Being a young person is hard. The time between being 16 and 24 can be particularly challenging. During this critical period in a young person’s life, youth evolve from children to “adulthood” and become responsible for their own care and well-being.
In our country, most young people attend high school or college, enter the workforce, learn to manage their finances, and develop important relationships, often times while living at home with parents who provide for them. With support of family, friends and others, many youth transition into adulthood relatively successfully.
But not all youth. As many as 10-25% of “transition-age youth” are not making that transition successfully, if at all. During this transition-age period, many of these youth become disconnected and experience family conflict, abandonment, and involvement in a variety of systems and generally lack the life skills necessary to find employment or housing. These youth are more likely to become teen parents, become homeless, abuse drugs, drop out of school and/or become victims of violence.
Supporting transition-age youth helps them become productive and emotionally stable, in turn, producing enormous social benefits for society at large, as well as for youth themselves.
The California Coalition for Youth is committed to advocating for the programs, resources, and support transition-age youth throughout California need to have successful lives.
Disconnected youth are young people ages 16 to 24 who are neither working nor in school. According to the most recent Measure of America report, there are 5.8 million, or one in every seven, American young people in this age group in our country who are not connected to either of these anchor institutions and have no path forward in their lives. Disconnected youth are also often referred to as Opportunity Youth.
Emphasis is placed upon this group because the years between the late teens and the mid-twenties are believed to be a critical period during which young people form adult identities and move toward independence. The effects of youth disconnection—limited education, social exclusion, lack of work experience, and fewer opportunities to develop mentors and valuable work connections—can have long-term consequences that snowball across the life course, eventually influencing everything from earnings and self-sufficiency to physical and mental health.
Several factors place teens at higher risk for becoming disengaged from education and work, such as growing up in poverty or in underserved communities, having care-giving responsibilities at home, and being in the foster care, criminal justice, or special education systems. Nationwide, American Indian, African American, and Latino youth are more likely than their white, Asian or Pacific Islander peers to be disconnected from school and employment.
According to data from a 2014 report from Kidsdata.org 7.3% of youth ages 16 to 19 in California were neither in school nor working. The percentage of youth in California who were disconnected has remained relatively steady between 2007 and 2014 (per single-year estimates). County-level percentages of teens not in school and not working ranged from 4% to 13.5%, among counties with 10,000 residents or more in 2009-13.
There has been a lot of research and discussion that has been focused on how to reach these young people and connect them with the resources and services they need to help them break out of this cycle. CCY recognizes the challenges for disconnected youth in California and has worked diligently to address the needs of this population through various approaches including new funding requests and legislative methods. However, much more needs to be done in California to address the needs of this group.