationships with non-family mentors?  


As the FrameWorks Institute and the Search Institute point out

black and white photo of young people playing the "untie the knot" relationship builder game.

“Opportunities to establish developmental relationships are not available or accessible to all children and youth…people need to understand…how typical educational practices and youth development opportunities exclude low-income families, families of color, non-English-speaking families, and others. Helping people see the structural rather than personal factors that produce inequities in developmental relationships creates space, then, for explaining how truly inclusive practices that enable the establishment of developmental relationships will result in positive outcomes for everyone involved.”


That’s why Camp Fire has been working so hard to become an equitable organization. We know that developmental relationships can only truly thrive in an environment where everyone is treated with dignity, welcomed openly, given equal access to opportunities, and kept safe. 

LEARN MORE about how Camp Fire is proactively improving our diversity, equity and inclusion.

November 8, 2021