Collaborating to Increase Job Opportunities for Youth With Justice-System Involvement
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.”
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
- Workforce Development and Juvenile Justice Publications
- Community-Based Workforce Engagement Supports for Youth and Young Adults Involved in the Criminal Legal System
- Workforce Development Programs That Work for Youth With Justice-System Experience
- Reducing Structural Barriers to School and Work for People With Juvenile Records
- Job Training for Youth with Justice Involvement: A Toolkit