The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Future Looks Bright: Emerging Leaders Advocate for Change

Originally published Aug. 14, 2014 on SparkAction. Author Yosha Gunasekera is a rising third year law student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is currently an intern at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, turns 40 this September. To mark this anniversary, Act4JJ member organizations and allies will post blogs on issues related to the JJDPA. To learn more and take action in support of JJDPA, visit the Act4JJ JJDPA Matters Action Center, powered by SparkAction.

Changemakers. From SparkAction.
Hernan Carvente, now in his early twenties, is a research assistant at the Vera Institute for Justice, where he works on issues related to conditions of confinement. Jim St. Germain, meanwhile, is the Executive Director of Preparing Leaders for Tomorrow, a nonprofit focused on providing mentors for youth. James Anderson, the young protégé of director Scott Budnick, advocates for legislative change as the first full-time employee at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). 

The three young men share a commonality beyond their status as activists: Each was previously incarcerated and has overcome his earlier challenges to fight for change in the juvenile justice system.

Monday, September 15, 2014

And The Winners Are...

Jesmyn Ward
We live in a media world. With each breath, we take in other people’s images, ideas, words, and sounds. So it’s vital that we push out into the media world the images, ideas, words and sounds that tell the honest story of young people’s lives, their resilience and courage, and what needs to be put in place so that they can connect by 25.

That’s why I love the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s Media for a Just Society Award. They lift up for all of us some of the extraordinary efforts that have helped all of us understand social justice issues including juvenile justice, child welfare, and the forces that are shaping the lives of our young men of color.

The 2014 winners are:

Book: Men We Reaped: A Memoir, Jesmyn Ward, Bloomsbury USA

Friday, September 12, 2014

LGBT Youth in Juvenile Justice: Three Fixes the System Needs

Christina Gilbert
Originally published June 17, 2014 on SparkAction. Author Christina Gilbert is the Director of The Equity Project, a collaborative initiative of the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), Legal Services for Children (LSC), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, turns 40 this September. To mark this anniversary, Act4JJ member organizations and allies will post blogs on issues related to the JJDPA. To learn more and take action in support of JJDPA, visit the Act4JJ JJDPA Matters Action Center, powered by SparkAction.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth are over-represented in the juvenile justice system. Although LGBT youth represent 5 to 7 percent of the nation’s youth population, they represent 13 to 15 percent of those in the juvenile justice system. This number only includes youth who self-disclosed that identity. The percentage is likely much higher, as LGBT youth are often a hidden or invisible population within the juvenile justice system.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It’s Time for Pell Grant Justice


From CEEAS web
Today's post is by David Domenici, Director of the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings. He asks that you join the Twitter campaign calling for #PellGrantJustice. Send a tweet to Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan (@arneduncan) and Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton (@JIMSEDU) asking them to issue a formal statement clarifying that juveniles held in secure facilities who have been adjudicated delinquent under state law are eligible for Pell Grants.

Picture this. Rodney, an 18-year-old who was adjudicated delinquent in the spring, is being held in a secure care facility where he will likely stay for another three to six months while he completes his rehabilitative program. He just passed the new GED and hopes to start taking online courses from his local community college. His facility just implemented a new policy that enables him to have secure Internet access. Rodney is interested in technology and wants to take Introduction to Coding along with English 101. His initial plans are to get an associate’s degree and accumulate a number of programming badges.*

There’s one big problem: he can’t afford the tuition, and both the counselor at his school and the financial aid officer at the community college are telling him he doesn’t qualify for a Pell Grant. It is their understanding that under federal law, criminals who are serving sentences don’t qualify for Pell Grants. No one seems to listen to Rodney when he keeps saying, “I’m not a criminal. I made a big mistake, and I want to get back into school now so I don’t fall further behind.”

So, instead of taking those two postsecondary courses, Rodney is slated to spend his days working on the facility’s grounds and sitting in high school classes that he doesn’t need to graduate, that don’t offer him any credits, and that aren’t in the field he is interested in. When he gets released later this year, mid-semester, he will be jobless and not enrolled in a postsecondary program. He will have to keep himself busy while starting the college application and financial aid process all over again. The odds are that a young man like Rodney won’t take those steps on his own, and that his education will end with his GED.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

3rd Annual Accountability Policy Forum Nov 14-15

From alternativeaccountabilityforum.org
Recently, I was asked why I highlight the annual Accountability Policy Forum (the third annual forum is set for Nov. 14-15 in San Diego) when there are so many meetings around the country on education and youth issues. The reason is simple: Its participants are trying to find a better way to address the policy barriers that get in the way of our young people graduating from high school. It’s a critical issue, yet the advocates focused on youth re-engagement and employment (eduployment) are structured around federal policy, when state-level issues primarily are impacting educational opportunities for youth.

I’m not blaming the national youth advocates. In fact, I think funders were primarily the ones who dropped the ball at the time (including myself while I was at Mott). Many foundations did direct investments towards developing capacity to respond to the devolution process, in which power was shifting to the states. The network of state organizations, such as the California Budget Project, allied with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, is a good example of this strategy. It takes more money to fund a national advocacy organization with representation in up to 50 states. But the investment was well worth it, even if something else had to be taken off the list of investments.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Save Money, Save Kids: Why the JJDPA Matters

Originally published Sept. 2, 2014 on SparkAction. Author Shaena Fazal, Esq. is the National Policy Director at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP). YAP is a national non-profit organization committed to providing cost-effective, community-based alternatives for youth and families in the juvenile justice, child welfare and behavioral health systems through direct service, advocacy and policy change. YAP was founded in 1975 and serves 12,000 families a year in 17 states.

The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, turns 40 this September. To mark this anniversary, Act4JJ member organizations and allies will post blogs on issues related to the JJDPA. To learn more and take action in support of JJDPA, visit the Act4JJ JJDPA Matters Action Center, powered by SparkAction.


From SparkAction.
Just this month, the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released a brief entitled Juveniles in Residential Placement, 2011, which includes data from a one-day census of the number of youth incarcerated in youth prisons or in private residential institutions in the United States.

According to this report, on any given day, 2,239 of the youth counted in residential placement are there for status offenses—which the report defines as “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy and incorrigibility.”

The American Correctional Association estimates that the average cost to incarcerate a youth is, $241 per day although we know that cost can be much, much higher, with some states spending upwards of $800 per day.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Has Happened to You?

When I was first joined the Mott Foundation, Bob Schwartz of the Juvenile Law Center gave me Juvenile Justice 101 tutorial in which he described how kids are categorized as mad, sad, bad or just can’t add determines which system they are funneled into. I couldn’t help but think of that simple categorization when I read the study a The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the Lives of Juvenile Offenders. Are we labeling young people as “bad” when really they are just very, very scared and sad?

The study looks at the prevalence of ACEs among the juvenile offenders population in Florida (about 65,000 young people). If you need a refresher, ACEs include: emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, violent treatment towards mother, household substance abuse, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce, and having an incarcerated household member. Basically you get points for every experience that creates a composite score. As the authors describe, “The ACE composite score is precisely a measure of “what has happened to you.” The original research on ACE found that an enormous number of health issues are correlated with high ACEs – the more ACEs, the more stress. The more stress, the more it impacts the development of your brain, body and emotional health.

The findings from the study found that the most prevalent experiences were family violence, parental separation or divorce, and household member incarceration. The one big difference in experiences between genders was that “sexual abuse was reported 4.4 times more frequently by females than by males (31% and 7%, respectively).” Another difference in the experiences between genders is that young women had more types of traumatic experiences. The study reports, “Of the males, 27.4% reported five or more ACEs compared to 45.1% of the females.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

More News from the Foster Care Work Group

Things are hopping in the efforts to improve the lives of youth in the foster system. Thanks to Mary Bissell of Child Focus and the facilitator of YTFG’s Foster Care Work Group for providing this update.

Advancing the Well-Being Framework

Mary Lee
1) Well-Being Presentation at the National Summit on Authentic Youth Engagement: At the national conference on August 5-6 in Chicago hosted by Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative with its partners, the Andrus Family Fund, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, Aisha van Ter Sluis, Mary Lee, Jennifer Miller, and Sue Badeau engaged in a dialogue with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative Youth Fellows about youth perspectives on well-being.

The Youth Fellows gave FCWG members extremely useful feedback on what “well-being” meant to them when they were in care and specific ideas on how the work group’s well-being framework can be applied to support youth still in and transitioning from care. Potential ideas included an “inventory” for young people and their caseworkers to help assess their well-being; video clips of young people talking about what well-being means to them; workshops, trainings, and products that help young people and adults bridge the gap in how they think about well-being for youth in foster care; and trainings for social workers to have the well-being discussion with young people. We will discuss these and other ideas about a youth guided well-being agenda in the coming months. 

In the meantime, some memorable quotes from the Youth Fellows:

•    Well-being is a journey, not a destination; 
•    Well-being is when you stop surviving and start living;
•    Well-being is when I feel like everyone else and can just be like everyone else; 
•    In foster care, well-being is sacrificed at the altar of safety;
•    Letting people help you is not giving up control – well-being is knowing it’s OK to ask for help; 
•    Well-being is being able to navigate life spaces – knowing how to act socially and professionally; 
•    Well-being is about exposure --the opportunity to see what else is really out there.