Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Heather MacIndoe

Second Advisor

Ann Withorn

Third Advisor

Andrea Leverentz


The purpose of youth policy in the United States is to create opportunity for the advancement of young people. Yet, youth policy as a whole has no clear or cohesive agenda. It is conceived and implemented piecemeal at all levels of government. In recent years youth policy has been further de-centralized to the private non-profit sector, often community-based out-of-school time (OST) programs. Using Lipsky’s (1980) theory of street-level bureaucracy as a framework, this dissertation posits frontline youth workers as street-level policymakers and aims to bring their voices to the policy conversation. Through semi-structured interviews with youth workers in the Boston area, this research examines how frontline youth workers responsible for implementing youth policy make sense of the work they do and how these meanings translate into street-level policy. Understanding youth workers as street-level policymakers offers new insights for formal policymakers and helps to elucidate how policy is enacted on the street-level. Research findings contribute to typologies of youth workers and youth work that categorize the way youth workers understand the purpose and meaning of the work, and their role in it, respectively. Ultimately, this research is intended to highlight the ground-level perspectives of youth workers as de facto youth policymakers.


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