The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

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 was originally published September 30, 2014 on SparkAction. Author Peter Kleinbard is a consultant who works with organizations serving adolescents. He was a founder of the earlier Youth Transition Funders Group that developed during the School to Work Opportunities Act in the 1990's.

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

ORR Web

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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Standards Offer Better Ways to Address Status Offenses

Marie Williams
Originally published March 28, 2014 on SparkAction. Author Marie Williams, JD, is executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and leads the organization’s Safety, Opportunity & Success (SOS): Standards of Care for Non-Delinquent Youth Project.

The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, turned 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.


Concrete recommendations like those found in the Coalition for Juvenile Justice's recently released National Standards for Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses are vital to addressing, and bringing an end to, the incarceration of children who commit status offenses.

Status offenses are actions that violate the law only because they were committed by a person who is under 18 years old. They include running away, skipping school, and possessing tobacco products. Confinement for status offenses was initially prohibited under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), but subsequent amendments to the law gave courts the authority to lock up children if they were also in violation of a valid court order (VCO). For example, if a young woman who was ordered by a judge to attend school continued to skip class, she could be placed in a juvenile detention facility for this behavior. This is known as the VCO exception.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge

Jim Shelton
Broderick Johnson an Assistant to the President, White House Cabinet Secretary, and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force and Jim Shelton the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education, and the Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force posted the following on the White House blog on September 30th. (FYI – Jim was one of the funders that helped design the Multiple Pathways to Graduation initiative. He has announced that he will be leaving the US Department of Education).

In February of this year, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative to ensure that all youth, including boys and young men of color, have opportunities to improve their life outcomes and overcome barriers to success. The initiative aims to bring together government, law enforcement, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith, and community leaders around shared goals for young people in this country.

And now, the Administration is taking this effort local, by engaging Mayors, tribal leaders, and county executives who are stepping up to lead in their communities. In a speech this past Saturday at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) awards dinner, President Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, which will encourage communities (cities, counties, suburbs, rural municipalities, and tribal nations) to implement coherent cradle-to-college-and-career strategies aimed at improving life outcomes for all young people, consistent with the goals and recommendations of the White House’s MBK Task Force’s May, 2014 report. Rather than build a new federal program, or provide a top-down solution to problems that are often unique to local neighborhoods, the President has called upon local leaders, and sought to provide them the support and momentum they need, to design and implement strategies that are proven to work to address a set of challenges that are too often taken on in silos.

There is already incredible work being done by elected and community leaders around the country. This MBK Community Challenge is about harnessing that energy, expanding upon it, and operationalizing plans of action to functionally channel it at the local level.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Leveraging the JJDPA for Better School-Based Mental Health Services

Allison Bollinger Miller
Originally published May 15, 2014 on SparkAction. Author Allison Bollinger Miller is the Manager of Professional Relations at the National Association of School Psychologists, where she advocates for the importance and value of school psychology, school psychologists, and school psychological services.

The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, turned 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.


According to a survey by the National Institute of Mental Health, about 20 percent of U.S. youth are affected by some type of mental disorder during their lifetime to an extent that they have difficulty functioning. Yet only about 16 percent of children who need mental health services actually receive them.

The majority of students who do receive needed services access them at school. Research indicates that students are more likely to seek help when they need it if school-based mental health services are available.