For too many young people the transition to adulthood is characterized by isolation, joblessness, and a lack of educational opportunity or connection to caring community. In a far-reaching effort to help disconnected youth, nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies across the U.S. are providing support in the form of shelters, job training, mentorship, college prep, job placement, and mental and reproductive health services. But in order to achieve success it is clear that these efforts require greater alignment and coordination. This special collection gathers the many lessons being learned in the field; lessons about the challenges in meeting the needs of disconnected youth and the promise of both new and more proven approaches.

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Special Collection on Disconnected Youth: Summary Brief

November 1, 2016

A summary brief of findings from a special collection of "grey" literature on the subject of Disconnected Youth. The brief lays out the methodology for the collection effort as well as top level findings related to thematic categories covered by the existing evidence base.

Arts Infusion Initiative, 2010-15: Evaluation Report

March 6, 2016

For youth involved in the criminal justice system, a better future depends on improving their social and emotional learning skills -- skills like conflict resolution, career readiness and preparation for the future. An assessment by the Urban Institute shows how the Arts Infusion Initiative helped achieve just that for young people detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), and for high-risk youth in the Lawndale, Little Village, Back of the Yards and South Shore communities. From 2010 to 2015, this catalytic approach to restoring the peace for Chicago's youth supported 14 nonprofits providing teens with rigorous arts instruction, infused with social and emotional learning goals. Funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the $2.5 million Initiative built collaborations with the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Schools, and Northwestern and Loyola Universities. The Urban Institute's mixed-method evaluation (2.9MB), commissioned by the National Guild for Community Arts Education with funding from the Trust, concluded that "the fields of education, juvenile justice and family and youth services can benefit tremendously from the emergent approaches embodied in the Arts Infusion Initiative." Among the successes their research revealed:Participants showed substantial improvements in social and emotional learning skills, as measured by conflict resolution, future orientation, critical response and career readiness. Improvements ranged from 27% in conflict resolution and career readiness, to 29% for critical response and 36% for future orientation.The initiative helped foster collaboration between program directors, public schools, community policing and the detention center. Examples include the Trust and the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy program working together to open a high-tech digital music lab at JTDC. Chicago Public Schools' plan for a new Digital Arts Career Academy for at-risk and court-involved high school youth is a direct result of the positive effects Arts Infusion had on youth, and of the relationship forged between CPS and the Trust.The program exposed at-risk youth to new skills and technologies that opened their minds to a positive future. Arts Infusion grants enabled many participating programs to purchase -- often for the first time -- modern, professional-grade equipment to which many youth had never been exposed. Better Boys Foundation used its funding to purchase enough modern film lab equipment to serve a full 17-student class -- previous classes had only one camera to share among all students.

Community Connectedness; Cross-system Integration; Insufficient Data or Knowledge; Juvenile Re-entry; Philanthropy; System-involved Youth; Youth Development

Transitional Age Youth Strategic Plan

February 16, 2016

This document represents the Strategic Plan for the TAY Authority, covering the period 2010-2015. The TAY Authority serves transition age youth (ages 16-24) in Los Angeles County. Many of the youth we serve are aging out of the foster care system, some have been involved with the juvenile justice system, and all will have faced some sort of challenge in moving toward a productive adulthood. All youth we serve are low or very low- income. The purpose of the TAY authority is to assist youth to transition to adulthood successfully. There are over 1.5 million transition age youth in Los Angeles County. Of these, 11,000 16-22 year olds have active Department of Children & Family Services cases, 5000 are homeless, and over 10,000 of the minors have active probation cases (LA County, 2010). Team TAY believes that providing youth with the tools they need to integrate themselves into society will help them to lead successful and healthy adult lives. By encouraging them to envision a promising future and equipping them with practical life training and support, we will help them to tap their unlimited potential. In order to meet this goal, it is important for us as an organization to strive to better accomplish our mission through managing strategically and in a fair, accessible, transparent manner. So, with the help of our Strategic Management team, we present to you our Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2010 to 2015. The purpose of this paper is to communicate Team TAY's Strategic Plan, which includes a re-clarification of our stakeholders, vision, mission, and values; assessing TAY's internal and external environments; identifying the strategic issues we are facing; formulating and adopting goals to manage these issues; and developing an implementation plan and evaluation process.

Community Connectedness; Foster & Adoptive Children; Homeless Youth; Insufficient Data or Knowledge; Insufficient Funding; Lack of Capacity; Mental Health Services; State Government; System-involved Youth; Transition Planning

Optimizing Talent: The Promise and the Perils of Adapting Sectoral Strategies for Young Workers

February 8, 2016

The new report from JobsFirstNYC and the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, highlights national examples of effective sectoral employment programs for youth. It lays out strategies for developing and maintaining strong partnerships among industry experts and youth development practitioners, to boost employment rates among young adults and improve business outcomes. Finally, it details lessons learned from JobsFirstNYC's Young Adult Sectoral Employment Project (YASEP), a successful, first-of-its-kind pilot to test whether sector strategies could be specifically effective for young adults who are out of school and unemployed.Drawing on the promising results of several sector-based employment programs for young people throughout the nation, this report explores how:By expanding and deepening access for young people to sectoral employment initiatives, policymakers and funders can help young people find alternative pathways to jobs, job stability, and advancement;Community-based and young-adult-serving organizations can play a critical role in connecting young people to employment;Collaboration across organizations is essential, and financial incentives to support partnerships must be built into future efforts; andSectoral strategies can yield even greater gains when they go beyond strategies focused on job placement to partnering with employers to identify ways to improve workers' conditions while also supporting business success.

College Preparation; Community Connectedness; Cross-system Integration; Federal Government; Insufficient Data or Knowledge; Insufficient Funding; Job Placement; Job Training; Lack of Capacity; Philanthropy; Pooling Funds; Secondary Education; Shelter & Residential Care; State Government; Youth Development

What Works for Disconnected Young People: A Scan of the Evidence

February 1, 2016

The purpose was to conduct a scan of the current state of the evidence regarding what works in helping disconnected young people, defined as the population of young people ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to work or school. To prepare the paper, MDRC conducted a literature review of relevant policies and programs. The literature reviewed included writing on impact, quasiexperimental, and implementation studies. MDRC also conducted reviews of numerous websites to learn about current policy trends and evaluations in process. To supplement what was learned from written materials, MDRC interviewed a number of practitioners in the field, including representatives from foundations, coalitions, and research organizations.

Cross-system Integration; Foster & Adoptive Children; Insufficient Data or Knowledge; Job Placement; Job Training; Lack of Capacity; Mental Health Services; Philanthropy; Post-Program Support; Secondary Education; System-involved Youth; Youth Development

A Blueprint for Youth Justice Reform

January 11, 2016

Each year, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable young people, primarily youth of color, are funneled into the justice system -- a system ill-equipped to meet their needs or foster their development. Study after study has proven that reliance on punishment and incarceration is harmful to young people and is associated with increased rates of reoffending, strained family relationships, lower educational and vocational attainment, and incarceration later in life. This updated report draws upon new research to provide concrete policy recommendations aimed at improving the well-being and life outcomes for young people up to age 25 who are involved in or at risk of entering our nation's juvenile and criminal justice systems.The Blueprint is a call to action to funders, policymakers, community leaders, system stakeholders, advocates, youth and families.

Cross-system Integration; Family Services; Justice System Reform; Juvenile Re-entry; Philanthropy; Racial Equity Lens; System-involved Youth

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: A Better Approach to Serving Youth Facing Barriers to Employment

November 16, 2015

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) changes the ways in which states and communities provide employment services to youth through the public workforce system. These older and out-of-school youth will likely face additional barriers to employment and have different service needs when compared with younger and in school youth. To effectively meet the employment needs of out-of-school youth, states and communities will need to change the type, intensity, and scope of the employment services they offer under WIOA.There are lessons that workforce boards and their partners can learn from prior efforts to enhance and expand youth summer jobs programming to better serve at-risk, older, and out-of-school youth as well as community-based programs targeting youth who face serious and significant barriers to employment. This brief draws on some of those lessons to offer practical program design recommendations for enhancing WIOA youth services to better accommodate older and out-of-school youth.

Federal Government; Job Placement; Job Training; Youth Development

Opportunity Youth: Young People Disengaged from School and Work in South King County

November 1, 2015

Young People Disengaged from School and Work in South King County. This report examines the characteristics and experiences of "Opportunity Youth," defined as young people ages 16-24 who are not engaged in work or school. We summarize the experiences of Opportunity Youth with DSHS service histories who attended school in the Road Map region of south King County. We find that many face immediate barriers that may prevent them from engaging in work or school, including parenting responsibilities, incarceration, disabilities, and homelessness. Opportunity Youth have interacted with multiple systems, including criminal justice, behavioral health, child welfare, and public assistance. There are opportunities to better connect these systems to education and the workforce so that at-risk students are supported and those who do become Opportunity Youth are provided pathways to reengagement.

Cross-system Integration; Homeless Youth; Mental Health Services; Secondary Education; Shelter & Residential Care; State Government

It Takes a Community: Ensuring WIOA Planning and Implementation Lead to Greater Economic Opportunity for Adults and Youth Facing Chronic Unemployment

October 20, 2015

The passage and implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) has the potential to catalyze efforts in local communities and states to address the employment needs and interests of a greater share of adults and youth facing barriers to employment and to develop a more comprehensive and aligned public workforce system to meet these jobseekers' needs.Realizing these goals, however, will require concerted and deliberate efforts by local communities and states acting in partnership with a number of stakeholders and public systems. Leveraging the local and state planning processes and other opportunities embedded in WIOA, this brief aims to provide stakeholders with ideas and actionable recommendations for helping to ensure that the public workforce system under WIOA increases employment and economic opportunity for jobseekers facing barriers to employment.

Cross-system Integration; Federal Government; Job Placement; Job Training

Vulnerable Youth: Employment and Job Training Programs

September 16, 2015

This report provides an overview of federal employment programs for vulnerable young people. It begins with a discussion of the current challenges in preparing all youth today for the workforce. The report then provides a chronology of job training and employment programs for at-risk youth that began in the 1930s and were expanded or modified from the 1960s through the 1990s. It goes on to discuss the four youth programs authorized under WIOA, and draws comparisons between these programs. Following this section is a detailed discussion of each of the programs.

Federal Government; Foster & Adoptive Children; Homeless Youth; Job Placement; Job Training; Secondary Education; System-involved Youth

Tapping New Pools of Talent: Preparing Opportunity Youth to Help Fill the Skills Gap

August 1, 2015

More than 6 million young people in the United States are out of school, out of work, and, often it seems, out of luck. That's 17 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24. This population includes dropouts and high school graduates, former foster children and juveniles in court custody; youth caring for siblings and teens cycling in and out of low-wage jobs. Once known as "disconnected," they are increasingly called "opportunity youth." Despite growing up in difficult circumstances--they represent a large opportunity for investing in our nations workforce and our future. This brief focuses on strategies for strengthening education and employment pathways that prepare opportunity youth for jobs that can lead to productive careers. It is part of a series from JFF's conference Bridging the Gap: Postsecondary Pathways for Underprepared Learners

College Preparation; Job Training; Philanthropy; System-involved Youth

Unemployment Among Young Adults: Exploring Employer-Led Solutions

July 1, 2015

Younger workers consistently experience higher unemployment and less job stability than older workers. Yet the dramatic deterioration in employment outcomes among younger workers during and since the Great Recession creates new urgency about developing more effective bridges into full-time employment for young people, especially those with less than a bachelor's degree. Improving the employment status of young adults and helping employers meet workforce needs are complementary goals. Designing strategies to achieve them requires insight into the supply and demand sides of the labor market: both the characteristics of young people and their typical routes into employment as well as the demand for entry-level orkers and the market forces that shape employer decisions about hiring and investing in skill development. A quantitative and qualitative inquiry focused on the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Ill. and Louisville, Ky.

Federal Government; Job Placement; Job Training; State Government