Children, youth, and families is an extremely broad category. We decided to focus on at-risk youth because we felt the issues were pressing but very few funders fund at-risk youth programs because many believe they can make a bigger impact funding children during the early childhood development stages. In 2000, more than 4 million youth between ages 16-24 were neither working nor in school and 25% are estimated to be parents. Each year, more than 20,000 teens leave the foster-care system with little transitional support. In 1997, 350,000 young men between the ages of 18-24 were inmates in federal and state prisons and local jails. The population of 16-24 year olds is expected to grow at an above-average rate over the next decade and most of the increase will be among blacks, Latinos, and young immigrants.
A variety of charity-run programs aim to prevent negative outcomes for at-risk youth such as substance use, delinquency, and teen pregnancy, while also seeking to advance positive outcomes like college enrollment and employment. Such programs, if effective, can improve the lives of youth, and prevent problems that are not just costly to them individually, but to society as a whole.
Source: Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy
Experts were asked to recommend nonprofit organizations that work with the following populations: foster youth or youth transitioning out of foster care, youth involved with juvenile justice, runaway and homeless youth, high school dropouts or youth at risk of dropping out of school, and teen parents.
Charities offer a wide variety of activities and services, such as: life skills and job training, health and sex education, mentoring, and/or community service opportunities.
Philanthropedia surveyed 88 experts who worked in the at-risk youth field (with an average on 19 years of work experience). They were asked to recommend high-impact nonprofits working with at-risk youth on a national level. Philanthropedia’s experts (funders, researchers, nonprofit senior staff, government officials, etc.) identified 9 top nonprofits (out of 178 total reviewed nonprofits) making an impact on a national level.
While programs focused on youth development have the potential to produce meaningful improvements in the lives of youth, only a few are backed by strong evidence of sizable, sustained effects on important outcomes. Many programs are backed by preliminary evidence – for example, studies showing short-term effects on intermediate outcomes such as youth attitudes toward sex, drugs, and delinquency. However, donors should recognize that when such programs are evaluated in more definitive studies with longer-term follow-up, these preliminary effects too often do not translate into sustained effects on more important outcomes, such as rates of actual pregnancies, substance use, and criminal activity. Donors should ask about the evidence supporting the effectiveness of a specific program a charity is running -- particularly whether there are rigorous studies, such as well-conducted randomized controlled trials, showing sizable, sustained effects on the lives of youth.
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