MDRC in the News

Nonprofits Give ‘Disconnected’ Youths Another Chance

The New York Times


Jonathan’s father always told him he would never amount to anything other than a drug dealer. He entered the foster care system when he was 12. At 18, he was in college, but had to drop out to take care of his ill grandmother…..

…..He now lives in an off-campus apartment at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, drives part time for Uber to help support himself and will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in operations…..

…..Even well-meaning people think that those in their late teens and early 20s are already beyond help, said David Abromowitz, chief public policy officer of YouthBuild USA. “They say, ‘I want to work with children.’ I say, ‘Who do you think are the parents to those children?’” For example, he said, about 30 percent of those enrolled in YouthBuild have children…..

…..Youth Villages helps emotionally and behaviorally troubled children succeed by working with them and their families; YVLifeset, a part of Youth Villages, is aimed at people 17 to 22 years old. It is an intensive six- to 12-month program to support, guide and encourage participants, most of whom grew up in the foster care system. The statistics for those who spent their childhood in foster care is dismal: At age 21, half are unemployed, one in five is homeless, and almost 70 percent have been involved in the criminal justice system…..

…..A five-year independent study by MDRC, a research organization, found that compared with a randomly selected control group, YVLifeset participants show decreases in homelessness and violent relationships and increases in earnings…..

…..Now, there are 230 YouthBuild programs in the United States and 80 internationally. Programs are often housed within a larger nonprofit, such as a YMCA or housing development.

Although the emphasis is on the construction trade at many YouthBuild programs, in Philadelphia, the largest YouthBuild program, students can get a certificate in one of four areas: construction building trades; customer service and business administration; child care; and health care….

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