October is Youth Justice Awareness Month in the United States. In asking “all Americans to observe this month by taking action to support our youth”, President Obama called on more to be done to give children and young people a “second chance”. In emphasising the importance of education, particularly early-years education, the President said, “When we invest in our children and redirect young people who have made misguided decisions, we can reduce our over-reliance on the juvenile and criminal justice systems and build stronger pathways to opportunity”.
As I have observed before, policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic are currently working to divert young people out of custody – or from even entering the justice system at all. Undoubtedly this new policy direction is driven by the need to cut expenditure as keeping large numbers of young people in prison is simply no longer affordable. However, it’s clear that the policy shift is also motivated by the evidence that the most effective and least damaging forms of intervention are universal services that don’t “criminalise” young people, but seek to address their needs particularly their lack of attainment in education.
Over the past four years GtD has been proud to work with a range of organisations that have delivered better outcomes for young people, whether or not they were involved in the justice system. One of our first evaluation projects was to identify how an education and training project for disadvantaged youth could become more efficient and effective. Since then we have developed our CV of youth work to include: proving the effectiveness of a youth restorative justice intervention and, more recently, helping an organisation to learn “what works?” with developing resilience, independence and maturity in young people. And now we are looking forward to starting a new evaluation of an education, training and employment project for young refugees arriving in the U.S. Youth justice in the U.S. and U.K. is undergoing substantial reform, but there is much more to be done to help young people build, in the President’s words, “stronger pathways to opportunity”.
As a company GtD believes that we can support young people by working with policy makers and practitioners to determine what works best, and for whom. And as our CV demonstrates, successful interventions are delivered when our social impact analytics are integrated into the policy and planning processes. In doing so, GtD is helping our clients to learn how to improve their services and demonstrate their effectiveness.
In this Youth Justice Awareness Month, GtD is inviting youth organisations to contact us for a free 1-hour Strategic Impact Assessment where we’ll take the time to evaluate your current impact management success and identify key areas to develop in order to help your organisation maximise its support for young people. For more details, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. On behalf of GtD, thank you for your work with young people and I look forward to hearing from you.