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Report: How to Save New York's “Disconnected Youth”

July 23, 2009

Albany, NY - More than 200,000 young New Yorkers, between the ages of 16 and 24, considered "disconnected" by family advocates, need education, jobs and housing, according to a new report being unveiled today. They are identified as outside the work force, at risk of losing a job, or already headed into trouble.

At the youth facilities run by the Hillside Family of Agencies in Rochester, President and CEO Dennis Richardson has found the process of helping those youngsters get on the right track also has become disconnected, because in October, the economy cost many social service organizations much of their funding.

"We're now getting in-excess of 80 calls a week from youngsters or their families because these youngsters are in crisis, and that's been a dramatic uptick."

Dianne Morales, executive director of The Door, a multi-service agency for 12- to 21-year-olds in New York City, says she thinks the report's most-valuable recommendation is aimed at stage agencies overseeing youth concerns.

"The highlight of this report was the emphasis on getting state agencies to work together to more consistently, and in an integrated fashion, meet the needs of young people."

Karen Schimke, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, which produced the report, says youth who have trouble getting and holding jobs face a new challenge, as the economy forces older workers to apply for lower-paying jobs traditionally held by those in their teens and twenties. The recent squabbling in the state legislature has Schimke wondering if now's the time to deliver the report to elected officials.

"It certainly isn't heartening. We have hopes that it's got some shelf-life because it's not like this issue is going away. For that reason, we might hold distribution to policymakers until we think the timing is a little bit better."

The forum, titled Back On Track: A Policy Forum on Disconnected Youth in New York State, is at 10:30 AM, Friday, in room 771A of the Legislative Office Building in Albany.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY