By Patricia D. Gill, Senior Program Associate, National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership
Last December, NCWD/Youth’s host organization, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), was proud to announce the selection of four new sites across the country for its Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Initiative (Right Turn). The Right Turn program model uses an individualized, strengths-based approach to connect youth who are involved with, or at-risk of becoming involved with, the juvenile justice system to the career preparation, continued education, and additional wraparound services necessary for them to positively reconnect to their communities and obtain meaningful employment opportunities. The four new Right Turn sites are Lawrence Hall Youth Services in Chicago, IL; The Children’s Cabinet in Reno, NV; Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY; and Peckham, Inc. in Lansing, MI.
Today, as this second round of sites are enrolling youth, IEL wanted to provide a little more information about these new sites, share updates on the success of the first five Right Turn sites, and highlight some enhancements to the Right Turn model.
At the orientation meeting, the four new sites learned more from IEL about the foundations of Right Turn, including NCWD/Youth’s Guideposts for Success for Youth Involved in the Juvenile Corrections System and Individualized Learning Plan work, and the major components of the Right Turn model, including career-focused mentoring, workforce preparation, education and training, restorative justice service learning projects, and a full range of supports. In addition, each site had an opportunity to share the diversity of expertise they bring to the work. For example, Onondaga Community College will deploy its deep background in education and credentialing to help youth gain the qualifications they will need to work in high-demand industries. Lawrence Hall will bring its history as a child welfare agency dating back to the Civil War to inform its launch of Right Turn on Chicago’s South Side, where these types of services and supports are in high demand and short supply. Meanwhile, Peckham and The Children’s Cabinet will bring their extensive experience with comprehensive programs similar to the Right Turn model to hit the ground running and help other sites do the same. Site collaboration and cross-systems cooperation will be key to the success of these sites.
These new sites will also have the advantage of building on the success of the first five sites: Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services (PV JOBS) in Los Angeles, California; Goodwill Industries of Houston in Houston, Texas; KentuckianaWorks, The Greater Louisville Workforce Investment Board in Louisville, Kentucky; Oasis Center, Transitions Program in Nashville, Tennessee; and Peckham, Inc in Lansing, Michigan (a returning site). During the first two years of Right Turn, these five sites enrolled 1019 youth, including 956 (94%) who were currently or previously involved with the juvenile justice system of which 659 were directly referred to the program by the juvenile justice system. Each youth worked with their case manager to develop an Individualized Career Development Plan (ICDP) which included a wide-range of services, supports, and opportunities to help youth reach their personal and career goals. Some of these services and opportunities included: work readiness training and life skills counseling (95%), leadership development activities (88%), career-focused mentoring (80%), job placement services (70%), academic counseling (69%), college-bound activities (62%), and restorative justice projects (54%). Right Turn’s holistic strengths-based and career-focused approach achieved impressive short-term outcomes in two years, including:
- 82% of out-of-school participants ages 18 and above were placed in jobs, post-secondary education, or occupational training
- 81% of youth ages 17 and below remained in school for 12 months or more
- 67% of 17 year olds who were out of school at enrollment returned to school
In addition, the five initial sites are making great progress towards longer-term outcomes including:
- 53% of youth ages 18 and above attained an industry-recognized credential
- 50% youth ages 17 and below have received a high school diploma or GED so far
- During quarterly follow-up, 84% of participants were still working or attending school.
In addition, at 12 months into the program only 10% of youth had recidivated, this is well below DOLETA’s 20% performance measure for this group where recidivism is often as high as 55%.
The new sites hope to mirror (or even exceed) the success of the original five sites. To help them do so, IEL has enhanced the Right Turn model in several key ways. First, as the job market continues to get more competitive and specialized, it becomes more important than ever that job-seekers have relevant experience and qualifications to match up with the jobs in their local labor market. Therefore, there will now be a greater emphasis on Right Turn youth acquiring credentials, certificates, or other documented qualifications relevant for the high-demand industries in their community, as well as gaining work experiences that lead to employment.
Second, as many advocates, organizations, and government agencies across the country are examining new strategies for reforming the criminal justice system, Right Turn sites will be required to have formal partnerships with their local juvenile justice system and non-profit legal services. Extensive research shows that diversion (an alternative to being charged, convicted, or incarcerated) leads to better outcomes for youth and their communities, all at a lower cost to the taxpayer. Therefore, sites will work with their local juvenile justice system to serve as an official diversion option for youth who are facing a pending charge. In addition, if a youth already has a conviction on her record, it is important to explore her legal options for expunging or sealing those records in order to give her a chance at a fresh start. Right Turn sites will now partner with local legal services nonprofits to explore expungement options for youth whenever possible.
As the initial sites continue to support over 1000 youth in remaining in school, retaining their job placements, and reaching those long-term outcomes critical to their personal and career success, IEL’s new sites are beginning to enroll youth. The second phase sites are busily recruiting mentors, identifying new legal services partners, establishing or strengthening relationships with every level of the local juvenile justice system, and working with the public workforce system and employers to identify the job training programs that will lead to in-demand credentials in the local market. There’s nothing more exciting for a site (new or old) than that first day a youth walks through the door and begins the youth-led, forward-looking process of making a “Right Turn” onto a path of education, employment, and success!