The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What’s The Future of Behavioral Health?

Nick Torres, PSIJ co-founder
Last week, a New Mexico radio talk show highlighted that the biggest provider of mental health was the county jails. We know that is a sign of systemic dysfunction. The question is how to correct it.

In Philadelphia, they are starting to tackle this issue with a meeting to discuss What's the Future of Behavioral Health in Light of the Disruptive Innovation of Healthcare Reform? on April 28. The meeting is sponsored by the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal, Thomas Scattergood Foundation, City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Public Health Management Corporation, Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy and Open Minds. (You can register here.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Model Legislation for Opportunity Schools

Kim Knous-Dolan
States and districts are not going to design and implement the policies, operations, and schools to  
serve over-age, undercredited students or opportunity youth without a big push from young people, advocates, and practitioners. For decades upon decades we’ve pushed students out of school or let them drift away. It’s not just about stopping the bad practices, we have to put into place intentional strategies to keep student in school.

That’s why I was thrilled to see the Opportunity Schools Pilot Initiative (SB-167) introduced to Colorado’s Senate. From what I can tell this could be used as model legislation if you are thinking about how to leverage the Youth Incentive Fund Initiative in your state. The concept was developed through a stakeholder workgroup to improve the quality of alternative schools. Colorado uses the term Alternative Education Campuses (AEC) for schools serving a population of at least 95% high-risk students.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hell’s Angel


Hell's Angel by Briana from Three Lakes High School, Albany, Oregon won the Words Unlocked competition in 2013. Entries for the 2014 competition will be accepted beginning April 14.




Not all angels go to heaven.

Sometimes angels go to hell.

I know this, cuz I watched you slip.

And loaded your pipe as you fell.

I didn’t realize at the time,

How hard you’d hit your head.

His radar tracked her damaged soul,

And led her to his bed.

But she was young, and vulnerable.

And he was thirty-six.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Words Unlocked Frees Student Expression of Boundaries

Joaquin Zihautanelo

It’s National Poetry Month, and once again, time for the Words Unlocked nationwide literary competition for young people in juvenile detention. The judges of the competition are Chelsea Clinton and R. Dwayne Betts, Josh Lefkowitz and Joaquin Zihautanelo. (An aside, I wasn’t familiar with Zihautenelo – and just spent 20 minutes listening to his words. Powerful! ) Student poets can submit their work for the competition April 14 through May 2.

This year’s theme is Boundaries, encouraging students to explore through poetry the boundaries that exist in their lives. Words Unlocked has curricular and instructional materials for a seven-day and a month-long unit in ActiveBoard, SmartBoard, Word and PowerPoint formats.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Twisted Systems

From Center for Public Integrity
I’ve been in conversation with a nephew lately about what it means to be a man. He has hit puberty and is facing the road to adulthood with very mixed feelings. He was asking me – At what age can I drive? Get a job? Drink? Vote? Go to war? We of course then stumbled into the fact that different states have different laws about when to treat teens like adults. And it reminded me just how confused we are about adolescence, adolescents, rights and responsibilities.

The story of Selina Garcia in Raleigh, NC, age 17, brings it home. This young woman is simultaneously a minor and an adult – depending on which system you are talking to.  At child welfare, Selina is a minor.  However, in the legal system, she’s an adult. In North Carolina, once you are 16, kids are automatically directed into the adult legal system if charged with a crime.

On March 7, a school police officer decided to arrest her after a disturbance on the bus. She landed in jail (Wake County School District not having gotten the news that the school-to-prison pipeline should be closed).  She ended up staying there for three weeks in adult prison. Although the judge ordered her release on March 10, seems the foster care system thought that was the best placement for her.

There are so many advancements in aligning our public systems around youth development, but when you hear a story like this, it brings it home that we, our state governments, and state legislators have a lot more work to do.  It would be an interesting study wouldn’t it – how twisted are your state systems?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning from Louisiana

Chief Judge Ernestine Gray,
Orleans Parish Juvenile Court

The Youth Transition Funders Group is meeting in New Orleans on April 29 and 30. As always, we share the focus of the meetings in an effort towards transparency.

On April 29, the work groups will meet to learn about work in Louisiana, as well as share information about their investments and advancements in their fields.

The Multiple Pathways to Graduation Work Group, with its goal to improve educational and employment attainment, will look at how opportunity youth fit into the dramatic changes in the New Orleans education landscape. The work group will be joined by the Opportunity Youth Collaborative, a recipient of the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. Panelists will include Jen Roberts, vice president for education, Baptist Community Ministries; Adam Hawf, deputy superintendent, Portfolio, Louisiana Department of Education; Michael Stone, chief external relations officer, New Schools for New Orleans; John Ayers, executive director, Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, Tulane University; and Eric Jensen (invited), executive director, Partnership for Youth Development.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Education as a Civil Right – We Have a Long Way to Go

Originally posted March 21, 2014 at CLASP.org. Author Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant is a
Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant
senior policy analyst and interim director for the Youth Policy team at CLASP. Prior to joining CLASP, Ms. Bryant was an education specialist with the Delaware Department of Education, where she coordinated the state's strategic agenda for quality improvements in early childhood education.


The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights released new data on the condition of our nation’s schools with regard to racial and ethnic disparities in access to quality education and fair treatment of students. We applaud the courage of the Obama Administration in requiring all of the country’s 97,000 school districts to report this data, and for making this data publicly available for the first time in almost 15 years. While it reveals troubling trends nationally, it provides an opportunity for both serious discussion and timely action.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Taking Advantage of Transitional Classes for Over-age Undercredited Youth

Regardless of whether districts are busy implementing Common Core State Standards, competency education, blended learning or some mix of the reforms, they get to a point where they have to clarify what college- and career-readiness means exactly. Once they begin that conversation, they will eventually face up to the fact that some students need extra help. According to Education Week, more high schools are assessing whether students are prepared for college and offering transitional coursework, designed in collaboration with colleges, to those who are not. 

We can take advantage of this opportunity to push our agenda for over-age and undercredited youth by directing more resources to students entering ninth grade with elementary level skills, as well as those who have disengaged and want to re-enroll.