Learning to LEAP: Resources Share Early Lessons on Supporting Youth

Posted October 1, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Youth learn skills that will connect them to school and careers.

Three new resources have one shared con­nec­tion: A focus on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial (LEAP)™ initiative.

Now in its third year, LEAP aims to help youth who are home­less or have expe­ri­ence nav­i­gat­ing the child wel­fare and jus­tice sys­tems. The ini­tia­tive employs two mod­els — Jobs for America’s Grad­u­ates and JFF’s Back on Track — to move these youth onto path­ways that can advance their edu­ca­tion and employ­ment success.

Ten local part­ner­ships dri­ve this effort, which spans 54 cities across eight states as well as a grow­ing net­work of fun­ders and four nation­al orga­ni­za­tions: Jobs for America’s Grad­u­ates, JFF, MDRC and School & Main Institute.

The three resources, ref­er­enced below, cov­er key lessons learned in LEAP’s ear­ly years.

MDRC’s data snap­shot: engag­ing young peo­ple in LEAP

Since launch­ing LEAP pro­gram­ming in April 2016, the 10 local part­ner­ships have enrolled near­ly 2,000 young peo­ple in job-train­ing and post­sec­ondary pro­grams at 87 loca­tions nation­wide. A data snap­shot from MDRC describes LEAP par­tic­i­pants, reveal­ing that:

  • more than 80% are youth of color;
  • 56% have been involved in fos­ter care;
  • 38% have been involved in the jus­tice sys­tem; and
  • 46% have expe­ri­enced homelessness.

MDRC’s data snap­shot also describes how sites have adapt­ed their approach­es to engage LEAP youth. These adap­tions include:

  • pro­vid­ing one-on-one learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing to help accom­mo­date par­tic­i­pants who are jug­gling work and parenthood;
  • inte­grat­ing trau­ma-informed prac­tices into their pro­gram­ming as well as a focus on youth resilience;
  • part­ner­ing with oth­er youth-serv­ing orga­ni­za­tions to improve data-shar­ing and refer­ral net­works; and
  • offer­ing a pause option for par­tic­i­pants who face unex­pect­ed life chal­lenges, enabling them to sta­bi­lize their sit­u­a­tions before resum­ing the program.

These find­ings are part of a larg­er eval­u­a­tion, which MDRC will release in 2019.

School & Main’s brief: sup­port­ing suc­cess­ful tran­si­tions from the jus­tice system

Mak­ing Edu­ca­tion and Career Path­ways Work for Jus­tice-Involved Youth,” a brief from School & Main Insti­tute, tells how LEAP part­ner­ships are work­ing to con­nect jus­tice-involved youth with greater edu­ca­tion­al and employ­ment opportunities.

It rec­om­mends:

  • focus­ing on rela­tion­ships, since cul­ti­vat­ing trust is key.
  • help­ing youth address their imme­di­ate needs, includ­ing hous­ing, child care and men­tal health ser­vices, so they can bet­ter plan for their futures.
  • con­nect­ing young peo­ple with employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties that allow them to earn an income while still par­tic­i­pat­ing in LEAP.
  • devel­op­ing cross-sec­tor part­ner­ships — with courts, pro­ba­tion offi­cers and oth­er local offi­cials — to pro­vide young peo­ple with per­son­al­ized, inte­grat­ed support.
  • start­ing ear­ly since we know that the soon­er young peo­ple enroll in pro­gram­ming, the less like­ly they are to reoffend.

JFF’s report: shift­ing post­sec­ondary practices

Post­sec­ondary Sys­tems Change, a report from JFF, exam­ines how LEAP sites are part­ner­ing with post­sec­ondary insti­tu­tions to help young peo­ple suc­cess­ful­ly pur­sue edu­ca­tion and training.

It rec­om­mends:

  • increas­ing on-cam­pus hous­ing options for young peo­ple in fos­ter care, enabling them to remain in their dorms dur­ing hol­i­days and oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic breaks when stu­dents typ­i­cal­ly vacate;
  • offer­ing one-on-one coach­ing ser­vices to help LEAP par­tic­i­pants com­plete the Free Appli­ca­tion for Fed­er­al Stu­dent Aid, review reward require­ments and nav­i­gate the appeals process if fee- or grade-relat­ed bar­ri­ers arise; and
  • pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion assis­tance, on-cam­pus child care and oth­er wrap­around sup­port services.

Learn­ing and eval­u­a­tion are key com­po­nents of LEAP,” says Patrice Cromwell, direc­tor of strate­gic ini­tia­tives at the Casey Foun­da­tion. We’re excit­ed to share these lessons, and we hope they can help improve youth-serv­ing sys­tems and insti­tu­tion­al prac­tices so that more young peo­ple — espe­cial­ly those fac­ing some of life’s most dif­fi­cult chal­lenges — can reach their full potential.”

Learn more about LEAP’s ear­ly progress

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