Thrive by 25: Casey Foundation Announces Increased Focus on Youth and Young Adults

Posted January 28, 2021, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Group of young people

For more than sev­en decades, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has been com­mit­ted to build­ing a brighter future for America’s chil­dren, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, striv­ing to ensure all young peo­ple — no mat­ter their race, back­ground or ZIP code — can ful­ly real­ize their potential.

Today’s young peo­ple — known as Gen­er­a­tion Z, born between 1995 and 2010 — are our best-edu­cat­ed yet, and the pos­si­bil­i­ties for them are end­less. But their progress is uneven. We’ve become increas­ing­ly con­cerned about the mil­lions of teens and young adults who are strug­gling to suc­ceed in school, to secure good jobs, to achieve finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and to man­age anx­i­ety and depres­sion. They’ve shared how they lack the sup­port need­ed to over­come these chal­lenges. Youth of col­or, who now rep­re­sent near­ly half of young peo­ple, are more like­ly to face dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies and prac­tices that can thwart their suc­cess. The health and eco­nom­ic crises of the past year have exac­er­bat­ed all of these issues, under­min­ing gains made over the pre­vi­ous decade in recon­nect­ing young peo­ple with school and work.

Watch the Thrive by 25 announcement

These youth are not beyond hope — quite the oppo­site. They have bold dreams and aspi­ra­tions, and we’ve been inspired in our own work to see the incred­i­ble and strong lead­ers they already are and can become in their com­mu­ni­ties and the wider world. Yet we often don’t invest to help them make their dreams a real­i­ty and grow into the most pro­duc­tive and pur­pose­ful indi­vid­u­als they can be. The Casey Foun­da­tion aims to lever­age its exper­tise and part­ner­ships to sup­port youth in forg­ing their own paths — and iden­ti­fy­ing solu­tions that enable them to over­come the obsta­cles they may encounter along the way.

Increas­ing Our Focus on Youth and Young Adults

That’s why the Foun­da­tion is ded­i­cat­ing at least half of its invest­ments over the next decade to improv­ing the well-being and prospects of youth and young adults ages 14 – 24. Work­ing togeth­er with young peo­ple, we seek to make sure they have the fam­i­ly con­nec­tions, rela­tion­ships, com­mu­ni­ties and edu­ca­tion­al and employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties they need and want to be able to thrive by 25. That means not sim­ply sur­viv­ing the road to adult­hood with just enough to get by but hav­ing the chance to live full lives and real­ize their true potential.

Too often, this proves elu­sive for some young peo­ple. The road to adult­hood can be a chal­leng­ing one for many, but young peo­ple of col­or in low-income fam­i­lies, youth in high-pover­ty com­mu­ni­ties, young par­ents and youth involved in the child wel­fare or jus­tice sys­tem face sig­nif­i­cant obsta­cles that can stall their aspi­ra­tions and prospects or derail them entire­ly. These young peo­ple will there­fore be the Foundation’s focus — and more impor­tant­ly, part­ners — for its Thrive by 25 efforts. Get­ting the right help when it’s need­ed can make all the dif­fer­ence for youth who are try­ing to move in a pos­i­tive direc­tion. Invest­ing in pro­grams and advanc­ing poli­cies to help them can change the tra­jec­to­ry of their lives and pre­vent life­long problems.

Thrive by 25 is not an ini­tia­tive or some­thing the Foun­da­tion will do for a few years. It cap­tures the way Casey is bring­ing togeth­er dif­fer­ent ele­ments of its work to ensure every young per­son in Amer­i­ca has strong and sup­port­ive rela­tion­ships, paths to oppor­tu­ni­ty and an unques­tion­able sense of being a val­ued mem­ber of their community.

What Young Peo­ple Need to Thrive

Inspi­ra­tion alone isn’t fuel­ing this work, which has been in devel­op­ment for the past three years. Research also informs it. Ado­les­cence, which rough­ly spans ages 14 to 25, is an impor­tant devel­op­men­tal peri­od much like ear­ly child­hood, when the brain is espe­cial­ly open to learn­ing and grow­ing. It’s a time ripe for build­ing young people’s capa­bil­i­ties, a time when they can heal from trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ences ear­li­er in life and, if nec­es­sary, change course. It’s a time when young peo­ple are estab­lish­ing their iden­ti­ty and rela­tion­ships and devel­op­ing impor­tant life skills, such as mak­ing deci­sions and assum­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty. It’s a time when they need sup­port­ive adults and the right devel­op­men­tal expe­ri­ences to fos­ter their growth.

Investing in five key areas to foster young people's well-being and success

As part of Thrive by 25, the Foun­da­tion will invest in coor­di­nat­ing and con­nect­ing pro­grams, sys­tems and resources in five key areas to devel­op com­pre­hen­sive solu­tions that address the mul­ti­fac­eted issues young peo­ple con­tend with and enable them to thrive:

  1. Basic Needs: Young peo­ple reg­u­lar­ly tell us they need imme­di­ate sup­port to meet their basic needs — food, hous­ing, safe­ty, phys­i­cal and men­tal health, trans­porta­tion and child care — so that they can focus on long-term goals and become self-sufficient.
  2. Per­ma­nent Con­nec­tions: Young peo­ple deserve to have sta­ble, per­ma­nent con­nec­tions with a lov­ing fam­i­ly and oth­er sup­port­ive and car­ing rela­tion­ships with adults in their com­mu­ni­ty who can help them nav­i­gate school, work, finances and life issues.
  3. Edu­ca­tion and Cre­den­tials: Young peo­ple should have the sup­port they need to grad­u­ate from high school and obtain a post­sec­ondary cre­den­tial that will posi­tion them for eco­nom­ic success.
  4. Finan­cial Sta­bil­i­ty: Young peo­ple need access to tra­di­tion­al or entre­pre­neur­ial employ­ment and finan­cial tools and prod­ucts that allow them to build sav­ings and credit.
  5. Youth Lead­er­ship: Young peo­ple can devel­op skills to advo­cate for them­selves, pro­mote poli­cies that will help them and their fam­i­lies suc­ceed and play a lead­er­ship role in mak­ing their com­mu­ni­ties stronger and safer over the long term.

Main­tain­ing Our Com­mit­ment to Chil­dren of All Ages

Our increased focus on youth and young adults is not a move away from our long-stand­ing ded­i­ca­tion to improv­ing the lives of all chil­dren. In fact, much of it is root­ed in our exist­ing efforts and acknowl­edges that ado­les­cence — this crit­i­cal peri­od of learn­ing and growth — extends well beyond 18. And in doing this work, the Foun­da­tion is draw­ing on its decades of expe­ri­ence and part­ner­ships in strength­en­ing fam­i­lies, increas­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty and build­ing com­mu­ni­ties, as well as its exper­tise in advanc­ing racial equi­ty, using data and evi­dence to inform pol­i­cy, trans­form­ing pub­lic sys­tems, devel­op­ing effec­tive lead­ers and engag­ing youth.

In short, we are excit­ed to bring the full array of our strate­gies togeth­er to help unlock the poten­tial of our country’s most valu­able assets: its young people.

As ever, we know we can­not do this alone. We are already engag­ing our grantees, part­ners, com­mu­ni­ties and young peo­ple in shap­ing this effort and work­ing togeth­er toward suc­cess. We look for­ward to shar­ing updates on our journey.

Young peo­ple are our next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers, work­ers, inno­va­tors and par­ents. Ensur­ing they can thrive by 25 will ben­e­fit their lives, strength­en our com­mu­ni­ties and coun­try and build a more equi­table future.

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