Photo by Nick Alvarez via Shutterstock

On Thursday, May 20, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the allocation of $1.4 million to fund the creation of LA’s first Youth Development Department. 

According to a motion first introduced by council members Monica Rodriguez, Kevin de León and Nithya Raman in February, there are 200,000 youths currently living in poverty in LA, over 3,000 of which are homeless. In the last 10 years, youths aged 10-25 also accounted for 32% of 1.2 million arrests.

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“Youth in historically underserved communities face barriers to success caused by decades of underinvestment, and exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Rodriguez in a statement. “The Youth Development Department will be the catalytic change that delivers increased program options for young people, greater accountability of tax payer dollars and will streamline access to ensure equality for all young Angelenos regardless of their zip code.”

The motion states that the city’s youth programs are currently ineffectually spread out across 26 departments and that there is no “evaluation or commensurate leveraging of federal, state and county resources.”

In December 2019, a nine-member Youth Development Task Force approved by the council evaluated the effectiveness of the youth programs currently in place. The task force determined that there was no way to assess whether city department program investments were making an impact, being used effectively or being equitable in meeting the needs of youth. Youths, parents, foundations and social service providers were given the chance to identify the failings of the current system and the reforms needed so that young people could be better served. 

A study done by the Los Angeles Coalition to End Youth Homelessness found that, since the pandemic hit, youths have been unable to access a variety of necessary services within the current homeless youth service system. These include housing services, job training and employment services, education programs and support groups.

“For 50 years, youth development work has operated as a subsidiary of other initiatives,” the motion reads. “Young people deserve a government structured and designed to meet their needs informed by their voice, not outdated preservation of unmeasured programs.”

The newly approved department will “coordinate with regional agencies and providers of youth services, serving as a one-stop-shop for the public to access youth services, and auditing youth programs to ensure efficient use of City resources.”

It will serve as a central information center for the public to access youth services, in the hope that centralizing the city’s response to the high number of young people living in poverty will make basic essential services more accessible and better serve the youths. The approval of this department is the first step towards working for the complete systemic reform which the motion called for.

By funding a department that will focus all of its resources on Los Angeles’ impoverished youth, Kelly Bruno, president and CEO of the National Health Foundation, expects that “the often-neglected power of youth would be harnessed by connecting them with the critical tools absent in under-resourced communities.”

“We believe this newly centralized Department will address our youth’s unique needs, connecting them with tools and resources to reach their maximum potential. Afterall, youth are integral members of their communities, and experts on the issues and barriers that impact themselves, their neighbors and families,” Bruno told Scriberr News.

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Rodriguez said on June 29 that the council is “making history in the creation of the city’s first Youth Development Department that will help to address and uplift the needs of the more than 800,000 young people in the city, and young adults, who desperately coming out of this pandemic are going to continue to need greater resources and access to supportive programs that currently are very difficult for them to access and identify.”

Scriberr News reached out to Councilwoman Raman but was told by her communications team that while the councilwoman was unable to provide a quote at that time, the Department will provide centralized services to youths instead of the disparate existing 26 programs.

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