Keys to youth friendly services - Evolving capacity

Each young person gradually develops the ability to take full responsibility for her or his own actions and decisions. Thechallenge is to find the balance between protecting young clients and enabling them to exercise autonomy. Young people can be supported to become more autonomous through the provision of comprehensive sexuality education, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services and adopting a participatory approach to service provision. Services can also help them to involve and communicate with their parents.

Age is often used to establish legal age limits, but this doesn’t take into account the different rates at which young people mature. The most useful legal models allow young people to consent to treatment below the legal age if they can demonstrate competency.


  • guidelines for assessing capacity and involving young people in decision-making
  • guidelines for protecting young people from exploitation, abuse and harm
  • a checklist for youth-friendly services