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How can service agencies improve outcomes for at-risk youth?

Evaluating the Youth Opportunity Hubs (YOHs)

Challenge

Programs and services to support youth development are often fragmented or fail to comprehensively address the needs of youth. Better coordination and partnership among community-based providers are needed to facilitate improved outcomes for youth, including preventing juvenile and criminal justice involvement.

Youth Opportunity Hubs (YOHs) is a program the District Attorney of New York (DANY) County’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII) funds. It is designed to improve outcomes for youth who are at risk of justice system involvement by fostering collaboration and partnership among social service-providing organizations that serve youth age 13-24.

Solution

For the City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), Westat is leading the implementation of a comprehensive evaluation of the YOH program.

This mixed-method evaluation includes several components:

  • Process evaluation to understand who the Hubs are serving and how
  • Outcome evaluation focused on the extent to which Hubs increase their (and their partner agencies’) capacity to serve youth and, in doing so, reduce the risk and improve protective factors related to youth involvement in the justice system
  • Cost-benefit analysis to understand the economic costs and benefits of the Hub program
  • Social network analysis, a unique and complex method used to determine the extent to which the initiative was able to support Hubs and their partner agencies to increase their collaborative networks to better serve young people

Results

Findings from the evaluation will provide DANY with information on how to improve collaboration and coordination around youth service agencies to increase positive outcomes for youth, including reducing their involvement with the justice system.

The mid-evaluation report was released Jan 2022: Youth Opportunity Hubs: Mid-Evaluation Report: Fostering Collaboration. Building Resilience.

Some highlights of perceived outcomes and benefits of the YOHs were:

  • Staff described the connection to mental health, counseling, and social-emotional supports as an especially important outcome.
  • Participants’ positive relationships developed with adults through each Hub increased beliefs that there are individuals who are looking out for them and care about their experiences.
  • The choice to fund the Hubs Initiative was seen as an effort toward intentional community building with and redistribution of resources to communities of color.
  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hubs developed new tools to communicate and stay connected with young people; for example, Hubs created a text-based hotline and chat software, set up a Google phone number, and scaled up text communications.

Insights

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