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Improving Outcomes for Youth

Group of youth in school


Youth-serving programs and initiatives at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels work to support all youth, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable youth, particularly those who are disconnected from school, work, family, or community. 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 Youth disconnection has serious consequences for individuals and society, as young people who are disconnected cost the nation billions of dollars every year in lost earnings, welfare and medical costs, and unmet personal potential.

Federal coordination is critical to the support of youth, particularly disconnected youth and those at risk of disconnection, who often experience a range of challenges best addressed through a coordinated approach.  The best use of federal resources will maximize existing flexibilities and explore strategies for working together across agencies. 

Information is presented on an overarching framework for collaboration to address the needs of all youth as well as a range of action steps focusing on most vulnerable youth—those who are disconnected from school, work, or family and those facing violence or homelessness.  There is synergy across these key efforts and a clear role for agencies across government in advancing this work.  Multiple rounds of public input have shaped these efforts and additonal feedback is requested on the Pathways for Youth: Draft Strategic Plan for Federal Collaboration.

1 The term “Opportunity Youth” may also be used to describe this population.
2 Belfied, Levin, and Rosen, “The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth” (Jan. 2012),