Clinical social workers connecting Boston's at-risk youth
to positive choices.

Check out YouthConnect’s Kevan Barton and Stephanie Garza-Vela’s recent appearance on WBUR’s Radio Boston: The Boston group trying to stop violence before it starts

By placing licensed, clinical social workers in Boston police stations, YouthConnect works to address the underlying problems and social emotional issues that contribute to juvenile crime and delinquency.

YouthConnect is an innovative and unique program of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB) that provides violence prevention, intervention, advocacy and mental health services to young people who are involved in the criminal justice system and their families.

All services are confidential, voluntary and free. Since 1996, YouthConnect has assisted over 17,000 youth and families across Boston. 

Did you know 65-70% of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder?

Our relationships with both government agencies and community-based providers, allow our staff to then help secure the most appropriate level of care and services needed to help the young person get back on track for a more hopeful future.

YouthConnect’s innovative clinical model enables social workers to not only assist a wide-range of youth, but also help their families. Services are often put in place for the younger children in the family to help ensure their academic and out-of-school time needs are met, and YouthConnect also works directly with the teen’s parent/guardian to address their concerns and needs.

In addition, our staff provide community-based counseling to address issues related to truancy, delinquency, safety, substance abuse, victimization, school performance and family functioning.

We work alongside the Boston Police Department with a focus on the following neighborhoods:

A7 – East Boston

B2 – Roxbury

B3 – Mattapan/Dorchester

C11 – Dorchester

D4 – South End/Lower Roxbury

E13 – Jamaica Plain

We also have a city-wide presence through the Domestic Violence UnitYouth Violence Strike Force, and the School Engagement Unit.

In addition to police-referred young people, the program also offers services to their siblings and parents. This comprehensive approach allows YouthConnect to focus on the individual while also recognizing the need to provide overall support to families.

Clients will be offered assistance under a four-tiered system that includes:

1. Intake & Assessment

All youths and families that YouthConnect reaches out to are offered voluntary, confidential clinical services. An assessment is provided to determine strengths, needs, and stressors to help inform the appropriate level of service provision.

Assessments also take into consideration families’ own understanding of their needs. If other service providers are already involved with the youth and family, YouthConnect seeks to strengthen these relationships. The youth and family are then moved into one of three tiers below.

2. Resource Coordination

The goal of this tier of support is to connect clients to local social service providers. This involves short-term interventions focused on finding appropriate resources that meet the needs of youth and their families. Interventions may be as short as one interaction with the youth or family.

In this tier, the family is likely to be referred to pre-existing services meeting a variety of needs including recreational, educational, spiritual, employment, legal, and/or mental health needs. The average length of time that individuals are in this tier is from one month to three months.

3. Clinical Case Management

In this tier, youth and families meet weekly with the social worker, who provides guidance and supportive counseling. Clients in this level of service may have pre-existing relationships with major service providers like DYS, DCF, and school based services, however they may not be aware of which services are in place and how to best utilize them.

YouthConnect social workers help facilitate case conferences to bring providers and systems together to identify roles and coordinate culturally appropriate care given the needs of the family.

In some cases, clients prefer initially not to engage in formal service contracts with providers and feel more comfortable accepting services through the YouthConnect social worker. This tier is open-ended and aims to create a safety net of services for the youth and family. The average length of time that individuals stay in this tier is usually anywhere from six months to a year.

4. Therapy Services

Youth and their families engage in therapy for a variety of issues. In this tier, youth have weekly individual sessions and family meetings are held monthly.

Often clients have some ambivalence about working with traditional agencies; YouthConnect’s capacity to provide home and community-based visits, in addition to flexible scheduling, has enabled hard-to-reach youth and their families to access social services despite barriers to traditional mental health services such as: insurance issues, distrust of providers and systems, transportation, safety, stigma around seeking help, and readiness to engage around making changes. On average clients engage in this type of treatment from one to three years, however the length of time is driven by treatment goals created with the participants.

Executive Director

Kevan Barton. LICSW

With more than 20 years of experience working with children and adolescents in the Boston area. Kevan received his MSW from Boston University. Having worked with several nonprofits in the Greater Boston area, Kevan has extensive leadership and management experience, including at Middlesex Community College, where he was the Assistant Director and the Lead Social Worker for The B.R.I.D.G.E. Program, an alternative middle school in Lowell, MA.

Learn More

Local Advisory Board

  • Joshua Klevens, Chair
  • In Memoriam – Ronald Ansin, Chair Emeritus
  • Alexandra Bailey
  • Laurence S. Chud, MD
  • Mayur Desai
  • Mike Gass
  • Kelly Gross
  • Weston “Tony” Howland III
  • Lauren Joullian
  • Jill Reilly
  • Tracy Richmond
  • Elizabeth Silverman
  • Donald K. Stern
  • Robert Sweet

Proven Results


individuals served since 1996


Referred for family-related concern


identified by BPD as engaging in risky behavior


expressed safety concerns during intake


referrals made to existing Boston resources