Collaborating to Increase Job Opportunities for Youth With Justice-System Involvement

Posted October 18, 2022
A young Black man wearing a suit and tie reaches out to shake hands with someone just out of frame. He smiles confidently.

A recent­ly released report, Youth Jus­tice and Employ­ment Com­mu­ni­ty of Prac­tice: Lessons Learned, out­lines a part­ner­ship to increase job oppor­tu­ni­ties for youth with jus­tice-sys­tem involve­ment by increas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion between juve­nile jus­tice and work­force devel­op­ment agen­cies. Fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, the report by the Nation­al Youth Employ­ment Coali­tion includes suc­cess sto­ries, chal­lenges and pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions from 11 U.S. cities and coun­ties. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from those juris­dic­tions came togeth­er to share prac­tices and ideas in a learn­ing group called a com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice. Young peo­ple who had per­son­al expe­ri­ence with both the youth jus­tice sys­tem and work­force devel­op­ment pro­gram­ming par­tic­i­pat­ed in the com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice along with prac­ti­tion­ers work­ing on juve­nile jus­tice and work­force devel­op­ment issues.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion between the juve­nile jus­tice and work­force devel­op­ment sec­tors is a key strat­e­gy for ensur­ing that young peo­ple involved in the jus­tice sys­tem have the oppor­tu­ni­ties they need to pre­pare for employ­ment and careers,” says David E. Brown, senior asso­ciate in the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. The new report includes promis­ing exam­ples of what works for serv­ing these young people.”

Cross-Sys­tem Collaboration

In addi­tion to young peo­ple, the com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice included:

  • pro­ba­tion officers;
  • direc­tors of juve­nile jus­tice departments;
  • front­line work­force providers;
  • direc­tors of work­force pro­grams;
  • a juve­nile court’s pre­sid­ing judge;
  • a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from a dis­trict attor­ney’s office; and
  • mem­bers of a city work­force devel­op­ment board.

Over the course of a year, the com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice held month­ly ses­sions that focused on spe­cif­ic top­ics of inter­est to the juris­dic­tions — like serv­ing more youth, expand­ing their employ­ment activ­i­ties and access­ing more sup­port ser­vices. These ses­sions often fea­tured experts from the field.

The cross-sys­tem col­lab­o­ra­tions yield­ed pos­i­tive outcomes:

  • In Taco­ma, Wash­ing­ton, the juve­nile court and Good­will Indus­tries for­mal­ized a part­ner­ship in which youth on pro­ba­tion or under court super­vi­sion could enroll in Goodwill’s Edu­ca­tion, Employ­ment and Train­ing pro­gram and be paid for occu­pa­tion­al cer­tifi­cate trainings.
  • In Philadel­phia, the office of the dis­trict attor­ney for­mal­ized an agree­ment with the Philadel­phia Youth Network’s WorkReady pro­gram, which will enroll youth divert­ed from the jus­tice sys­tem and enable them to earn up to $1,000 while in job training.
  • In Birm­ing­ham, Alaba­ma, the Fam­i­ly Court’s fam­i­ly reuni­fi­ca­tion pro­gram for youth in out-of-home place­ments, which helps fam­i­lies con­duct super­vised vis­its with young peo­ple, has been expand­ed to address their trans­porta­tion, men­tal health and employ­ment needs.

Lessons and Recommendations

The report includes sev­er­al lessons from the com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice mem­bers’ work to strength­en cross-sec­tor col­lab­o­ra­tion. For exam­ple, par­tic­i­pat­ing juris­dic­tions found that con­duct­ing a more bal­anced assess­ment before dis­po­si­tion that iden­ti­fies young people’s strengths — along with their risk of reof­fend­ing and key ser­vice needs — was one of the most effec­tive ways to reduce recidi­vism. Anoth­er insight: trans­porta­tion and hous­ing were two of the main sup­port ser­vices that com­mu­ni­ties had dif­fi­cul­ty secur­ing for their youth.

The group devot­ed a ses­sion to youth lead­er­ship. Dur­ing that time, the young adults par­tic­i­pat­ing in the com­mu­ni­ty of prac­tice pre­sent­ed rec­om­men­da­tions to the group as a whole, includ­ing the following:

  • Juve­nile jus­tice and work­force sys­tems should strive to fos­ter the growth of indi­vid­u­als with jus­tice sys­tem involve­ment and pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for learn­ing, not punishment.
  • Youth-serv­ing pro­fes­sion­als should teach young peo­ple how to be inde­pen­dent adults, fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of job train­ing or pro­ba­tion — includ­ing teach­ing them finan­cial lit­er­a­cy skills.
  • Adults across both sys­tems should help youth under­stand how and why each step in the employ­ment process is impor­tant, includ­ing the appli­ca­tion, cov­er let­ter, resume and interviews.

Many of the obsta­cles pre­vent­ing youth with jus­tice sys­tem involve­ment from thriv­ing, the report con­cludes, are sys­temic and deeply inter­con­nect­ed, requir­ing inten­tion­al, long-term col­lab­o­ra­tion that pro­vides young peo­ple with path­ways to self-deter­mined futures.”

Relat­ed Resources on Jobs for Young Peo­ple in Juve­nile Justice

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