The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Game Changer

clasp logo
CLASP provided an excellent overview of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Becomes Law; Potential Game Changer for Low-Income Youth to make it easy for the rest of us to understand its implications. According to the article, the key themes in WIOA include: 

  • An emphasis on the alignment of all core programs authorized in the bill, including a requirement for unified planning and reporting on a shared set of performance measures across these programs. These steps offer the potential for streamlining and significantly improving service delivery to participants, particularly low-income, low-skilled individuals.
  • A heightened focus on providing training and helping participants prepare for post-secondary education to improve their success in the labor market.
  • Greater focus on and new vehicles for addressing the needs of youth and adults who have significant barriers to employment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Exciting Times in Workforce Development

President Obama signs WIOA.
Eleven years. That’s how long it took to find a window of opportunity for bipartisan support of the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act.

On July 22, President Obama placed his signature on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Its goes into effect July 2015 and we all should make sure that we understand it well enough to take advantage of it on behalf of youth.

However, we are going to need a lot more than WIOA to address the youth unemployment crisis. Vice President Joe Biden released the plan, Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. For anyone who wants to get up to speed on workforce development it’s a must read as it covers just about every strategy with some interesting innovations (more on that later).

Also released this month is What Works In Job Training: A Synthesis of the Evidence. This was one of the best reports I’ve read in terms of summarizing the evidence, with attention given to what we don’t know as well as to what we do know. The section “What Works for Youth” opens with the statement, “The evidence on the effectiveness of job training programs for youth is much less extensive than for adults.” What this tells me is that we need to keep innovating – we still haven’t cracked how to help young people connect to the job market. However, they do identify four areas where there is evidence:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Who Is In the Drivers Seat? Authentic Youth Engagement

In my work on competency education, I've become absolutely humbled by what it means to run a school or program that is student-centered with an emphasis on student ownership of their education.  Suddenly, adults aren't the only ones in the drivers seat and many of our assumptions about schooling, educational outcomes and what kids need can be challenged and even over-turned.

In the field of youth, we talk about it youth engagement. Sometimes we add the word "authentic" to emphasize what it means for students to have ownership over their own lives rather than simply choices. Authentic youth engagement is particularly hard when they are in child welfare and juvenile justice, systems with lots of rules created around lots of worst case scenarios. That's why gatherings like the National Summit on Authentic Youth Engagement sponsored by Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago are so important. (Registration closes July 25, so click here to reserve your spot).

Youth engagement in services is one thing. It's a whole other thing to involve young people in periodic meetings and convenings. At the YTFG meetings, its always the Foster Care Work Group that walks the talk, bringing alums from child welfare to the meetings and preparing them to fully participate.  Certainly the alum structure makes a huge difference...We could start to tap into alum programs of Year Up or YouthBuild to make sure young people who have gone to alternative schools and/or experienced detention are participating in shaping how we talk about issues, what our priorities are, and how decisions are made. However, that means we have to give up some control. And that's pretty hard for adults to do and certainly hard for program officers in foundations if every decision has to be justified based on a strategic plan, legacy values, and outputs.

What are your favorite resources on youth engagement? We'd love to compile the best of the best in the field. Here are just a few that I've found.

Youth in Decision Making: University of Wisconsin-Madison study looks at the impact of youth engagement on adults and organizations. 

Funders Collaborate for Youth Organizing:  This group of funders has invested in youth organizing and in establishing a field for when youth work together to improve their communities or address institutional injustice.

Youth as Evaluators: Youth participatory evaluation (YPE) is an approach that engages young people in evaluating the programs, organizations, and systems designed to serve them. Learn more about YPE in the evaluation section of the ACT for Youth website.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Culture and Creed at Urban Prep

Will single-gender schools for boys help us address the horribly low graduation rates for young men of color? (See blog on Vertus Charter School.) I have to admit I’m always a bit uncomfortable with the idea. Then I remember the role some girls schools and all-women colleges have played in helping young women think they could make valuable contributions beyond the confines of the home and forming networks that helped bash down the gates to employment. Perhaps all-male schools are exactly what we need for young men who have to face a constant barrage of shallow, negative images in the media that suggest that their lives will be confined to the street. Perhaps we might even consider all-male alternative schools where the school culture and learning environments could be designed for nurturing boys into men.

I’ve been paying special attention to all-male schools in order to understand what it is about the design, culture or learning environments that make them work for boys and young men. If we can understand that, then maybe we can fully integrate it into any school. Hopefully, initiatives like My Brother’s Keepers will help to identify and advance what needs to be in place for African-American young men to graduate from high school.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Working Together: Local and National Funder Collaborations

Michael Brown
With all the collective impact efforts around the country, effective funder collaboration has become an essential ingredient for “moving the needle”.  

In response to the number of communities using collective impact to address the unmet needs of youth, the YTFG’s Multiple Pathways to Graduation Work Group is hosting a conversation for funders on Local and National Funders Working Together on Place-Based Initiatives next week  Tuesday, July 15th at 11:30 PT/ 12:30 MT/ 1:30 CT/ 2:30 ET facilitated by Michael Brown (The Seattle Foundation) and Yazeed Moore (C.S. Mott Foundation).  YTFG has worked hard to be a meaningful affinity group for both local and national foundations. However, we think there is more we can do to learn from each other about how to construct meaningful local/national partnerships that embraces the perspectives of both types of foundations.

The perspective of local/national funder collaborations is an interesting topic partially because it is one that is so ignored by the large national foundations and the field of philanthropy in general.  I’ve just been reading the EXCELLENT paper Lessons in Funder Collaboration: What the Packard Foundation Has Learned about Working with Other Funders which is chock-full of fascinating insights and valuable case studies.  Yet, they never deal directly with the dynamics that develop when one foundation is perceived to have more power or influence than the others nor how to structure collaborations to ensure that the smaller, more locally-based foundation partners can actually build capacity, strength and influence. The article High Stakes Donor Collaborations also fails to address the size/influence difference across foundations. I'm going to go back through my files to see if the topic is mentioned anywhere in articles on funder collaboration or perhaps GrantCraft will have something.

In reading both of these articles I also realized that there is a very big difference between those types of collaborations formed by program officers that are operating within their programmatic budget and those formed by top management. As we continue to build our knowledge about local/national funder collaboration, it may make sense to think about effective practices when the CEO is at the table as well as when it is a program officer who is trying to navigate their foundation’s processes and peculiarities.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

It's Time to REDEEM

REDEEM -- Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment. It's an idea whose time has come. Thanks to Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) the idea is now on the political agenda with the introduction of the REDEEM ACT. (Yet, another bi-partisan effort on the part of young people).

According to the Campaign for Youth Justice's email, the bill includes incentives for states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years and allows for sealing and expungement of juvenile records. Here are the highlights of the legislation designed to address barriers to re-entry:
  • Incentivizes states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old: Currently 10 states (Louisiana, New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, Missouri, and Texas) have set the original jurisdiction of adult criminal courts below 18-years-old. This sends countless kids into the unforgiving adult criminal system. The REDEEM Act incentivizes states to change that by offering preference to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applications for those that have set 18 or older as the age of original jurisdiction for adult criminal courts.
  • Offers adults way to seal non-violent criminal records: Presents the first broad-based federal path to the sealing of criminal records for adults. Non-violent offenders will be able to petition a court and make their case. Furthermore, employers requesting FBI background checks will get only relevant and accurate information - thereby protecting job applicants - because of provisions to improve the background check system.
  • Allows for sealing and expungement of juvenile records: Provides for automatic expungement of records for kids who commit non-violent crimes before they turn 15 and automatic sealing of records for those who commit non-violent crimes after they turn 15 years old.
  • Restricts use of juvenile solitary confinement: Ends the cruel and counterproductive practice of solitary confinement except in the most extreme circumstances in which it is necessary to protect a juvenile detainee or those around them.
  • Lifts ban on SNAP and TANF benefits for low-level drug offenders: The REDEEM Act restores access to benefits for those who have served their time for use, possession, and distribution crimes provided their offense was rationally related to a substance abuse disorder and they have enrolled in a treatment program.

This is a powerful piece of legislation that we need right now!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bright Spots

From Safely Home
I love that image – bright spots around our country where young people are fully supported, where youth-serving agencies have embraced youth development, where political and community leaders take responsibility rather than allowing the cloak of invisibility to remain over young people.

The new report, Safely Home, by Youth Advocate Programs Policy and Advocacy Center does just that – lifting up the bright spots around the country that are effectively using community-based programs to reduce youth incarceration. The report is powerful as it provides key messages that advocates can us, a compelling cost analysis and examples of places around the country that are reducing incarceration through the provision of community-based alternatives. I’ve plucked a few of the highlights of the report for you:

Money Matters
“For example, using the American Correctional Association average cost of youth incarceration of $240.99/day, the cost of incarcerating 20 youth for 180 days, or six months is $867,564. In contrast, a community-based program that can create a wraparound community for a youth, individualize services based on the unique needs of each youth, engage the family and connect the youth to neighborhood resources, costs on average $75/day.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bipartisan Buzz?

There is a buzz, we might even call it a bipartisan buzz.

Last week, our DC leaders were able to take two giant steps forward. First, the House and Senate leaders were able to forge a bipartisan agreement to prevent child sex trafficking, increase adoptions, and improve child support collections. Second, the Senate passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 803) by a whopping 95-3. It still has a ways to go, but it actually looks like there is going to be a reauthorization.

Although WIOA is not going to solve the youth unemployment crisis, there are a number of improvements. Below is the summary from CLASP:
  • Expand the definition of out-of-school youth to encompass young people ages 16 to 24 who are not attending school, have dropped out of school, and face extensive barriers to work and to completing their education. In addition, Title I targets 75 percent of youth funds to provide services for out-of-school youth.