Reducing the Number of Disconnected Youth
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
As they move toward adulthood, most young Americans are either in school, in the workforce, or in the military. But far too many are disconnected from the roles and relationships that set young people on pathways toward productive adult lives. In 2007, 8 percent of youth 16 to19 were disconnected by virtue of being out of school and not working. American Indian (15 percent), African American (13 percent) and Hispanic (12 percent) youth were more likely to be disconnected than their white and Asian counterparts.
Five strategies are essential for any plan aimed at further reducing the number of disconnected youth:
- Re-engage disconnected youth and young adults in education. Disconnected youth and young adults need multiple options for continuing their education, including accessible “on-ramps” leading to re-enrollment in high school.
- Include provisions for disconnected youth in economic recovery and infrastructure investments and programs. Investments geared to economic recovery should incorporate efforts to help out-of-school youth get the training and supports they need to secure sustainable, family-supporting employment.
- Address obstacles to employment. In neighborhoods with entrenched poverty, workforce development efforts need to help young people address barriers to work, including physical and mental health problems, drug and alcohol addictions, domestic violence, or limited English proficiency. Practical or legal problems, such as inadequate transportation, lack of child care, immigration problems, or criminal records, may also impede employment.
- Provide developmental opportunities that recognize the importance of social networks. Sustained relationships with adults in the community can help students thrive despite adverse conditions. Disconnected youth need connection to positive adult role models, including both family members and other adults. They need chances to become engaged in community or civic affairs and expand their social networks.
- Aim for comprehensive reform, with a focus on cross-system collaboration. Efforts to reach and re-connect struggling youth require collaboration across all youth-serving systems, including school districts, foster care agencies, pregnancy prevention initiatives, juvenile justice, workforce development, and social service agencies.
To read the whole indicator brief go to Reducing the Number of Disconnected Youth