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LATEST THINKING


Using data to deliver better outcomes for youth in need

Learn how analytics can reveal a big-picture view of at-risk populations, and the service mix that can help them.

Overview

Youth deserve all the help they can get to be ready for college, work and life. Currently, disadvantaged youth have access to a variety of uncoordinated, inflexible and imprecise services. Juvenile justice, labor, health, education, housing and human service agencies work independently, creating a fragmented system in which youth can be overlooked and underserved.

When critical services don’t reach youth at the time of need, a host of problems can arise: gang involvement, lack of education or trouble finding a job, just to name a few. To address these service delivery challenges, the Forum for Youth Investment is helping state and local agencies use data to more flexibly deliver the right service mix to youth ages 14-24, often referred to as disconnected or opportunity youth.1

Background

There is abundant point of service and research data scattered across labor, education, child welfare, justice, health and other agencies. Aggregating this data opens new opportunities to better tailor services to the needs of the individual, and it offers a chance to learn what works.

In collaboration with Accenture, the Forum for Youth Investment is working with agencies to use data to identify services that will deliver the best outcomes. Analytics on data collected from state, local, federal and provider databases is providing insights about which youth are most vulnerable and at risk.

Key Findings

Integrated data can do a lot to help:

Provide caseworkers a granular view. If data from all local, state and federal public services a youth receives were fed into a centralized protected case management system, caseworkers could see, at an individual level, which services would benefit that youth the most.

Measure and reward performance. Aggregated data provides insight into which interventions and services are getting the best results, while also opening new avenues for policy makers and service providers to measure their own performance against their peers.

Reveal important trends. By tracking key indicators of well-being, demographics and participation levels, agencies will be able to identify trends in rates of high school graduation, youth employment, health, safety and beyond. Early identification of problems can lead to earlier intervention with solutions.

Analysis

Data sharing remains a nascent—and somewhat uncomfortable—concept in the public sector. The subject gained traction through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, when Congress took bold steps to include funding for the integration of state data on children and youth in education systems.

Since that time, Congress has authorized an innovative initiative, Performance Partnerships, which will ultimately allow up to 20 communities to blend funds across multiple education, criminal justice, labor and other programs to better meet the needs of their disadvantaged youth populations.

Recommendations

Data sharing is, after all, really just a proxy for getting people to work at common purpose. So sharing of resources is critical as dollars are often so constrained by the time they reach local providers that organizations have to stretch themselves to meet eligibility, reporting, program requirements and other policy rules built into the funding.

Performance Partnerships allow multiservice organizations and partnerships the flexibility to design a bottom-up approach to serving vulnerable youth.


1Individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 (who are low income and either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed, or not enrolled in or at risk of dropping out of an educational institution) achieve success in meeting educational, employment or other key goals.