Reconnecting Youth

Reconnecting Youth

At least 6.7 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 (17%) are currently disconnected from school or work.1 Young people may become disconnected in a number of ways. They may have dropped out of high school or college and been unable to find work. They may have been involved in the foster care or criminal justice systems, or become homeless. They may have mental or health conditions that inhibit their activities. They may have caregiving responsibilities in their families.

The consequences are serious for both individuals and society as a whole, as these young people cost the nation billions of dollars every year in lost earnings, welfare and medical costs, and unmet personal potential.23

Addressing the needs of disconnected youth is critical to America’s future. The President’s FY 2013 Budget proposes an Inter-Agency Disconnected Youth Initiative that would provide for increased flexibility for States and localities and modest funding for the Federal partners. The Initiative would include the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, as well as other Federal agencies.

Under a proposed a government-wide general provision, States and localities would be able to apply for a waiver for enhanced flexibility to blend existing discretionary funds from multiple federal funding streams in determining how to more effectively structure services for disconnected youth in return for strong accountability for results. The 2013 budget also seeks additional funding for the U.S. Departments of Education ($5 million), Health and Human Services ($5 million), and Labor ($10 million), to develop interagency strategies to strengthen the impact of federal programs serving disconnected youth; identify opportunities for enhanced flexibility and collaboration; and enhance our capacity to use and build evidence of what works and is cost-effective for disconnected youth. The President’s FY 2013 Budget included a request for authority to implement “Performance Partnership Pilots” that would improve outcomes for disconnected youth. 

A Request for Information (RFI) on disconnected youth has been published by the Department of Education in the Federal Register. To inform the development of the performance partnership pilots, the RFI asks respondents for examples of how state and local organizations could use the proposed authority to achieve better outcomes for disconnected youth, as well as existing best practices for serving this population. Responses to the RFI will be collected via Responses to the RFI are currently being compiled, and additional information will be made public soon.

Hear from Youth

Hear what young people have to say about what youth need to become healthy and productive adults. Read a summary of the input provided by youth during a series of listening sessions held to gather input toward the development of a strategic plan for youth.

Find out more about collaborations working to reconnect youth and prevent disconnections:

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a community-based program that leads, trains, and mentors young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who are unemployed and have left school so that they may become productive citizens in America's future. Results from a three year evaluation showed that ChalleNGe participants are more likely than their control group counterparts to have obtained a GED certificate or high school diploma, to have earned college credits, and to be working. Participants’ earnings are also 20 percent higher than control group members’ earnings. Collaboration between the ChalleNGe program and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) supports leadership opportunities for disadvantaged and out-of-school youth serving in their programs.

Project U-Turn is a citywide collaborative effort to address the dropout crisis in Philadelphia. Project U-Turn identifies and examines the problem, promotes the crisis as a system-wide issue rather than an education issue, involves and sustains a diverse array of partners, and works to both prevent students from dropping out as well as re-engage those who have already dropped out. Learn more.

Partnership for Results is a model of local governance designed to implement a broad spectrum of evidence-based programs for the benefit of youth at risk. Operating in Cayuga County in Central New York, it has improved outcomes for children and youth and their families since its founding in 2000. Evaluation results indicate reductions in substance abuse, arrests, juvenile detention expenditures, and foster care placements. Partnership for Results has been associated with increases in standardized test scores, particularly for elementary schools serving low-income children.

The Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development coordinates and aligns state policies and practices to support positive youth development and increase high school graduation rates.

Linking Learning to Life, Inc. supports a collaboration of schools, businesses, colleges, and other organizations to foster opportunities for community service, leadership development, career and college exploration, internships, and employment for youth in Vermont as they transition from school to careers and postsecondary education.

YouthBuild, an employment and training programs funded by the US Department of Labor (DOL), and the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recently partnered to address alcohol and drug use among students. The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) tool developed by SAMHSA to identify people who have or are at risk for substance use problems and to identify people who need further assessment or referral for treatment. The “SBIRT” was adapted to best suit the young people, ages 16-24, served within the YouthBuild program, and piloted in 15 programs. 

Transition age youth (ages 16 to 24), sometimes called “youth in transition” or “youth aging out,” can experience a number of challenges on their path to a successful adulthood. Efforts to reconnect transition age youth to school and work should consider the following issues:

Youth Employment

Knowing how to find and keep a job is not only critical for admission to the adult world, it is also an important survival skill.


Juvenile Justice

The primary goals of the juvenile justice system, in addition to maintaining public safety, are skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, addressing treatment needs, and successful reintegration of youth into the community.
Service Learning

Service learning is a strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and self-reflection to support academic learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.


Preventing Youth Violence

Youth violence and crime affect a community's economic health, as well as individuals' physical and mental health and well-being.


Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal, but the essential components include creating caring, empathetic, consistent, and long-lasting relationships, often with some combination of role modeling, teaching, and advising.


Youth Mental Health

Mental health involves being able to navigate successfully the complexities of life, develop fulfilling relationships, adapt to change, and utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to achieve well-being without discrimination.

Teen Pregancy Prevention

Despite declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S., the national teen pregnancy rate continues to be higher than the rates in other Western industrialized nations.

1 Belfield, C.R., Levin, H. M., Rosen, R. (2012). The economic value of opportunity youth. Available on the Corporation for National and Community Service’s website at