New Funds for Work: Connecting Systems for Justice-Involved Young People

Posted January 10, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog newfundsforworkconnecting 2018

For old­er ado­les­cents and young adults who have been involved in the jus­tice sys­tem, find­ing a sta­ble job can make all the dif­fer­ence in break­ing pat­terns of destruc­tive behav­ior. Juve­nile jus­tice and work­force devel­op­ment agen­cies are poised to help, but uneven col­lab­o­ra­tion between the two sys­tems means access to job train­ing and employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties is often poor for these youth and young adults.

With sup­port from the Casey Foun­da­tion, Youth Advo­cate Pro­grams Inc. (YAP) and the Nation­al Youth Employ­ment Coali­tion launched a project to exam­ine why — despite recent pol­i­cy devel­op­ments that seem to sup­port more coor­di­nat­ed efforts — local juris­dic­tions have remained unable to bet­ter con­nect agencies.

Read about strate­gies for engag­ing youth in work­force devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties in Baltimore

The result­ing report, New Funds for Work: Con­nect­ing Sys­tems for Jus­tice-Involved Young Peo­ple, pro­vides a state-by-state look at youth served by work­force devel­op­ment boards that were jus­tice-involved. Although num­bers were rel­a­tive­ly low across the coun­try, the dif­fer­ences between states were stark. Some states report­ed that jus­tice-involved youths rep­re­sent­ed more than a quar­ter of total pro­gram par­tic­i­pants, while oth­ers report­ed vir­tu­al­ly none. These boards are fed­er­al­ly required to spend 75% of their fund­ing on out-of-school youth.

New Funds for Work also describes the results of a recent meet­ing between work­force devel­op­ment and juve­nile jus­tice lead­ers con­vened to explore the dis­con­nects between the two sys­tems and strate­gies for bridg­ing them.

At this point, there are so many evi­dence-based mod­els out there for con­nect­ing at-risk youth with edu­ca­tion and train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that the inabil­i­ty to move the nee­dle — to pro­duce vast­ly dif­fer­ent out­comes for these kids — is less about a short­age of poten­tial solu­tions than it is a prob­lem of access,” says David E. Brown, a senior asso­ciate in the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group, who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the dis­cus­sion. The best way to improve access to effec­tive pro­grams is to make sure that local, state and fed­er­al sys­tems are com­mu­ni­cat­ing, coop­er­at­ing and address­ing bar­ri­ers togeth­er. It’s vital for more jus­tice-involved youth to par­tic­i­pate in fed­er­al­ly-fund­ed activities.”

The report offers sev­er­al recommendations:

  1. Sig­nif­i­cant cul­ture change is need­ed to fos­ter inter­a­gency collaboration.
  2. Judges should be edu­cat­ed on local train­ing and employ­ment offer­ings avail­able to jus­tice-involved youth and encour­aged to con­sid­er them rather than detention.
  3. States must redi­rect sav­ings from reduced spend­ing on con­fine­ment and out-of-home place­ment to work­force devel­op­ment pro­grams for youth.
  4. Improved data col­lec­tion at both the state and fed­er­al lev­els will help pro­vide a more accu­rate pic­ture of who is access­ing work­force devel­op­ment pro­grams, and whether jus­tice-involved young peo­ple are being ade­quate­ly served.

Read nation­al sur­vey results about con­nect­ing young adults with employment

There’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for work­force and juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems to work togeth­er bet­ter to tar­get the young peo­ple who are most dif­fi­cult to engage,” said Shana Fazal, YAP’s nation­al pol­i­cy direc­tor and one of the report’s authors. The results could be trans­for­ma­tive for young peo­ple and con­nect them to their com­mu­ni­ties in pos­i­tive ways.”

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