At the MACo Winter Conference session, Maryland’s Disconnected Youth: The Impact of Jails, Jobs, Homelessness and Hunger, attendees learned about the impact of these issues across the state and how state and local programs are providing programs to help.
Arlene Lee, the Executive Director of Governor’s Office for Children (GOC), started the panel off with an overview of the GOC’s four strategic goals to improve the well-being of children in Maryland: (1) reducing the impact of parental incarceration on children, families and communities (2) improving outcomes for disconnected youth; (3) reducing homelessness, and (4) reducing hunger. Lee shared a number of facts and statistics highlighting the impact of these issues. For instance, the number of homeless youth (between the ages of 14-15) who are not in the custody of a parent or guardian has increased by 75% since 2009. Additionally it is estimated that on any given day approximately 90,000 children in Maryland have a parent under some form of correctional supervision. Lee concluded by emphasizing the importance of a collaborative effort between the State and locals to address these issues. As part of the Governor’s vision for Economic Opportunity for All Marylanders, the GOC will be working to focus on these four strategic goals, compile a catalog of all relevant state and local programs, and work with local management boards to provide funding to address one or more of these areas.
Next Rota Knott the Director for the Somerset County Local Management Board presented. Knott reviewed the findings of the county’s recent local needs assessment which found that Somerset county’s top needs were substance abuse, youth unemployment, juvenile recidivism, and child poverty. Over 700 county residents are impacted by incarceration, 800 youth are considered disconnected, and the poverty rate is 38% compared to 14% statewide. Knott then used those findings to bridge into how Somerset’s local management board is addressing those issues in connection with the GOC’s goals. Somerset County has a few programs that are working together to address the issue of disconnected youth and incarceration as these populations within the county often overlap. The Children of Prisoners Empowered program is a tri-county, cross-sector (government, law enforcement, mental health and substance abuse providers etc.) program that provides support for children with incarcerated parents and helps those parents during the reentry process. Another program, Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents, is a collaborative effort with law enforcement to help mitigate trauma of arresting parents while children are present and to provide the families with follow up resources and connection to services after arrest. The county is also working on an online resource directory and a bridge program that helps youth access college. Knott also presented on a college and career access program, another collaborative effort, that helps not just the incarcerated population but all disconnected youth access GED, college and career readiness programs.
Paulo Gregory Harris, the Director of the Ingoma Foundation and Co-Lead Backbone for theCONNECT Network rounded out the panel’s presentations. Harris discussed the CONNECT, Baltimore City’s Youth Opportunity Network, a collaborative effort of over 60 organizations to reconnect out-of-school and out-of-work youth back into the economic life of Baltimore. The program developed from a planning grant to look at how to connect the City’s youth to education and employment. They found that the youth often faced unique challenges navigating daily life in the City which helped them develop “hustle skills” to get what they need, when they didn’t have the resources to get what they needed. So an additional goal was added to create entrepreneurship opportunities and to help tap into their capacity for ingenuity. The program offers the youth fellows a linked network with pathway navigators, likened to super caseworkers, that are trained to work together and to support the youth going through the program. There is peer support from fellows who have gone through the program to help provide guidance. The program also provides direct linkage to employers and opportunities. For instance the program works with the Mayor’s fellowship to get youth placed into part-time, paying jobs at city agencies. In large part, Harris stressed the program’s the comprehensive, collaborative and on-going approach to providing youth with the skills, support and guidance to overcome barriers to success.
The session was moderated by Senator Kathy Klausemeier, who represents District 8, Baltimore County, and serves on the Senate Finance Committee. The session was held from 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.