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«Prepared by: Kamara Jeffrey United Way Project Staff: Diane Dyson Kathy Gallagher-Ross Michelle Smith Ming-Young Tam Peter Alexander United Way ...»

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Youth Policy: What Works

and What Doesn’t?

A Review of Youth Policy Models From Canada

and Other Jurisdictions

February 2008

Youth Policy: What Works and What Doesn’t

A report of United Way Toronto

February 2008

Prepared by: Kamara Jeffrey

United Way Project Staff:

Diane Dyson

Kathy Gallagher-Ross

Michelle Smith

Ming-Young Tam

Peter Alexander

United Way Toronto thanks and acknowledges the following individuals for their

contribution of time and expertise:

Angela Carr, Government of New Brunswick Caroline Choisselet, Government of Québec John Green, Government of British Columbia Lydia Fitchko, City of Toronto Marie Moliner, Department of Canadian Heritage Nadine Sivak, Canadian Heritage Nathan Gilbert, Laidlaw Foundation Pamela Grant, Ontario Youth Challenge Fund Paul L. Mulholland, Government of British Columbia Pedro Barata, Atkinson Foundation Renee Carl, National Collaboration for Youth, Washington D.C., USA Rob Howarth, Toronto Neighbourhood Centres Sarah Rix, City of Toronto Thaddeus Ferber, Forum For Youth Investment, Washington D.C., USA

Front Cover Photos:

Ben Legge PhotoSensitive/Dick Loek 26 Wellington Street E 11th Floor Toronto ON M5E 1W9 Tel 416 777 2001 Fax 416 777 0962 unitedwaytoronto.com Table of Contents Executive Summary

I. Introduction

Rationale and Research Questions

Methodology: How We Reviewed the Policy Models

II. Youth Policy: Identifying Different Models

Types of Youth Policy

Different Theoretical Approaches To Working With Youth

Key Features of Youth Policy Models

What is a Youth Policy Framework ?

Youth policies vs. a Youth Policy Framework: What s the Difference?... 9 III. What Does Help: Features that Make Youth Policy Models More Effective........ 11 A shared vision for determining action

A strategy for measuring outcomes

IV. What Doesn t Help: Some Factors that Limit the Effectiveness of Youth Policy Models

Working in silos

Lack of overarching vision

Narrow mandate or target group

Defining Youth in different ways

–  –  –


Executive Summary In recent years, several governments around the world have recognized the need for policy responses to systemic youth issues and have undertaken policy reforms that focus on youth.

Scholars and policy makers alike have developed new perspectives and tools for framing contemporary youth issues and have made the case for a more positive, proactive approach to supporting youth.

Currently, the range of youth policies and strategies represents a patchwork of agreements among various levels of government, ministries, departments, communities, and stakeholders.

Most youth service providers rely on short-term funding from multiple sources, which results in short-term or time-limited initiatives that are difficult to sustain or integrate with long-term planning, and challenging to evaluate for effectiveness.

This report is a review of formal policy responses to systemic youth issues from various jurisdictions in Canada and internationally. It reviews policy and legislative frameworks related to youth at the local, regional, and national levels. The purpose of this review is to document existing youth policy models and legislative frameworks and identify the policy mechanisms that contribute to long-term positive outcomes for youth. The findings of the review and lessons learned are outlined below.

What Does Help: Features that Make Youth Policy Models More Effective After reviewing the literature on youth policy and speaking to policy makers about the policy models and their respective implementation, we found four things that help youth policies work


1. A shared vision for determining action

2. A strategy for measuring outcomes

3. Mechanisms for intergovernmental service coordination

4. Mechanisms for reviewing and realigning services based on the needs, aspirations, and expectations of youth What Doesn t Help: Some Factors that Limit the Effectiveness of Youth Policy Models Our review identified several challenges related to youth policy formulation, policy implementation, and policy impact on youth. We grouped the challenges we found under four


–  –  –

Lessons Learned and Implications for Public Policy

We identified five key lessons from the inter-jurisdictional review of youth policy:

1. There exists no multi-level policy framework in Toronto or Ontario that adopts a comprehensive outcomes-based approach to youth development.

2. In general, policy responses to youth issues are increasingly being aimed at connecting various youth policy sectors and departments. There is also evidence of a shift towards service provision models that aim to develop partnerships between young people, decision makers in the youth sector, and the community.

3. A number of youth policies have narrow mandates and limited target populations. This can act as a barrier that limits impact on the youth population as a whole.

4. There is no single theoretical approach to youth policy that is clearly more effective than another. However, stakeholders who employ differing approaches to helping youth can better collaborate when they are working toward the same overarching goals and longterm youth outcomes.

5. Creating a common vision is the first step in developing an effective policy framework.

The real benefit of a vision comes from how it frames the development of policy goals regarding youth outcomes.

Towards the Formulation of a Common Vision for Youth: Next Steps The formulation of a common youth outcomes strategy or framework will be a crucial first step in addressing the fragmentation that appears to result in limited impact on youth.

In order to achieve this, the following steps can be taken:

1. Document existing fragmentation and disseminate information throughout the sector

2. Convene appropriate stakeholders and build consensus around broad developmental, social, and economic outcomes for youth

3. Focus advocacy activities on developing a Youth Outcomes Strategy at the highest political level The lessons from other jurisdictions make it clear that the support we give to young people can be maximized if we do not stop at the implementation of several isolated measures, but coordinate these initiatives across levels of government and at the community level.

–  –  –

In 2004, United Way Toronto set a priority to help youth on pathways to success. This was in response to our research, which has consistently found youth issues to be one of Toronto s most pressing social concerns. Our research has also highlighted the fact that program and service availability in Toronto does not generally correspond geographically to where the youth population is the largest and the needs are greatest - in the inner suburbs 1. As a result, recent public policy research at United Way has been aimed at exploring the systemic policy gaps and barriers affecting successful youth outcomes.

Our recent research project (United Way of Greater Toronto, 2008) documented and analyzed the gaps and disconnects in Toronto s youth system and found evidence of an increase in services and programs that target immediate youth needs. However, we also found system-wide problems, primarily the growth of an increasingly complex and fragmented youth sector characterized by incoherence in services, policies, and funding sources. Most youth service providers rely on short-term funding from multiple sources, which results in short-term or timelimited initiatives that are difficult to sustain with long-term planning. As a result, the overall public policy response to youth issues has developed in a piecemeal fashion, with various supports and services set up in isolation from each other by different governments, agencies and departments.

At a time when youth face big challenges, the programs and supports to help young people are not close to hand and easy to access.

Rationale and Research Questions

In recent years, governments around the world have recognized the need for a policy response to systemic youth issues. There has been broad international support for undertaking policy reforms that invest in youth. Organizations such as he World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) recognize youth as a population that should be treated separately from children and adults (World Heath Organization 2002). The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes specific rights for children and youth, and the European Commission published a White Paper on youth providing a framework for co-operation and coordination in the field of youth. At national, regional, and local levels, governments are quickly making youth national priorities by developing policies that recognize youth as an important population and link supports for young people to broader outcomes and long-term goals. Is this worth doing? What are the benefits of a developing a comprehensive youth policy framework?

This report is a review of formal policy responses to systemic youth issues from various jurisdictions in Canada and internationally. The purpose of this review is to document existing youth policy models and legislative frameworks and identify the features that contribute to longterm positive outcomes for youth. We looked at a sample of policy and legislative frameworks

related to youth at the local, regional, and national levels and asked the following questions:

–  –  –

This term generally refers to the former municipalities of East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York.

Methodology: How we Reviewed the Policy Models This review compared several examples of youth policy models from 12 national and international jurisdictions. These are listed below. For a description of each, please see Appendix A.

–  –  –

To create this list we searched for existing youth-specific policies in Canada. In addition to Canadian policy models, three examples of jurisdictions outside of Canada were included in this review for comparative purposes. In order to select three international examples, given the wide array of youth policy models existing across Europe and Asia, we looked for evidence of innovation in youth policy development, in addition to evidence of a formalized response to service fragmentation. We reviewed policy documents and also spoke to senior government and NGO personnel to highlight trends, challenges, and lessons to be learned from each of the jurisdictions.2 It should be noted that this review is intended only to compare the key characteristics of the policy interventions. It is beyond the scope of this paper to evaluate policy development in detail or to measure and assess specific youth outcomes. For more detail on framework content, research on service fragmentation and related issues, please consult the bibliography.

A review of academic and grey literature (unpublished studies, government legislative and policy documents, and community reports) was conducted to explore issues related to international standards for youth policy formulation, policy implementation, and youth outcomes. Additionally, individual policy documents were analyzed and key informants representing and working within the jurisdictions were consulted to facilitate the collection of data.

–  –  –

Types of Youth Policy Policies that target youth can be sweeping or narrow, straightforward or complex as varied as

the governments that create them. Generally we can sort them into three broad categories:

Population-based youth policies. These policies typically include a framework that articulates a desired vision for youth outcomes (i.e. youth that are healthy, socially engaged, employable, etc.). Population-based policies and strategies are universal in that they apply to the entire youth population as well as any sub-groups that make up the youth population.

Targeted policies for sub-groups of youth. These policies focus on a single facet of youth development or a particular sub-population of youth. For example, targeted policies may focus on assisting youth in an area such as employment. They may also address the needs of particular groups at risk of social exclusion or marginalization because of race, ability, religious affiliation, or geographic location. Targeted policies for subgroups of youth may exist on their own or within the context of a population-based policy.

Targeted policies for individual youth. These are policies designed to address personal barriers. These policies include treatment and rehabilitation programs and other such individual interventions. These policies may also exist within a broader population-based policy.

Different Theoretical Approaches to Working With Youth

Policy responses to youth issues include premises or assumptions about how the policies will have impact and achieve objectives. We describe some different theoretical approaches below.

Note that a given policy model may include elements of more than one theoretical approach.

Youth Engagement Approach. Premise: all youth benefit from opportunities to have a voice, access, and shared power with adults. Policies using this approach seek to limit the marginalization of youth by finding avenues for proactive involvement in the development of programs that affect them. Older and visible minority youth who are at risk of being failed by traditional approaches especially benefit from youth engagement programs that emphasize access, equity and social justice.

Population Health Approach. Premise: social institutions, geographic surroundings, and social relationships are the social determinants of health. Inequalities can be prevented or improved through social supports that target the wellbeing of an entire population. The approach includes an overall emphasis on outcomes (as opposed to inputs and processes) and the reduction of inequities among population groups.

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