Young people under the age of 24 make up a third of the statewide population and are increasingly racially and ethnically diverse. Frequently, outcomes for youth of color – in education, health, and career readiness – lag compared to White children who have access to more resources. The challenges youth of color face stem from economic inequality to lack of opportunity and a criminal justice system that is often too skewed towards incarceration.
To turn the tide, we have partnered with youth advocates and youth leaders to change the narrative away from suppression spending and, towards upstream services and programs. An agenda that invests in youth, focuses on services that apply best practices is community-informed and promotes healthy development. When implemented well, youth development programs can improve youth outcomes by supporting them with education, job training, mentorship, and arts.
Where We Work
Over the last two years, we have supported efforts on the ground to establish a Fund for Children and Youth in Long Beach. The Fund would ensure that the city dedicates revenues to supporting youth, allocating millions annually for services and programs for children, youth, and young adults.
We have also partnered with the Long Beach Youth Workgroup, a collective that includes Khmer Girls in Action, Genders and Sexualities Network, Californians for Justice, the California Conference for Equality and Justice, and Long Beach Forward. We are working to support their victories which include the implementation of Measure US in 2020 that taxes oil producers and dedicates those funds to children and youth and environmental programming.
Our research has underlined the need for more youth spending. For example, in 2018, we unearthed how the City of Long Beach allocated $21.5 million for affirmative youth programs, such as after-school activities, sports programs, and workforce development, compared to a more significant allocation of $25.1 million in youth suppression activities that criminalize and incarcerate youth. Our analysis also uncovered inequities in how the city was misallocating millions in cannabis revenues for oversight, implementation, and public safety rather than investing them in communities impacted by the war on drugs. This research has been pivotal in making a case for the need for more directed upstream services.
Los Angeles City
In Los Angeles City, we’ve partnered with Legacy LA, Changeist, Self-Help Graphics & Art, and LA Voice to form the Invest in Youth Coalition.
Together, we’ve successfully placed the issue of Youth Development on the agenda of policymakers. In 2016, our initial analysis found that the city was spending tens of thousands of dollars for every youth arrest, while “positive” programs such as workforce training and leadership development were chronically underfunded and uncoordinated. The city responded by conducting its first audit of youth services in over a decade – that analysis also revealed similar conclusions.
In 2018, we published the Blueprint for Youth Development, a report that formalized policy solutions and provided a roadmap for a citywide agency. As a result, Los Angeles established an Executive Task Force on Youth Development to make advocates and youth themselves the central stakeholders as part of an effort to create a Youth Development Department.
In 2019, we advocated for the LA City Council to establish an executive citywide task force to develop a coordinated youth development strategy. By 2021, the Invest in Youth coalition successfully won their decades-long victory of establishing the LA City’s Youth Development Department.