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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