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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Financial Stability: Young people need access to traditional or entrepreneurial employment and financial tools and products that allow them to build savings and credit.
- 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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