System-involved youth often struggle in numerous areas (including education, employment, health care, and housing), which may impair their ability to participate in the workforce. When these young people are removed from their schools and communities and placed in detention, their education and training progress is further stunted. The vast majority of today’s careers require both a high school diploma or equivalent and some postsecondary training, meaning many of these justice-involved or at-risk young people are left behind.

Youth Futures is tailored to respond to the individual needs of each young person, working to strengthen communities and families. All partner organizations offer the following program components within a culture of safety and service:

  • workforce development: a five-part approach incorporating career assessments and planning; soft skill development; digital literacy training; and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that lead to industry-recognized certifications and workforce attachment interventions, such as internships and job placements;
  • education: an individualized and accelerated pathway to reach graduation or diploma equivalency, robust academic supports, and effective teaching strategies, including contextual and blended learning approaches and literacy;
  • case management: comprehensive, intensive case management that identifies youth needs and develops tailored supports;
  • mentoring: one-on-one and small-group mentoring consistent with the evidence-based standards of recruitment, screening, monitoring and support;
  • restorative justice: service learning projects that embrace the three goals of the Balanced and restorative justice model—accountability, public safety, and competency;
  • community-wide efforts to reduce crime and violence: collaboration with communities and policymakers to assess and reduce violence; and
  • post-program support: regular contact with each participant for at least nine months after program completion to ensure youth remain in school, employed, and out of the justice system.

Youth Futures is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and through partnerships with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) in Los Angeles, and the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) in New Orleans. Nine hundred at-risk and justice-involved young people aged 14 and over have been enrolled in Youth Futures since its kick-off in January 2014.