The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rights-Sizing Higher Education

March on Washington
for Jobs and Freedom,

The word is tossed around these days, and I always have to think about why disruption is good for students, especially those that are underserved, rather than the companies that are grabbing a piece of the market through a new product or service.

In summarizing the new paper by Michelle R. Weise and Clayton Christensen, Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, Michael Horn writes in his blog Move over MOOCs, it’s online, competency time:

As they argue, online, competency-based schools represent the right learning model—focused on actual mastery of knowledge, skills, and dispositions—with the right technology of online learning, targeted at the right customers—non-consumers who are over-served by the value proposition that traditional colleges and universities offer and searching for a new value proposition from college aligned around workforce needs—paired with the right business model that is low cost, low-priced, and sustainable.

It all comes down to reaching non-consumers. There is no doubt that online, competency education in higher education can be disruptive, allowing people to get a better price for the exact skills they need for entry into or moving up the labor market ladder. Hire Education outlines the inefficiencies in higher education—such as time is fixed, professors are the source of all knowledge, and knowledge is separated from training or the application of the knowledge to specific workplace contexts—that are addressed by online-competency education.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

No One Should Have to Suffer a Lifetime Because of a Child

Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
This post was originally published October 27, 2014 on Campaign for Youth Justice. Author Xavier McElrath-Bey is a youth justice advocate at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

At a recent event, someone commented to me that youth who are tried in adult criminal courts have to contend with a “life sentence” of consequences that result from a conviction and completely negates the prospect of positive change for most youth.

As a youth justice advocate for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth I often speak out against the practice of sentencing children to life without the possibility of parole, but this was the first time I had ever heard the term “life sentence” used in reference to the lifelong consequences that children face when they receive an adult criminal conviction. Such a conviction can limit access to financial aid for school, housing in many rental units, employment, voting and in myriad other ways. In that moment of clarity, I felt a sudden rush of energy and knew that what he just stated was absolutely true and unfair.

I went to prison after I was involved in a gang-related murder at 13. When I was released from prison in 2002 at age 27, I thought that I would be able to leave my past behind and start a new life. I was extremely optimistic because I had prepared for the day for many years. With my Pollyanna perception of the world, I had created step-by-step plan of action. I had never known what it was like to live as an adult, and especially as an ex-con, in free society.

What I had in my favor were two associate degrees, a certificate in computer technology and a bachelor’s degree in Social Science, with a 4.0 GPA. My passion was to find a job in social services, but over and over I was denied jobs or even a first interview because of my conviction. I had to survive, so I eventually started to work with my sister’s boyfriend, who demolished properties and cemented pavements around the city. I remember returning home after long hours of hard labor with dirt and cement lining the inside of my nails and nostrils and only $35.00 in my pocket.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Culture of Collective Impact

Paul Schmitz

This post was originally published October 23, 2014 on Collective Impact Forum. Author Paul Schmitz is an Innovation Fellow at The Beeck Center for Social Innovation and Impact at Georgetown University and a Senior Advisor at The Collective Impact Forum.

“It took a lot of time to build trust. People had distrust for years. You can’t undo that in a few meetings”

“They don’t invite people like me to their tables. I went to a meeting and it was all clearly dominated by the same folks who have all the resources and don’t know our community.”

“Everyone thinks they are special and doing something no one else is doing. There is so much organizational pride. But all your special efforts are missing the mark, and we have to talk about that.”

Last summer, I spoke at a conference of funders convened by the Collective Impact Forum. To prepare for the event, I contacted several trusted leaders in different communities who had been involved at various levels in collective impact initiatives. I heard enthusiastically about the promise of collective impact, but I also heard comments like those above that led me to a conviction: collective impact efforts must be as rigorous about culture as they are about data and strategy if they wish to achieve enduring change.

Coming to Believe in Collective Impact

I came to believe in collective impact from a cognitive dissonance I increasingly experienced during two decades of work in the nonprofit sector. It culminated in April, 2010, when I awoke to a headline that my hometown Milwaukee had the worst 4th grade reading scores for African American children in America. That same day I received a newsletter from a well-regarded youth organization boasting about the outcomes it was achieving for the children they served. I could not reconcile why we had great programs achieving outcomes, and yet the city-wide numbers did not seem to ever change.

My former organization Public Allies partnered annually with more than 500 local nonprofit organizations in 23 communities. We saw the great impacts of so many groups first-hand, but we also we were confounded by the issue siloes, geographic turf wars, and egos that prevented any real progress on solving complex community problems. Issues like education, economic security, housing, and health are not fragmented in peoples’ lives, but the systems that serve them are. They are even fragmented at the neighborhood level. We had a project once that hired youth as community organizers to map out the assets in their neighborhoods, and the youth were shocked to find that the teachers and principals at their schools, local pastors, youthworkers at nonprofit agencies, and other neighborhood leaders did not know each other. Without more comprehensive efforts, it seemed that isolated impacts of organizations rarely sustained or spread.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lessons Learned from Alaska

Having just returned from an incredible trip to Alaska to visit competency-based schools in Anchorage, in the tiny port town of Whittier, and in the village of Tatitlek in Prince William Sound, this post by Karen Pittman of the Forum for Youth Investment caught my eye. We know it's hard to bring all the players to the table in large urban areas, but there is another challenge of creating a shared vision when people are separated by the geography itself (with access only by boat or plane).

I'll be writing more about my visit, as the trip opened my eyes in a number of ways. First off, we can learn from Karen's interview with Brian McNitt, program officer for the Alaska Conservation Foundation and lead staff for its Sustainable Southeast Partnership.

This post was originally published October 14, 2014 on SparkAction. Author Karen Pittman is the Co-Founder, President, and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment.

Monday, October 20, 2014

YJAM2014: Unequal Progress: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Systems

From the Campaign for Youth Justice Blog
This post was originally published October 14, 2014 on Campaign for Youth Justice

The Campaign for Youth Justice is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Justice showed that the rate of youth in confinement dropped 41% between 2001 and 2011. Cause to celebrate during YJAM? Yes and no. Despite the remarkable decrease in the use of confinement for youth, The National Council on Crime & Delinquency (NCCD) reports that the proportion of youth of color receiving court dispositions grew substantially between 2002 and 2012. NCCD completed a statistical analysis of county-level data from five counties across the country that have worked on system reform. Through its analysis, NCCD found that youth of color represented 66.8% of sentenced youth in 2002 yet this percentage rose to an alarming 80.4% in 2012.

Youth in the Adult System: Gross Disparities

We know youth of color are over-represented at all stages in the juvenile justice system. African-American youth overwhelmingly receive harsher treatment than white youth in the juvenile justice system at most stages of case processing. African-American youth make up an astounding 30% of those arrested while they only represent 17% of the overall youth population. At the other extreme end of the system, African-American youth are 62% of the youth prosecuted in the adult criminal system and are nine times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence. States such as Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington, DC have recently reported on these disparate practices.

Friday, October 17, 2014

For Youth Who Dropout: Pathways or Merely Stops Along the Way?

WT Grant Foundation
This post by Peter Kleinbard was originally published September 30, 2014 on SparkAction. Special thanks to the WT Grant Foundation, where this article originally appeared.

… It is not a time like when I was a teenager. I could just impress a supervisor or manager, fill out the application, and I had a job…But now, I have to break that down to [the youth] consistently and show them they can’t get discouraged…And that’s my fear [their] frustration and despair.

— Ralph, Workforce Development Specialist

Ralph is speaking about his caseload, young adults who have dropped out of school whom he is seeking to place in jobs. Surely his “frustration and despair” finds echoes in today’s headlines. In many American communities, 40 percent or more of adolescents fail to complete high school.  The social and economic consequences of dropping out do not need to be reiterated here.

Most research on programs for dropouts has focused on national, multisite initiatives—for example, YouthBuild, Strive, the National Guard Challenge Program and others. This research is valuable but has limited generalizability to the community-based programs that serve most of these youth. And while I wish that some of the national initiatives could be expanded to meet the need, that is unlikely in today’s fiscal climate. Community-based programs serve large numbers of young adults. It is these local efforts that communities must rely on to advance the fortunes of most young adults who have dropped out. Yet, even taken together with the nationals, we still only reach a small proportion of those young people in need.

The challenge in reaching dropouts is not only one of scale, but also of selection.  Seventy percent of dropouts read and do math below the eighth grade level. Most will require a year or more to obtain a GED—not all will succeed in doing so—and face multiple hurdles before they are ready for stable employment. Prolonging services means that achieving marketable outcomes for young adults is expensive and that the results are uncertain, as some young people will drift away when the pathway gets lengthy. This presents enormous challenges for the field. Most programs, including the nationals, select those who test at levels that indicate that they can achieve a diploma within months.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Update from the Foster Care Work Group

New Report from AECF
Thanks to Mary Bissell of Child Focus and the facilitator of YTFG’s Foster Care Work Group for this great update.

Upcoming Events

American Youth Policy Forum Discussion Group: On October 29, the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) is hosting a discussion group on youth in transition from foster care designed to engage policymakers, practitioners, and researchers. The meeting will bring together approximately 20 high-level stakeholders from the federal government and national organizations who are working to improve the systems and policies that affect youth transitioning out of care. Representatives from FCWG have been invited to speak and will be presenting on the Well-Being Framework.

Two-Part Series about Child Welfare and Immigration: This fall, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and the John Burton Foundation will hold two informational webinars about immigrant families and the child welfare system. The first will be held on Tuesday, October 21 from 10:00 to 11:00am on recent changes to the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status program. The second will be held on Tuesday, December 16 from 10:00 to 11:00 am about Senate Bill 1064 that aims to improve the child welfare system’s response to immigrant families. To learn more about these topics, including how to register, click here.

Recent Events

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Hearing on Social Impact Bonds: On September 9 the Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on Social Impact Bonds and whether they can help government achieve better results for families in need. Full witness testimonies are available here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Office of Refugee Resettlement Needs to Apply PREA...Now


By Chris Sturgis  

I have been disappointed with the administration’s response to the stream of refugees from Central America that have been escaping the violence generated from the drug industry. The United States is the consumer market for the illegal drugs that create the drug cartels, which then create conditions in which children flee their homes in order to survive. IMHO this is a refugee issue, not an immigration one.

Thus the Center for American Progress’s article, Fostering Safety: How the U.S. Government Can Protect LGBT Immigrant Children by Sharita Gruberg and Hannah Hussey, caught my eye. The authors argue that the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, should be applied to the residential facilities housing minors who have come across the border. This seems like a pretty darn good idea.

The authors cite an investigation by the Houston Chronicle that “found 101 ‘significant incident reports’ of abuse allegations against staff members at facilities contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR, the agency in charge of caring for unaccompanied children” between 2011 and 2013. They then argue that research shows lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are even more vulnerable to this kind of abuse. Their conclusion is that we should apply the juvenile standards of PREA to the residential facilities to protect LGBT youth.