For Welfare Decisions
Vol. 7, No. 7                                                                                                                      June 2003
Programs and Services for Out-of-School Youth
Out-of-school youth are a vulnerable population with complex needs. Many face dim employment prospects and uncertain futures. Out-of-school youth are broadly defined as youth aged 16 to 24 who are not in school and who are unemployed, underemployed, or lacking basic skills.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in October 2000 nearly 11 percent (3.8 million) of youth aged 16 to 24 were not in school and had not received a diploma or equivalent degree (Kaufman, Alt, and Chapman 2001).
The NCES also reports that youth who are from families at the lowest 20 percent of income distribution were six times as likely to drop out as youth from families with the top 20 percent of incomes (Kaufman, Alt, and Chapman 2001). In addition, these youth may face other barriers – some may have had babies in their teenage years, they may be from immigrant families, they may have runaway or become homeless, or they may be transitioning from foster care homes. In today’s economy, youth who lack education or skills face significant challenges.  For example, two of every three male state prisoners are high school dropouts (Lake Snell Perry & Associates 2002). Many of these youth would benefit from education, job training, and other support services.
While there is no single system that provides services to out-of-school youth, many systems can play a role in better addressing their needs, including the public education, workforce, human services, juvenile justice, and community- and faith-based sectors. Multiple funding sources can support initiatives to serve out-of-school youth, namely Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, Foster Care, Pell Grant, juvenile justice, foundation, public education, and other state funds. Decision makers may wish to consider these funding sources when designing services for out-of-school youth. This Resources for Welfare Decisions provides an overview of out-of-school youth resources.  For general information on youth development, visit 
Publications and Electronic Resources
Child Trends. American Teens: A Special Look at "What Works" in Adolescent Development. Washington, D.C., Child Trends, 2003. Available at
Ferber, Thaddeus, and Karen Pittman, with Tara Marshall. State Youth Policy: Helping All Youth to Grow Up Fully Prepared and Fully Engaged. Takoma Park, Md.: The Forum for Youth Investment, 2002. Available at
Gruber, David. Using Educational Resources for Out-of-School Youth. Washington, D.C.: National Association of System Heads, 2000 (planning draft). Available at
Jekielek, Susan, Stephanie Cochran, and Elizabeth Hair. Employment Programs and Youth
Development: A Synthesis. Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, 2002. Available at
Jobs for the Future and the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Evaluation of the Transition to Comprehensive Youth Services Under the Workforce Investment Act. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Youth Opportunities, May 2002. Available at
John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Recipes for Success: Youth Council Guide to Creating a Youth Development System Under WIA. New Brunswick, N.J.: John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, May 2000. Available at
Kaufman, Phillip, Martha Naomi Alt, and Christopher Chapman. Dropout Rates in the United States: 2000. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, November 2001. Available at
Knoll, Howard. Out of School Youth Readiness Assessment. New York, N.Y.: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Region 1-New York, December 2001. Available at
Lake Snell Perry & Associates. Perceptions of Out-of-School Youth: Findings from a National Poll. Gaithersburg, Md.: Youth Development and Research Fund, June 2002. Available at
Leonard Resource Group, Inc. Sources of Funding for Youth Services. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Youth Services, 2001. Available at
NGA Center for Best Practices. State Youth Development Strategies to Improve Outcomes for At-Risk Youth. Washington, D.C.: National Governors Association, July 27, 2000. Available at
Stottlemyer, Kip. The Road to Self-Sufficiency: An Income Growth Strategy for Out of School Youth – A toolkit for front-line practitioners developed by front-line practitioners. Albany, N.Y.: New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals, September 2001. Available at
Sum, Andrew, Garth Mangum and Robert Taggart. The Young, the Restless and the Jobless: The Case for a National Jobs Stimulus Program Targeted on America’s Young Adults. Baltimore, Md.: The Sar Levitan Center for Social Policy Studies, Johns Hopkins University, June 2002. Ordering information available at
Zakia Redd, Stephanie Cochran, Elizabeth Hair, Kristin Moore. Academic Achievement Programs and Youth Development: A Synthesis. Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, 2002. Available at
Available from The Finance Project:
Friedman, Pamela. Career Opportunities and Support Services for Low-Income, Post-High School Young Adults, September 2000.
Kaplan, Jan. Older Teens in TANF Families – Overcoming Barriers to Self-Sufficiency, May 2001.
Moore, Iyauta. Prevention Programs for Youth: Reducing the Risk of Dependency and Poverty, May 2000.
O’Dell, Kelley. Youth Development: An Update, March 2002.
Relave, Nanette. Youth Services Under the Workforce Investment Act, August 2002.
Resource Contacts
What States and Localities are Doing:
New Opportunities of Greater Meriden, in Meriden, Conn., assists unemployed and underemployed youth ages 19 to 21. Programs are free and include: customer service training (computer skills and communication and interpersonal skills) and a medical billing certificate program (180 hours of classroom training and college credit upon completion). Students receive free supplies and incentives for participation. Program staff assist students with setting up job interviews, provide students with $100 for clothing, and provide special help when possible. For more information, contact Bill Finnegan, Out of School Youth Program Director, 203-235-0278; or visit
Project CONNECT is a regional strategy to address the needs of out-of-school youth, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, ages 16 to 21 in Herkimer, Madison, and Oneida counties in New York. The initiative helps youth access appropriate academic, vocational, and support services. Youth engage in GED preparation, paid and unpaid work experiences, vocational training, and receive referrals to other service providers and agencies. While the program focuses on Workforce Investment Act (WIA) eligible youth, services are provided to all out-of-school youth. Individual Service Plans are created to address the Ten Program Elements mandated by WIA. Eligible participants can receive an incentive for participating in the program. For more information, contact Alice Savino, 315-798-5908, or visit
The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has created the Opportunity Passport to help youth who are leaving the foster care system successfully transition to adulthood. The Passport will be piloted in several sites, including Atlanta, Ga., Kansas City, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., and in Michigan. The Opportunity Passport aims to connect youth with financial, educational, vocational, health care, entrepreneurial, and recreational opportunities. It will provide youth with a matched savings account for medium- and long-term asset building for select purchases, such as education or the purchase of a car; a personal debit account to save for short-term expenses; and “door openers” or locally negotiated benefits, such as pre-approval for registration for community college courses or expedited access to job-training or adult education courses. For more information, visit
With other partners, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently committed $31 million to build a nationwide network of alternative schools. Students will be provided an expanded array of education options and prepared for careers with earning potential. Nine intermediary organizations will work with local communities to replicate high-quality alternative schools, expand and improve existing schools, and convert programs that offer GEDs into high school diploma-granting schools. For more information, contact contact Marie Groark, 206-709-3400 or; or visit
WIN Staff Contact: Michelle Ganow Jones, 202/587-1024 or
The Welfare Information Network is supported by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.