Tag Archives: Foster care

Framework for Positive Youth Development: Every Child Requires These FIVE Promises

The ‘framework for positive youth development’ outlines the support that young people need in order to transition successfully into adulthood. It emphasizes the necessity of focusing on youths’ strengths, identifying their weaknesses and minimizing their risk factors. Gallup Student Poll studies suggest that majority of the youth in the United States are not hopeful, engaged and thriving in their personal and educational/occupational lives—in fact, only four out of ten are succeeding in these areas. Lawmakers tend to focus on the risk factors or negative behaviors of youth, such as trying to find ways to reduce teenage pregnancy or high school drop-out rates. Just as reinforcement is proven to be more effective than punishment when trying to change someone’s behavior, positive youth development is a better tool for trying to fix these problems. It emphasizes the support and services that must be available to help youth in their various stages of development.

The framework, developed by America’s Promise Alliance, circles around the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of young people. It states that youth need FIVE key support systems throughout their development:

Caring Adults: This Promise discusses the importance of concerned adults in young peoples’ lives. These adults can be in their families, from their schools, or members of their communities. Those who are able to develop secure relationships with their parents and formal and informal relationships with adults such as mentors, coaches, and youth volunteers have a great advantage. However, it seems that 30% of teenagers and 20% of younger children do not have quality relationships with their parents and only 8% of youth ages six to seventeen have a formal mentor. Youths themselves realize the importance of having adults in their lives—40% of young people ages 8 to 21 do wish they had these adult figures which they could turn to for help.

Safe Places: The second Promise encompasses the importance of physical and emotional security. From their homes, to schools, to neighborhoods, youth need safe places in order to develop. Sadly, only 37% have this luxury. These places must also engage them actively and constructively—there should be balance of structured and unstructured activities. Only four in ten young people participate in activities that teach needed skills, such as how to form lasting relationships with others and how to make big decisions. A great majority of them say that they sometimes (or never) feel safe in their schools or communities.

Healthy Start to Development: This Promise deals with the fact that youth need a healthy start to their development, including healthy bodies, minds, and habits. This can be ensured through regular checkups with a doctor, good nutrition and exercise, healthy skills and knowledge, and good role models. Although Americans have increased their awareness in health especially by recognizing the dangers of obesity, studies still show that only 43% of our young people are experiencing this Promise. 65% of them actually said that they wish they knew more stores and restaurants that sold healthy foods and drinks.

Effective Education: This Promise is about the importance of an effective education. Intellectual stimulation is an important aspect for youth as they grow, and for the future, when one must secure a job. In today’s competitive global economy, education is more important than ever. It results from having quality learning environments, challenging expectations and consistent guidance. More than 60% of youth ages ten to twenty-one believe that their schools should give them more preparation for the real world.

Opportunities to Help Others: The last Promise deals with opportunities to help others. Youth want to get involved in their communities, but many lack meaningful opportunities to contribute. America’s Promise Alliance states that “Knowing how to make a difference comes from having models of caring behavior, awareness of the needs of others, a sense of personal responsibility to contribute to the larger society, and opportunities for volunteering, leadership and service.”

These are known as the “Five Promises”. America’s Promise Alliance noticed that “Children who receive at least four of the Five Promises are much more likely than those who experience only one or zero Promises to succeed academically, socially and civically. They are more likely to avoid violence, contribute to their communities and achieve academic excellence in school. Receiving at least four of the Five Promises also appears to mitigate gaps across racial and economic boundaries.”

States are now beginning to use this framework to develop policies and programs to help youth prepare for college, work and life. Re:LIFE Inc. adopts these Promises and endeavor to ensure that the Re:LIFE Team and all its programs effectively employ them. We are a number of caring adults dedicated to helping youth succeed. We provide positive learning environments and effective educational programs, which include internship opportunities for youth to contribute to their communities by applying what they have learned. All youth-based institutions in the U.S. should try to adhere to the framework for positive youth development. As the saying goes, “Children are the future”, and by implementing these ideas we invest and develop the future of our nation as well.

Source
http://www.ncsl.org/?tabid=16375#frameworks
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology
Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

2 Comments

Filed under Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Transitioning into Disconnection: The Need To Reevaluate America’s Foster-Care System

Aging out of the foster care system without being properly equipped for survival is one cause for youth disconnection. Approximately 29,000 youths are released from foster care every year at the age of 18. Foster care youth do not have personal assets or financial savings to rely on once they have left the foster care system. This makes it extremely difficult to secure housing or withstand the effects of unforeseen problems in their personal lives or with the economy. Additionally, unlike other teenagers these youth do not have a network of family and friends which they can turn to for assistance. They are completely on their own and thus, susceptible to a number of problems.

Released foster youth are also forced to grow up faster than ordinary youth because they do not have the emotional and financial support one needs when things suddenly go wrong in life. They must quickly muster the responsibility, diligence, and patience necessary to cope with all of the “adult battles” they will face once released from the foster care system. Without the necessary aid and proper transitioning training, these youths may fall prey to homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, criminality, substance abuse, along with several other problems.

The principal program designed to support youth during their transition from foster care to living independently is the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. It provides about $140 million in funding every year for mental health services, mentoring, employment preparation, educational aid, stipends for housing, and extended Medicaid eligibility. Although this bill looks promising, it is severely limited. Only two-fifths of youth receive independent living services and availability varies widely from state to state. Also, although the budget is a large sum of money, it only translates to about $1,000 per youth, which is barely enough to afford decent housing conditions. A bill recently signed into effect, the Fostering Connections to Success Act, is better able to provide the funding these youth need. Unfortunately—and unwisely—states are not mandated to utilize this funding and many have actually chosen to discontinue foster care benefits when the youth is released.

It has been discovered that released youth who receive foster care benefits until the age of 21 have a greater chance of avoiding the challenges of transitioning from foster care to living independently. Clark Peters, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work, believes that all states should extend foster care benefits. According to his research, “Foster youth who continue to receive benefits through age 21 have improved outcomes including a greater likelihood of attending college and achieving financial stability.”

In his study, Peters also found that having the benefits of continued care outweighed the costs of not having it by 2 to 1. In other words, youth that receive the aid have more opportunities to make effective changes to living independently and as a result, they utilize fewer governmental benefits later in life and have higher incomes (resulting in more tax revenue for state and federal governments). Therefore, there is real incentive on the governments’ part to extend these benefits—not only is it advantageous for the foster care youth but also for the society as a whole.

Obviously states do not realize the implications of allowing foster youth to receive their aid. Nonetheless, there are a number of non-government supported programs in the United States that are dedicated to helping released youth make a successful transition out of the foster care system. Their endeavors, however, would be a little less challenging if more states were willing to extend foster care benefits.

Sources:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110203141826.htm;
http://www.transad.pop.upenn.edu/downloads/courtney–foster%20care.pdf
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

1 Comment

Filed under ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development

Empowering Youth: Qualities of an Effective Mentor II

GENUINE LISTENER

A Youth Mentor Must Be  A Genuine Listener.

A week ago, I started the series on Qualities of an Effective Mentor in respect to Youth Empowerment. In that article, I stressed on the need to

1. Assess – Test the mental, emotional, social and psychological stability of prospective mentors,

2.  Train – Equip qualified mentors with tools and materials relevant to building successful relationships and mentoring youth

3. Monitor- Supervise and Monitor relationships to ensure effectiveness and positive impact from people who mentor youth.

Following these steps will minimize the rate at which unqualified and incapable people dabble into the business of Youth Mentoring.

I also talked about the importance of Empathy and Compassion in relation to Youth Development, and how they could help one build trust in a mentor-youth relationship (Click to read article)

My second point therefore, is the need for Genuine Listening and its impact when dealing with youth. We have all heard the ‘talk less, listen more’ clichés and so on.  However, as watered-down as the quote might sound, we need to emulate it when dealing with youth. Borrowing from Deborah Tanned’s quote, “the biggest mistake is believing that there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation—or a relationship”, one must be an extremely skilled and resourceful listener to understand and impact youth. By listening, I don’t just mean what is being said, you have to listen to what their bodies are saying, what their eyes are saying, what their moods are saying, EVERYTHING; and try to coordinate them to all say the same thing.

In order words, if you notice that one’s mood is sour and unusual, and responses to well-being questions are simply ‘I’m fine’, something could be wrong. Find it out! In fact, one thing that effective listening helps you do is become more familiar with your mentee’s responses, actions, behaviors or moods, which in turn could help you address a need.

By being observant, by listening to more than just words, you convince the youth that you do not just want to be around, but that you genuinely CARE, and care deeply about their well-being. This will help them open up more readily, sometimes before you even ask about an issue. One strategy that always worked for me when inquiring about a sour mood was to tell a story about a disappointment I had in the past and how not sharing it made it hurt some more. This always worked even though in some cases there is usually some delay, and then a gradual opening up.

Another strategy is to tactfully ask about their loved ones. If the reason for a certain mood or action is caused by a loved one, a unique reaction, either a sigh, a heave, pain or more sorrow is always expressed when you mention the person behind the mood. It helps them open up to tell you what happened. However, if they insist on not sharing, let them be. Just be patient about it, they eventually do.

Now I intentionally did not use the word ‘Observer’ because I believe that an observer is not as involved in a relationship as a Listener. An observer is sometimes a third person ‘interactor’ who only needs to make an observation without making direct connection. An observer is not obligated to respond. A listener on the other hand is an attentive participator with an intention and/or an expectation of some sort of response; whether it be a silent response (i.e. nodding, acknowledgement etc), verbal response or a physical reaction. A connection is needed for effective response. Observation is in essence, a crucial part of listening, but should not be mistaken for it or substituted for it.

Thus, in listening to your mentee, every word, action, mood, movement, excuse, motive, mannerism, etc is relevant in building the framework of messages being passed across in order to effectively respond to their actions. A genuine and positive response based on a cautious interpretation of messages received (from words, actions, moods, etc) could gainfully affect and help uplift a mentee in their time of distress or rebellion. So Observe carefully, but LISTEN GENUINELY!

Download PDF: Empowering Youth- Qualities of an Effective Mentor I

Download PDF: Empowering Youth- Qualities of an Effective Mentor II

By Chike Ukaegbu,
Founder/CEO, Re:LIFE Inc
Re:LIFE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate young disconnected males to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities. This entrepreneurial focus will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in five different areas of concentration.
For more information about the Re:LIFE Re-engagement Program and other Re:LIFE services, Contact us at:
Email: relife@relifeinc.org
Call: 347.450.1205/06
Visit our Website: http://www.relifeinc.org
Become a LIFEr Today: http://bit.ly/fN6B0b
Like our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/hewFET
Follow us on Twitter: Relifeinc
Add us on LinkedIn: Re:LIFE Incorporated

Leave a comment

Filed under ReLIFE, Uncategorized, Youth

Causes of Male Youth Disconnection: Being an ‘Out of Work and Out of School’ Youth in Harlem during an Economic Recession

Download  Article: PDF (Causes of Male Youth Disconnection)

I have mentored youth in Harlem for over 7 years. For them, being in an economic situation where it seems like ‘when it rains, it pours’, is nothing new to most if not all of the youth I deal with in Harlem. I mean the bills, homelessness, violation tickets, racial discrimination, probation, joblessness etc, are only a few of the plights many of my mentees and GED students encounter. But I could tell you without a doubt that this recession has definitely deepened their already bad quandary. Most of them who were slightly better off with menial jobs and other sources of low-income are now being faced with the ugly reality of joblessness or inconsistent meager wages, while accumulating more bills and responsibilities to take care of.

The effects of the looming recession, depression, or whatever else we choose to brand it, have only deepened the impact of a nationally growing crisis – Youth Disconnection. Youth Disconnection is a term used to describe ‘Out of Work and Out of School’ youth; a phenomenon, which had always been a serious problem among minority male youth of several urban cities like New York City. However, the recent events of the past few years are exponentially multiplying its population and effects.

In retrospect, the consequences of disconnection contribute to the burdens on every society’s financial and social responsibilities. These demographic of ‘work-capable’ youth constitute only a meager tax base, weaken the security of their communities, have the tendency to resort to drug trafficking, crime and violence, and result in higher expenditures on public benefits. It is therefore a community’s duty to invest in re-engaging these youth, or continue to bear the consequences of a lackadaisical attitude.

There are over 220,000 disconnected youth in the NYC area, majority of whom are males, all on their way or already burdens to society.  This often overlooked demographic, mostly live in poverty, tends to experience sporadic employments, earn underpaid wages, are dependent on public assistance, and most often fall prey to crime and violent deeds.

Interestingly, these youth are supposed to be the socioeconomic drivers and sustainers of our community’s future. Without having the availability of proficient, employable young workers to replace increasingly retiring baby boomers (who are in fact learning now to stay longer on the job because of current financial hardships), several industries on which our economic sustenance is hinged upon is bound to be in trouble. For instance, according to the NYC Labor Market Information Service, the average age of Construction workers in New York City is 50, a figure which translates to an estimated 20,000 construction opening s in 2011.  Also, the healthcare industry, already in jeopardy of insufficient qualified personnel will further experience workforce crises, as one-third of current healthcare workers (nurses and aides) retire. Most of these health personnel were over the age of 50 in 2000.  It is therefore clear that regardless of the economic crises, there is a pertinent need to train and equip youth to fill these openings both now and in the nearest future.

However, in order to solve the problem of disconnection, it is necessary to understand its roots. From research and experience, I have compiled a list of some factors that cause disconnection in Harlem and our societies at large.

A) Dropping Out of School: Employees without High School Diplomas are least likely to hold consistent gainful employments. This is because they are the most vulnerable during job cuts and corporation size reductions. According to NYC Department of Education, African-Americans and Hispanics males were the least likely to earn their diplomas in 2000 (most recent year of relevant documentation). These demographic groups have graduation rates of less than 50%.

B) Aging Out of Foster Care System: Youth who age out of foster care without proper transitioning trainings tend to fall prey to disconnection. These mostly experience instability of multiple foster-care placements, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, mental illness, criminality and/or substance abuse before discharge.

C) Poverty and Low-Quality Education: The economic crises has resulted in the demand of higher levels of literacy and technical proficiency, making it increasingly difficult for even high school diploma holders to find gainful employment with the opportunity of advancement. In fact, the instability and insecurities of parental or guardian income sometimes causes younger school-aged youth to drop out of school in order to find work. Young people with semi- or illiterate parents, who do not stress the need, nor value the importance of quality education, end up dropping out of school for lousy reasons.

D) Early Parenthood: According to studies by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, teenage fatherhood, which has received far less scrutiny than teenage motherhood has many negative educational, financial, social, health and other developmental consequences for these young men and their children. Young teenage males who become parents while dependent on others tend to drop out of school more often than their counterparts without children. National surveys indicate that there are as much as 7% of male teenagers who are fathers, with higher rates among inner-city and African-American youth (Sonenstein, Pleck, and Ku, 1993).

E) Older Immigrant Youth: In the diverse-rich City of New York, (Harlem being a bouquet of several immigrant groups, from Africans, to Hispanics, to Asians, Arabs, etc), there is a greater chance that older immigrant youth without the time to learn, and ability to fluently speak English will most likely drop out of school. Also, discrimination, social and geographic isolation, little or no job experience, and lower levels of English proficiency make it even increasingly difficult for older immigrant youth to find employment; thus resulting to disconnection.

F) Juvenile Delinquency: Youth with convicted backgrounds find it difficult staying in school or finding work. With more than 2000 juveniles detained in New York City facilities everyday (NYC Council), and 1200 returning to the City from correctional facilities from other parts of the State, more than two-thirds of these youth experience disconnection because of the multitude of barriers encountered while trying to secure employment or re-enroll in school.

G) Youth with Emotional/Behavioral Issues or Learning Disabilities: Emotional or behavioral issues in youth, which are often less obvious than physical impairments, are great contributors to youth disconnection. Each year, 12 – 15, 000 of the City’s 50,000 disabled 14-21 year olds drop out of school without graduating (Advocates for Children, 2005), increasing disconnected youth population.

H) High Levels of Unemployment: While New York City is experiencing high levels of unemployment rates of around 10%, minority based communities such as Harlem have consistently been hit harder by the steep uptick in unemployment rates. According to the New York State Department of Labor, unemployment rates in certain Harlem districts were as high as 18%, even tripling the overall City’s rate in some cases. Studies have shown that whereas the unemployment rates of whites in Upper Manhattan is between 4-5%, rates of Blacks and Hispanics fluctuate around the 20% mark.

Unfortunately, besides the economic crises, unemployment rates are usually closely tied to factors such as education (regions of lesser high school diplomas tend to experience higher unemployment rates), language barriers and criminal backgrounds. These are factors that all plague the Harlem community, as well as hinder the re-engagement of disconnected youth. I was therefore appalled to realize that existing public education and workforce funding for programs targeted to this demographic, serve no more than 7% of New York City’s disconnected youth.  There are very few programs available to disconnected youth that utilize a combined education and workforce development approach.

Re:LIFE, having assessed these obstacles, realized that the missing innovations to the combined education and workforce development approach lacked

a) The training of disconnected youth to become entrepreneurs. As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’

b) The use of practical and effective youth-friendly curriculum, schedule and flexible modules

c) The right expertise and youth-understanding professionals to coach/mentor youth

Re:LIFE is determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate young disconnected males to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities. This entrepreneurial focus will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in five different areas of concentration.

For more information about the Re:LIFE Re-engagement Program and other Services, Contact us at:

Email: relife@relifeinc.org

Call: 347.450.1201/06

Visit our Website: http://www.relifeinc.org

Become a LIFEr Today: http://bit.ly/fN6B0b

Like our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/hewFET

Follow us on Twitter: Relifeinc

Add us on LinkedIn: Re:LIFE Incorporated

 

By Chike Ukaegbu,

Founder/CEO, Re:LIFE Inc


 

Leave a comment

Filed under ReLIFE, Uncategorized, Youth