New $5 Million Grant Program Will Connect Youth Facing Obstacles to Higher Education and Employment

Posted February 25, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Social Innovation Fund Initiative to Reach Thousands Through Organizations in Nine States

In partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund, the Annie E. Casey Foundation announced today that it plans to award $5.4 million in grants over the next three years to help more teens and young adults complete high school and postsecondary education and build paths to careers.

The Foundation’s new Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) initiative aims to increase educational and employment opportunities for youth and young adults ages 14 to 25 who are in foster care or involved in the juvenile justice system, or who are homeless. These young people often face some of the greatest challenges to success in adulthood. Over the next three to five years, 10 local partnerships in Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

One of these models, Jobs for the Future’s Back on Track, prepares young people for postsecondary career pathways and supports them during their first year in college. The other, Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG), helps youth earn a high school credential, develop professional skills and gain employment or enroll in postsecondary education. Through LEAP, the Foundation hopes to identify effective strategies for helping youth and young adults overcome challenges and succeed in school and at work.

“LEAP builds on our mission to ensure all young people in the United States are able to realize their full potential,” said Patrick McCarthy, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Helping youth and young adults navigate some of the roadblocks to adulthood contributes to their individual success and strengthens our country’s workforce, our economy and our communities.

”America’s youth employment rate is at a historically low level, and millions of teens and young adults are neither in school nor working. For young people who have experienced foster care, the juvenile justice system or homelessness, the hurdles to employment are even greater. Youth transitioning from foster care, for example, are less likely to find and keep stable jobs and are more likely to earn less, even into adulthood. And compared to their peers in the general population, only a fraction complete a postsecondary degree, a near must for advancing in today’s job market. LEAP aims to change that trajectory and equip young people with the education and skills they need to achieve financial stability.

LEAP is made possible in part through a $4.5 million grant the Foundation received in August 2015 from the Social Innovation Fund, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for volunteering and service programs. The Social Innovation Fund fosters public and private collaborations to evaluate and grow innovative community-based solutions that work. In just five years, the Social Innovation Fund and its private-sector partners have invested more than $876 million in compelling community solutions. As a result of $295 million in federal grants and more than $581 million in nonfederal match commitments, the Social Innovation Fund has made grants to 39 grant-making institutions and 353 nonprofits working in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

"We are eager and excited to announce these grant awards,” said Damian Thorman, director of the Social Innovation Fund. “The funding we provide will not only create new opportunities for young people but foster stability — and many times, hope — for the first time."

The Social Innovation Fund grant, combined with requisite matching funds from Casey and the local partnerships, will ultimately result in about $15 million invested over three years to create stronger pathways to education and employment for America’s youth — with the potential for even more if funding extends to five years. In addition to the awards to the local partnerships, these funds will go toward evaluating the impact of the partnerships’ strategies, as well as promoting the broader adoption of these models among public systems so that even more youth and young adults throughout the nation can reach their full potential.

The 10 participating partnerships:

  • Coalition for Responsible Community Development (Los Angeles) will apply the JAG and Back on Track models to help youth in and transitioning from foster care earn their high school diploma or GED, enter the job market or successfully move into postsecondary education. The organization and its partners will focus on young people in South and East Los Angeles, where almost half of youth in foster care have not completed high school.
     
  • Covenant House Alaska (Anchorage) will use JAG’s model geared toward youth who are not in school to provide mentoring, coaching and community-based learning opportunities to foster career readiness among Anchorage and rural Alaskan youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, or who are homeless.
     
  • The Door (New York) will use the Back on Track model to bolster its existing college-access and employment and training programs at its Lower Manhattan and Bronx locations, for New York City youth involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice system.
     
  • Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates (Phoenix) will team up with a local dropout prevention program to expand the reach of its JAG program to young people who are involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice system, or who are homeless, in Phoenix and Tucson.
     
  • Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (Benton Harbor, Michigan) will focus on youth who are involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, or who are homeless, in Benton Harbor, Detroit and Flint. The organization and its partners will expand an established JAG model that helps young people who are not in school earn their high school diploma or GED, find a job or enroll in postsecondary education or a training program.
     
  • Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (Lincoln, Nebraska) will provide an array of support services to Lincoln and Omaha youth in foster care to successfully move into postsecondary education, using the Back on Track model.
     
  • Project for Pride in Living (Minneapolis) will apply JAG’s model in seven of Minneapolis Public Schools’ alternative schools, focusing on youth involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems in Hennepin County. The organization and its partners will integrate several newly launched programs to more effectively help young people earn a high school diploma, enter the job market or move into postsecondary education.
     
  • South Bay Community Services (San Diego) will weave Back on Track’s preparation and first-year support for postsecondary education into its programming focused on education and employment for San Diego County youth exiting foster care or being released from juvenile justice facilities.
     
  • University of Southern Maine (Portland, Maine) will use the JAG and Back on Track models to provide support for completing high school and preparing for postsecondary education and employment for Maine youth transitioning from foster care.
     
  • UTEC (Lowell, Massachusetts) will use JAG’s model to build on its GED program for youth in the juvenile and adult justice system and incorporate a focus on readiness for work and postsecondary education.

LEAP is part of the Foundation’s growing focus on youth and young adults and is one of several efforts to foster the success of America’s young people at school and work. Last year, Casey also launched Generation Work, an initiative to increase job opportunities for young adults ages 18–29 in five cities.