LEAP Partners Adapt to Support Youth Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted May 12, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Programs increasingly are using technology to support young people during the pandemic.

Young peo­ple, espe­cial­ly those who’ve expe­ri­enced pub­lic sys­tems and home­less­ness, are fac­ing numer­ous chal­lenges amid the coro­n­avirus pandemic.

Among them:

  • main­tain­ing sta­ble housing;
  • los­ing income and employ­ment opportunities;
  • bal­anc­ing work, child care and home­school­ing responsibilities;
  • access­ing afford­able inter­net and tech­no­log­i­cal devices; and
  • man­ag­ing stress, anx­i­ety and feel­ings of isolation.

Devel­op­ing solu­tions for these issues is a top pri­or­i­ty for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial (LEAP)™ net­work. LEAP aims to help young peo­ple find and nav­i­gate suc­cess­ful path­ways to school and work after expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness, fos­ter care or the jus­tice system.

Some exam­ples of the ways local LEAP part­ners are work­ing with youth to respond to their needs and con­cerns include:

  • The Nebras­ka Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies Foun­da­tion (NCFF) recent­ly hired five young peo­ple to pro­vide crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion and resources to their peers online. These new social media influ­encer” posi­tions not only pro­vide much-need­ed income to the young peo­ple serv­ing in them, but also enable youth to con­nect with one anoth­er and receive impor­tant virus-relat­ed news and alerts. NCFF also has part­nered with a local com­pa­ny to pro­vide dis­count­ed inter­net to young peo­ple across the state and is work­ing to ensure all LEAP par­tic­i­pants, includ­ing those liv­ing in rur­al areas, have access to com­put­ers for dis­tance learning.
  • Jobs for Arizona’s Grad­u­ates launched an online resource cen­ter for local youth that includes infor­ma­tion on stu­dent employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, emer­gency child care options, low-cost inter­net and free tutor­ing. The team is also using oth­er vir­tu­al activ­i­ties, includ­ing live career devel­op­ment ses­sions and award cer­e­monies, to keep young peo­ple engaged and motivated.
  • In addi­tion to pro­vid­ing ongo­ing career and edu­ca­tion ser­vices remote­ly, the Door and the Cen­ter for Alter­na­tive Sen­tenc­ing and Employ­ment Ser­vices (CAS­ES) in New York City are offer­ing telether­a­py options to help young peo­ple nav­i­gate any men­tal and emo­tion­al chal­lenges they may be fac­ing as a result of the coro­n­avirus pandemic.
  • NMCAN invit­ed lead­ers from the New Mex­i­co Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies Depart­ment to par­tic­i­pate in a vir­tu­al town­hall, dur­ing which they spoke to young peo­ple about their COVID-19 expe­ri­ences and pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion about how the state’s youth tran­si­tion spe­cial­ists will con­tin­ue to sup­port them dur­ing the cri­sis. NMCAN is also con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide youth with sup­port­ive ser­vices, includ­ing help access­ing unem­ploy­ment insur­ance, hous­ing, food assis­tance and Wi-Fi.
  • Fol­low­ing the Los Ange­les Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege District’s shift to online instruc­tion, the Coali­tion for Respon­si­ble Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment moved its Ver­non-Cen­tral/LATTC Work­Source Cen­ter — pre­vi­ous­ly based on the cam­pus of Los Ange­les Trade-Tech­ni­cal Col­lege — in house so it can con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing impor­tant employ­ment, train­ing and sup­port­ive ser­vices to job seek­ers and small busi­ness­es impact­ed by COVID-19. Bring­ing both adult and youth work­force pro­gram­ming togeth­er under one roof has pro­mot­ed bet­ter ser­vice inte­gra­tion and is enabling LEAP youth to con­tin­ue to meet with case man­agers, con­nect with busi­ness­es that are hir­ing, address crit­i­cal needs, secure lap­tops for school and stay on track with their career and edu­ca­tion plans. It has also enabled young peo­ple to help their fam­i­ly and friends access services.

We are encour­aged by the ways our part­ners across the nation have engaged LEAP youth and fel­lows to cre­ate strate­gies that address these needs and con­cerns,” says Patrice Cromwell, direc­tor of youth eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty at the Casey Foun­da­tion. They’re adapt­ing and shift­ing to make sure young peo­ple have what they need to con­tin­ue reach­ing their full potential.”

Learn more about LEAP

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