This resource provides three lessons for promoting pathways to postsecondary education, training, and careers for youth involved in the juvenile justice or foster care systems, based on the evidence-based practices of promising programs around the country between 2015 and 2017.

“This brief is a compilation of lessons learned from AYPF’s [American Youth Policy Forum] last two years of work focused specifically on systems-involved youth. Following a discussion about the education and workforce barriers these youth face, their outcomes, and the policies that affect them, this brief is organized into three key lessons[: (1) leverage authentic youth voice, (2) diversify comprehensive support and transition services, and (3) align youth-serving systems and policies] that AYPF has identified as critical for promoting pathways to postsecondary education, training, and careers for youth involved in the juvenile justice system and/or youth in foster care[, d]rawing upon research-supported best practices of community-based programs from around the country” (p.1).

The authors highlight the following programs for their best practices:

  • United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) in Lowell, Massachusetts. “UTEC's model includes intensive street and correctional facility outreach, transitional coaching, paid work experience in its social enterprises, and enrichment programming” (p.4).
  • Foster Youth in Action (FYA) in California. “FYA builds the capacity of organizations to support youth-led advocacy and organizing” (p.5).
  • iFoster, a national nonprofit from California. “iFoster…identifies industry needs and matches foster youth…to additional postsecondary and career opportunities” (p.6).
  • Civicorps in Oakland, California. “Through Civicorps’ charter school, students earn a high school diploma…and complete an academic portfolio….Students also participate in paid job training….[and] for one year post-graduation, [receive] career and college supports” (p.7).
  • Education Data Warehouse in Florida. “The Education Data Warehouse (EDW) collects disaggregated data on student performance while in the PK-20 education system, and the Florida Education & Training Placement Information Program (FETPIP) collects disaggregated data on student performance after exiting the education system or while exploring postsecondary opportunities. These data are used for internal and external data requests tied to accountability and research purposes” (p.9).

The authors also provide several resources including webinars, policy briefs, blog posts, data summaries, and a fact sheet intended “to inform researchers, policymakers, and practitioners of the federal legislation that govern systems-involved youth, and highlight grant opportunities” (p.3).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Policymakers and influencers should:

  • Consider ways to incentivize the authentic incorporation of youth voice into decision-making processes at the programmatic, local, and state level to better inform policies and practices affecting young people;
  • Support the replication and scaling of programmatic models that holistically address the education, employment, health and safety needs of youth, rooted in youth development and trauma-informed care;
  • Incentivize education and paid job training/ employment models that provide youth with opportunities to build skills and earn a living wage;
  • Consider how transitional services can be better coordinated to facilitate both successful transition out of foster care or the juvenile justice system and into secondary or postsecondary education, training programs, or work;
  • Encourage partnerships among state and local juvenile justice, child welfare, and education agencies and providers, employers, community-based organizations, and other important entities that can pool resources and work together to better serve the diverse needs of youth;
  • Encourage and reduce barriers to blending and braiding multiple funding streams to better serve youth; and
  • Consider ways to increase data collection and sharing.