Dept. of Education

U.S. Government sets goal to end youth homelessness in 10 years

The U.S. Department of Education reported that 53,000 homeless youth were supported through school-based programs last year, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted more than 22,000 young people in emergency or transitional housing in 2009.  Another 110,000 youth are believed to be living on the streets. It is likely this is a serious underestimate of the total number of homeless youth, but the actual number of youth experiencing homelessness is unknown.

Youth Speakers Share Their Hopes for the Future

I know now it's not where I'm from; it's where I'm going. It's not what I drive; it's what drives me. It's not what's on me; it's what's in me. And it's not what I think; it's what I know. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. And that's exactly what I plan to do: I will make my own trail and set my own goals. — Chardae Anderson, age 18

October 14, 2009

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement involves “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”1 Civic engagement includes both paid and unpaid forms of political activism, environmentalism, and community and national service.2 Volunteering, national service, and service-learning are all forms of civic engagement.

According to the 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey, seven percent of 15- to 25-year-old Americans participated in 10 or more community engagement or political activities within the previous year.3 When compared to their peers who report no civic engagement activities, this group was more likely to be African-American, urban, attend church regularly, from a family with parents who volunteer, a current student (in college or high school), and from college-educated home.4

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency established in 1993 that engages Americans in service through its core programs: AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps, as well as national volunteer efforts through Serve.gov. CNCS serves as the nation’s largest grantmaker for service and volunteering and harnesses the energy and talents of citizens to solve problems. Everyone can make a difference and should try, regardless of age.

Participation in civic engagement activities can help youth become better informed about current events. For example, according to the 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey, approximately a quarter of youth who had not participated in civic engagement activities within the last year did not answer any questions regarding current politics correctly.5

Definition and Constructs

Youth civic engagement is defined as working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community. It also involves developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference.6 These activities enrich the lives of youths and are socially beneficial to the community. Four interrelated constructs have been identified in the research literature as necessary for civic engagement (see Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: FOUR CONSTRUCTS OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

Four Constructs of Civic Engagement: Civic Action, Civic Commitment or Duty, Civic Skills, Social Cohesion

Volunteering is only one form of civic engagement included, as defined above, in the construct of civic action and civic commitment or duty, but research has also shown a connection between youth who volunteer and other forms of youth civic engagement. Findings suggest that “among youth, volunteering plays a valuable role in shaping how youth learn to interact with their community and develop the skills, values, and sense of empowerment necessary to become active citizens.”7

While many youth volunteer, most young people do not see a connection between volunteering and political engagement or activism. In the 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey, the majority of young people said that they volunteered in order to help others, not to address a social or political problem. Only six percent of youth believed that their volunteering was a means to address social or political problems.8

Another possible form of civic action and civic commitment and duty is service-learning. According to the American Psychological Association,9 service-learning and civic engagement can be related but are not the same thing. Service-learning does not have to include a civic dimension and all forms of civic engagement are not service-learning. Civic engagement is a broader concept that may encompass, but is not limited to, service-learning. Service-learning differs from community service or volunteerism in two distinct ways:

  • The service activity is integrated with academic curriculum and content.
  • Students engage in reflection activities after their service experience and apply their learning in real-life activities.10

Resources

Character and Civic Education
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools’ Character and Civic Education group administers various programs in character and civics education. These programs include providing financial assistance for character and citizenship education activities in elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education, and reporting on issues and programs, disseminating information, and providing technical assistance to state agencies and state and local correctional institutions.

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
CNCS was created as an independent agency of the United States government by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The mission of CNCS is to “support the American culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility.” Currently, CNCS delivers several programs that are designed to help communities address poverty, the environment, education, and other unmet human needs. From 1993-2013, Learn and Serve America provided funding and other resources to support school-based, higher education, and community-based service-learning.

Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen (PDF, 43 Pages)
This resource from the U.S. Department of Education provides information about the values and skills that contribute to character and good citizenship, including guidance on what parents can do to help their elementary-, middle-, and high school-aged children develop strong character.

References

1 Erlich, 2000
2 Michelsen, Zaff, & Hair, 2002
3 Lopez, Levine, Both, Kiesa, Kirby, & Marcelo, 2006
4 Dávila & Mora, 2007
5 Dávila & Mora, 2007
6 Erlich, 2000
7 Corporation for National and Community Service, 2005
8 Lopez, Levine, Both, Kiesa, Kirby, & Marcelo, 2006
9 American Psychological Association, 2010
10 College of Southern Maryland, 2010

Afterschool Programs

Afterschool programs (sometimes called OST or Out-of-School Time) serve children and youth of all ages, and encompass a broad range of focus areas including academic support, mentoring, youth development, arts, and sports and recreation. The activities in which children and youth engage while outside of school hours are critical to their development, highlighting the need for quality afterschool programs in all communities. The demand for afterschool programs is strong; current estimates suggest that nearly 10 million children and youth participate in afterschool programs annually, 10 million in summer camps, and 6 million in 4-H programs alone (Yohalem, Pittman, and Edwards, 2010).

High quality afterschool programs generate positive outcomes for youth including improved academic performance, classroom behavior, and health and nutrition. Communities and businesses also benefit when youth have safe and productive ways to spend their time while their parents are at work. Several Federal agencies provide support and resources to afterschool programs to help promote positive outcomes for youth. Explore the articles and links on this page to learn more about afterschool.


Yohalem, N., Pittman, K., & Edwards, S. (2010).  Strengthening the youth development/after-school workforce: Lessons learned and implications for funders. Washington, DC: The Forum for Youth Investment and Cornerstones for Kids.

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3)

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth offer a unique opportunity to test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (see p. 409 of the linked PDF) first provided authority to the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services along with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and related agencies to enter into up to 10 Performance Partnership agreements with states, regions, localities, or tribal communities that give them additional flexibility in using discretionary funds across multiple Federal programs. Since 2014, P3 has expanded to include certain programs from the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development. Pilot sites will commit to achieve significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes in exchange for this new flexibility. For P3, statute defines disconnected youth as individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 who are low income and either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed, or not enrolled in or at risk of dropping out of an educational institution.

The resources below provide more information on P3 opportunities. Questions can be directed to disconnectedyouth@ed.gov.

Positive Youth Development

Positive Experiences + Positive Relationships + Positive Environments = Positive Youth Development

Based on the literature, the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaboration of 21 federal departments and agencies that support youth, has created the following definition of positive youth development (PYD):

PYD is an intentional, prosocial approach that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances young people’s strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths.

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs developed a research agenda focused on positive youth development. Through a collaborative consensus-building process, representatives from federal agencies identified three research domains (conceptual issues, data sources and indicators, and program implementation and effectiveness) and key research questions that could benefit from future research.

PYD has its origins in the field of prevention. In the past, prevention efforts typically focused on single problems before they surfaced in youth, such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency.

Over time, practitioners, policymakers, funders, and researchers determined that promoting positive asset building and considering young people as resources were critical strategies. As a result, the youth development field began examining the role of resiliency — the protective factors in a young person's environment — and how these factors could influence one's ability to overcome adversity. Those factors included, but were not limited to, family support and monitoring; caring adults; positive peer groups; strong sense of self, self-esteem, and future aspirations; and engagement in school and community activities.

Researchers and practitioners began to report that young people who possess a diverse set of protective factors can, in fact, experience more positive outcomes. These findings encouraged the development of interventions and programs that reduce risks and strengthen protective factors. The programs and interventions are strengthened when they involve and engage youth as equal partners, ultimately providing benefits for both for the program and the involved youth.

Round 1 Notice Inviting Applications

Round 1 Notice Inviting Applications

P3-NIAOn November 24, 2014, five Federal agencies came together to offer a new opportunity to help communities overcome the obstacles they face in achieving better outcomes for disconnected youth. For the next 100 days (application deadline: March 4. 2015), states, tribes, and municipalities can apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) and test innovative, outcome-focused strategies to achieve significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes.

The P3 initiative enables up to 10 pilots to blend funds that they already receive from different discretionary programs administered by the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services and the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. P3 allows new flexibility under Federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements to overcome barriers and align program and reporting requirements, enabling applicants to propose the most effective ways to use these dollars. In addition, pilots will receive start-up grants of up to $700,000.

Government and community partners already invest considerable attention and resources to meet the needs of America’s disconnected youth. However, practitioners, youth advocates, and program administrators on the front lines of service delivery have let us know that achieving powerful outcomes is still sometimes inhibited by programmatic and administrative obstacles, such as poor coordination and alignment across the multiple systems that serve youth and fragmented data systems that inhibit the flow of information. P3 responds directly to these challenges by offering broad new flexibility in exchange for better outcomes.

To access webinars and audio clips, click here.

To view the notice inviting applications, click here. To view the application package on grants.gov, click here. To find answers to frequently asked questions about the P3 notice inviting applications, click here.

Reconnecting Youth

Disconnected youth1 are often defined as young people ages 14-24 who are homeless, in foster care, involved in the justice system, or are neither employed nor enrolled in an educational institution.  Across the U.S., there are approximately 6.7 million youth that exhibit one or more of the above risk factors and touch multiple systems.2

The economic burden of disconnected youth is significant, as these young people not only fail to meet their personal potential, but also cost the U.S. billions of dollars every year in lost earnings, incarceration costs, and expenditures on social services. Moreover, siloed administrative and reporting requirements can make it unintentionally difficult for providers to give youth the comprehensive, effective services (PDF, 2 pages) they need.

To address issues faced by disconnected youth and the entities serving them, the 2013 Budget included proposals for Performance Partnership Pilot3 authority and targeted funding. The Interagency Forum on Disconnected Youth (IFDY) was established in March 2012 as an out-growth of these budgetary proposals. The IFDY is committed to improving educational, employment and other key outcomes for this population through interagency and intergovernmental collaboration. Learn more about the shared goals and approach of the IFDY to support and reconnect disconnected youth and see additional action steps being taken by Federal agencies and interagency groups.

A Request for Information (RFI) on disconnected youth was published by the Department of Education in the Federal Register in June 2012. The RFI yielded 171 responses from a wide range of organizations and individuals. View a summary of the key themes that were identified and the approach used for analyzing the responses.

Hear from Youth

Hear what young people have to say about what youth need to become healthy and productive adults. Read a summary of the input provided by youth during a series of listening sessions held to gather input toward the development of a strategic plan for youth.

Collaborations Working to Reconnect Youth and Prevent Disconnections

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a community-based program that leads, trains, and mentors young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who are unemployed and have left school so that they may become productive citizens in America's future. Results from a three year evaluation showed that ChalleNGe participants are more likely than their control group counterparts to have obtained a GED certificate or high school diploma, to have earned college credits, and to be working. Participants’ earnings are also 20 percent higher than control group members’ earnings. Collaboration between the ChalleNGe program and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) supports leadership opportunities for disadvantaged and out-of-school youth serving in their programs.

Project U-Turn is a citywide collaborative effort to address the dropout crisis in Philadelphia. Project U-Turn identifies and examines the problem, promotes the crisis as a system-wide issue rather than an education issue, involves and sustains a diverse array of partners, and works to both prevent students from dropping out as well as re-engage those who have already dropped out. Learn more.

Partnership for Results is a model of local governance designed to implement a broad spectrum of evidence-based programs for the benefit of youth at risk. Operating in Cayuga County in Central New York, it has improved outcomes for children and youth and their families since its founding in 2000. Evaluation results indicate reductions in substance abuse, arrests, juvenile detention expenditures, and foster care placements. Partnership for Results has been associated with increases in standardized test scores, particularly for elementary schools serving low-income children.

The Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development coordinates and aligns state policies and practices to support positive youth development and increase high school graduation rates.

Navicate (formerly Linking Learning to Life, Inc.) supports a collaboration of schools, businesses, colleges, and other organizations to foster opportunities for community service, leadership development, career and college exploration, internships, and employment for youth in Vermont as they transition from school to careers and postsecondary education.

SBIRT/YouthBuild, an employment and training programs funded by the US Department of Labor (DOL), and the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), partnered to address alcohol and drug use among students. The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) tool developed by SAMHSA to identify people who have or are at risk for substance use problems and to identify people who need further assessment or referral for treatment. The “SBIRT” was adapted to best suit the young people, ages 16-24, served within the YouthBuild program, and piloted in 15 programs.

Youth Topics

Transition age youth (ages 16 to 24), sometimes called “youth in transition” or “youth aging out,” can experience a number of challenges on their path to a successful adulthood. Efforts to reconnect transition age youth to school and work should consider the following issues:

Youth Employment

Knowing how to find and keep a job is not only critical for admission to the adult world, it is also an important survival skill.

   

Juvenile Justice

The primary goals of the juvenile justice system, in addition to maintaining public safety, are skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, addressing treatment needs, and successful reintegration of youth into the community.
   
Service Learning

Service learning is a strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and self-reflection to support academic learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

   

Preventing Youth Violence

Youth violence and crime affect a community's economic health, as well as individuals' physical and mental health and well-being.

   
Mentoring

Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal, but the essential components include creating caring, empathetic, consistent, and long-lasting relationships, often with some combination of role modeling, teaching, and advising.

   

Youth Mental Health

Mental health involves being able to navigate successfully the complexities of life, develop fulfilling relationships, adapt to change, and utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to achieve well-being without discrimination.

   
Teen Pregancy Prevention

Despite declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S., the national teen pregnancy rate continues to be higher than the rates in other Western industrialized nations.

1 Belfield, C.R., Levin, H. M., Rosen, R. (2012). The economic value of opportunity youth. Available on the Corporation for National and Community Service’s website at http://www.civicenterprises.net/MediaLibrary/Docs/econ_value_opportunity_youth.pdf.
2Ibid.
3http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40535.pdf

Gang Involvement Prevention

Preventing youth involvement in gangs is an important issue. Compared to non-gang members, gang members commit a disproportionate amount of violent crimes and offenses across the country. Gangs and gang involvement result in short- and long-term negative outcomes for gang-involved youth, their friends and families, and the surrounding communities.1 Gangs are typically defined as groups having the following characteristics:

  • Formal organizational structure
  • Identifiable leadership
  • Identified territory
  • Recurrent interaction
  • Involvement in serious or violent behavior2

In an effort to replace older adult gang members who are incarcerated, gangs often try to recruit youth.3 Youth often succumb to these efforts at early ages because of their vulnerability and susceptibility to recruitment tactics.4  As a result, it is necessary to begin prevention efforts at a young age, identify risk and protective factors for gang involvement, and utilize a comprehensive approach that involves multiple sectors and disciplines working together (e.g., justice, education, labor, social services, public health and safety, businesses, philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations, and other youth, family, and community-serving groups).5

1 Howell, 1998
2 Howell, 1994
3 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 2011
4 FBI, 2011
5 National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, 2011

Mentoring

Positive youth development research has long demonstrated that youth benefit from close, caring relationships with adults who serve as positive role models (Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002). Today, 8.5 million youth continue to lack supportive, sustained relationships with caring adults (Cavell, DuBois, Karcher, Keller, & Rhodes, 2009). Mentoring—which matches youth or “mentees” with responsible, caring “mentors,” usually adults—has been growing in popularity as both a prevention and intervention strategy over the past decades. Mentoring provides youth with mentors who can develop an emotional bond with the mentee, have greater experience than the mentee, and can provide support, guidance, and opportunities to help youth succeed in life and meet their goals (DuBois and Karcher, 2005). Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal with substantial variation, but the essential components include creating caring, empathetic, consistent, and long-lasting relationships, often with some combination of role modeling, teaching, and advising.