Conducting Outreach Activities to Identify Youth for Services
The PSA counselors conduct outreach by making presentations to other LAUSD departments, including School Mental Health, Nursing, and Counseling. These presentations allow counselors to reach a large population by educating other staff, who work with high-risk students, about this valuable resource. The YouthSource Centers are also integral to the LAUSD Truancy Diversion Program in which PSA counselors collaborate with the Los Angeles School Police to serve students who have violated the Daytime Curfew Law. YouthSource staff and PSA counselors also conduct joint efforts and reach out to community agencies that serve youth or their families.
Student Recovery Day is an annual event in which LAUSD partners with EWDD/WIB to get the word out that youth who are out-of school/out-of-work are valued and that resources and support are available to get them back on track. Community volunteers, along with staff from schools and the city, focus their efforts on bringing students back to school or into employment counseling or related services. Typically, 1,000 volunteers gather for a morning training to get information about how they will work together to successfully reach youth. Some of the volunteers spend the afternoon making phone calls to families whose children have stopped attending school or have low attendance and are at risk. Other volunteers go into the community and talk to business partners about the importance of school and ask for their support in refusing to provide services to students during school hours. Additional volunteers conduct home visits and invite youth to reengage in school and work. The home visits, in particular, receive a considerable amount of media coverage; the volunteers are sometimes accompanied by high-profile individuals (e.g., mayor, superintendent, board members). In the past, Student Recovery Day was conducted on a small scale exclusively by LAUSD but has since grown into a larger and more impactful event through the collaboration and involvement of multiple stakeholders.
Co-Locating LAUSD Pupil Services and Attendance Counselors at YouthSource Centers
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restricts the ability of schools to share information about students with other systems. Despite the benefits of FERPA in protecting confidentiality, it can be a barrier for external systems that want to collaborate with school districts.
Conversations and joint creative thinking by EWDD/WIB and LAUSD resulted in having LAUSD PSA counselors co-located in each YouthSource Center with exclusive access to LAUSD student data. This strategy allows the Centers to have access to relevant information through the counselors, while still honoring and maintaining confidentiality. Funding for the counselors is evenly split between EWDD/WIB and LAUSD.
Infusing a Youth-Centered Approach to Assessment and Referral to Services
Stakeholders agreed that a primary focus for the collaboration is to help youth determine the best program for meeting their needs. The collaboration is centered on what works best for youth and not just what is best for the collaborating agencies and systems. A youth-centered approach is evident from the time a youth walks in the door at a YouthSource Center for an assessment and continues through the receipt of an appropriate referral.
Many youth who are out-of-school/out-of-work have experienced challenges, including behavioral problems or poor testing performance. They may be teen parents or have a disability that makes transportation to a school or work setting challenging. The key stakeholders in the collaboration agreed that upon walking into the YouthSource Centers, youth should receive a full educational and psychosocial assessment to reveal the barriers that may have impeded them from finishing school or gaining employment.
Questions in the assessment address students’ school enrollment and academic histories as well as what is currently happening in their lives. This information aids the on-site LAUSD PSA counselors in identifying needs and available resources that can be leveraged to help meet the needs of youth and their families. On the basis of the assessment, an appropriate referral to an education and/or workforce site is made. In addition, referrals are made to any other services that may support students in being successful. All stakeholders have agreed not to insist that students attend LAUSD schools or education centers that the YouthSource Centers operate. Students can go to a community college or pursue an online program. There are also flexible options for youth to connect with employment opportunities.