Education, Employment training,
Vocational skills development, and Entrepreneurship training
120 Baltimore City foster youth ages 16-24
$993,630 two-year total program budget
10 May 2012
I. JUSTIFICATION OF NEED
Statement of Policy Problem
Youth are often thought of as separate members of society (Roberts, 2004). The media often portrays youth as individuals that only engage in activities that are negative in nature (Hogeveen, 2005). Government funding for youth services is minimal compared to funding for early education programs for children 0-5 years of age as well as to funding for the juvenile justice system (Isaacs, Hahn, Rennane, Steuerle, & Vericker, 2011). Within the minimal funding available for youth programming the focus tends to be towards the reduction of risky behaviors of youth.
Youth who engage in in one or more risky behaviors are labeled at-risk youth. Risky behaviors include school failure and early school dropout which can lead to underemployment, violence that can lead to criminal behavior, substance use that can lead to addiction and related health problems, and risky sexual behavior that can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Increased opportunity for engaging in risky behaviors can stem from individual characteristics of youth, the contexts they live in, the situations they encounter, and how these factors interact over time (Guerra & Bradshaw, 2008).
Research is moving towards demonstrating that in order to reduce at-risk youth's negative behaviors, their protective factors have to be addressed and interventions need to be more comprehensive (Sullivan, 2006). Comprehensive services, which are preventative in nature, are becoming more of a focus for practitioners and program developers. Comprehensive services include the collaboration of institutions, service providers, schools, and child welfare systems to better meet the needs of the at-risk youth population.
Context of Problem for Baltimore’s At-Risk Youth
Approximately 4,500 foster youth “age out” of the foster care system in Maryland each year and must make the transition to self-sufficiency without the necessary skills or support to become financially independent, contributing adults. Additionally, many youth find themselves precariously teetering on the brink of lifelong poverty as a result of unhealthy behaviors and attitudes inherited from their environment. They are the most at-risk kids in the country – those likely to consistently fail. This group is made up of teens in foster care; youth involved in the juvenile justice system; teens who have children of their own; and youth who never finished high school. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, these youth face hardships and risks that produce significant costs to themselves and their community.
Due to the lack of services tailored to their needs, many emancipating foster youth are either at risk of becoming, or are already homeless. Although the Baltimore City’s unemployment rate averaged 11 percent in 2011 (Maryland Employment Development Department), this number is considerably higher for at-risk youth. Studies show that 24 to 50 percent of former foster youth become homeless within the first 18 months after emancipating from the child welfare system and 46 percent become parents within 12 to 18 months. Additionally, 30 percent of youth in Baltimore reported no income in 2011, almost 60 percent live below the poverty level, 68 percent of youth in the Baltimore juvenile system have spent time in foster care, and 70 percent of Baltimore City Correctional Center inmates grew up in foster care (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).