Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC Case Studies Highlight Cross-System Collaboration for Disconnected Youth in Eight Cities

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC Case Studies Highlight Cross-System Collaboration for Disconnected Youth in Eight Cities

Article excerpt

A new NLC report highlights eight cities in which municipal leaders are collaborating across public systems on behalf of "disconnected youth"--young people ages 16-25 who are high school dropouts, unemployed, transitioning from foster care, involved in the justice system or lacking connections to family or other caring adults.

The report, titled "Beyond City Limits: Cross-System Collaboration to Reengage Disconnected Youth," describes broad-based local efforts to reconnect these youth to education, employment and a range of supports and services in Albany, N.Y.; Baltimore; Boston; Corpus Christi, Texas; Philadelphia; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, Calif.

NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) developed the case studies with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The publication is available on the YEF Institute's website at

Reaching Across Boundaries

Cities face unique challenges in responding to the needs of disconnected youth, who can exert a significant impact--positive or negative--on the well being of their neighborhoods.

These youth often come into contact with schools as well as municipal, county and state agencies--from workforce development and child welfare to mental health, law enforcement and juvenile justice. In the worst cases, these multiple systems may fail to reach or engage such youth altogether. Cross-system collaboration is essential to ensure that young people are being connected to the right opportunities and supports, rather than falling through the cracks.

In each of the case study cities, mayors and other municipal officials realized that no one agency or system could address the multi-faceted needs of disconnected youth by itself. The recognition that "we can't do this alone" motivated the leaders of these eight cities to develop collaborative strategies that brought in a broad range of partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

For instance, Boston's workforce development agency, police and youth services departments and school district work together to reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders and facilitate their transition back to the community. In San Diego, strong city-county partnerships have reduced the number of youth in foster care and juvenile detention.

In Albany, Mayor Gerald Jennings has forged partnerships among the workforce, education and criminal justice systems to focus on gang prevention, dropout recovery, truancy abatement and youth employment. The city's comprehensive and personalized Service Navigation System provides young people with a universal point of access to employment and other needed services.

"I ran for mayor because I wanted to make a positive change in the lives of the kids," said Jennings.

Cross-system initiatives have yielded promising results in the cities highlighted in the report. In Corpus Christi, the parks and recreation department anchors a longstanding public safety strategy that has lowered juvenile arrests and dropout rates.

"Programs here could not survive without the collaborations and without working together," said department director Sally Gavlik.

In Baltimore, the Mayor's Office of Employment Development has forged a partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools to promote dropout prevention and recovery through various career and college-focused educational options. San Diego's collaborative efforts led to a tripling of the family reunification rate for youth in foster care. …

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