Executive Summary

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (Working Group) is comprised of twelve federal departments and five federal agencies that support activities that focus on youth. This report, Pathways for Youth (PDF, 50 pages), is a first step to help the partners address their common goals for youth, elevate strong models of youth programs, policies, and other supports, and articulate areas for future collaborative work with and for youth.

The Working Group solicited input from a wide range of stakeholders, including young people, families, schools, nonprofit organizations, State Children’s Cabinet directors, government organizations at the federal, state, and local levels, and others. Several themes emerged from the input, which are crafted into a vision for youth. This vision acknowledges the importance of pathways to opportunity for youth that include meaningful connections and safe, healthy, and stable places to live, learn, and work.

Pathways for Youth considers all youth, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable youth, particularly those who are disconnected from school, work, or family. The consequences are serious for both individuals and society as a whole, 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.1 Youth who are at risk for disconnection or are already disconnected experience an interrelated set of issues best addressed through a coordinated approach. For example, youth at risk for disconnection are more likely to graduate from high school or receive a Certificate of General Educational Development (GED) if they have transportation to classes; keep a job if they address mental health or substance abuse concerns; and transition out of a homeless shelter if they have connections to supportive adults and resources to secure a permanent home and employment. Federal coordination is critical to the support of vulnerable youth across these issue areas.  The best use of federal resources will maximize existing flexibilities and explore strategies for bringing work together across agencies.

Pathways for Youth builds on the progress and accomplishments of the Working Group that are highlighted in the supporting documents. The draft plan is distinct from agency plans in that it has a specific focus on federal collaboration related to youth programs. The Working Group collaborated with its partner agencies and related key federal coordination groups to develop Pathways for Youth and ensure its alignment with federal strategic plans.

Pathways for Youth is founded on three overarching and interrelated strategic goals; each is supported by a number of objectives and strategies.  The strategic goals address the Working Group’s primary purposes, as well as the input generated by the stakeholders at federal, state, and local levels.  This draft plan represents an initial step in identifying strategies for federal collaboration and provides a basis for future actions related to positive outcomes for youth. Through the work of individual agencies and in collaboration across departments, the Working Group will pursue the three strategic goals outlined in this draft plan to improve outcomes for youth.  As the Working Group pursues the goals and objectives outlined in this draft plan, it will be able to set targets for collaborative results and identify areas for strategic recommendations and initiatives to address common goals for youth. These activities will be undertaken together within existing authorities and areas of administrative flexibility for departments and agencies to do their work. The Working Group will explore federal barriers and solutions for improving coordination and leveraging better outcomes for youth.

Goal 1:  Collaboration and Coordination
Promote coordinated strategies to improve youth outcomes.

Objective 1: Align and simplify federal guidance for youth programs.

Objective 2: Coordinate youth programming and funding support at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels.

Objective 3: Coordinate technical assistance efforts to leverage resources.

Goal 2:  Evidence-based and Innovative Strategies
Promote the use of evidence-based and innovative strategies at federal, state, local, and tribal levels. 

Objective 1: Encourage the adoption of evidence-based strategies, and support their implementation.

Objective 2: Support innovation and deepen the evidence base to fill gaps in knowledge.

Goal 3:  Youth Engagement and Partnerships
Promote youth engagement and partnership to strengthen programs and benefit youth.

Objective 1: Promote youth-adult partnerships to support sustained youth engagement efforts and strengthen programs.

Objective 2: Provide and encourage federal, state, local, and tribal provision of multiple opportunities for youth to develop, master, and apply critical skills, including life and leadership skills.

The draft plan also outlines four cross-cutting initiatives developed by the Working Group:

  1. Develop shared language on cross-cutting youth topics for federal grant applications and other federal documents and publications. 
  2. Develop new or assess and disseminate existing models of collaboration that provide a pathway to opportunity for youth and yield positive results. 
  3. Centralize and disseminate information on promising and evidence-based strategies for youth, including promising youth engagement and partnership strategies. 
  4. Promote data collection and long-term evaluation of youth programs. 

Pathways for Youth concludes with supporting documents, including Executive Order 13459, Omnibus Appropriations Act language, the Working Group federal participant list, the executive summary of the Draft Public Input Summary Report, selected accomplishments of the Working Group in 2011 and 2012, and the Pathways for Youth at-a-glance overview.

Download and read the complete Pathways for Youth: Draft Strategic Plan for Federal Collaboration (PDF, 50 pages) and provide your thoughts below.

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.serve.gov/new-images/council/pdf/econ_value_opportunity_youth.pdf