Improving the Economic and Life Outcomes of At-Risk Youth

by Fred Doolittle; Robert Ivry

Oct 1, 2002

This paper outlines ideas and strategies to engage alienated and disaffected young people and help them acquire skills, gain work experience, and improve their lives. Based on lessons learned from three decades of demonstrations and evaluations concerning at-risk youth, the paper presents ideas that government agencies and private foundations could consider when working to fill important service and knowledge gaps. It offers suggestions about how to change the public discourse about young people at risk and how to strengthen the public will to capitalize on this population's strengths and potential. The paper recommends three program strategies, all of which leverage youth-serving institutions and existing funding streams and lay the groundwork to expand programs whose effectiveness has stood the test of evaluation. The fundamental premise of this paper is how to increase youth engagement as a prerequisite to success. It draws upon existing research, the experiences of youth programs that have had unusual success in attracting and retaining enrollees, insights from a youth development perspective, and the observations of youth program practitioners and young people themselves. Recommendations are presented in the areas of goals and framework for action, program design, and broadening public support and building capacity.

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