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Coordinated Efforts To Aid The Disadvantaged Urged

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Disadvantaged youths could be better served if states coordinated the various job-training and social-assistance programs aimed at them, findings from a demonstration project in three states suggest.

The project, State Employment Initiatives for Youth, pulled together each state's existing programs serving dropouts, teen-age parents, and other youths in danger of chronic unemployment, and attempted to coordinate services. It was conducted over the last three years in Massachusetts, Oregon, and South Carolina.

Natalie Jaffe, a spokesman for Public/Private Ventures, the Philadelphia-based nonprofit research corporation that developed the pilot project, said its goal was to help states provide better employment-training services to youths without increasing costs.

State services for disadvantaged young people are usually delivered, Ms. Jaffe said, through the state's education department, criminal-justice system, and welfare agency.

"The separate agencies don't work together,'' she said, "and there's some duplication in services, some gaps, and no opportunity to find out if programs could be combined.''

Each of the states involved in the project funneled $1 million of its existing funds for youth programs into a youth coordinating council appointed by the governor and composed of senior officials from the agencies serving youths.

The councils conducted "needs assessments,'' identifying the size and location of the states' "at risk'' population, and developed plans for improving services and eliminating duplicate programs.

The councils then distributed the pooled state funds to local program officials, who agreed to provide matching funds or in-kind services.

According to a report released last month, the project strengthened the states' service-delivery systems by providing more school-based employment programs and increasing efforts to create more education-based job initiatives.

In South Carolina, for example, the schools worked jointly with the juvenile-court system to increase the opportunities for youthful offenders to learn work skills.

In Oregon, the state superintendent of public instruction created a task force charged with developing a comprehensive strategy for meeting the needs of disadvantaged youths. This year, Ms. Jaffe said, the state's departments of human resources and education acted jointly to request a $25-million increase in funding for job-training programs aimed at the at-risk population.

Altogether, the three states involved in the project reallocated more than $5 million in funding and in-kind services to the coordinated programs, according to Ms. Jaffe. Since the project ended last year, Oregon has reallocated another $890,000, she said.

In two of the states, Oregon and Massachusetts, the coordination efforts will continue, Ms. Jaffe said. Oregon's youth coordinating council will remain separate from other state agencies; Massachusetts' council has become a subcommittee of the state's job-training coordinating council.

In South Carolina, the council chairman's position has been funded for the next fiscal year, but it is not clear whether the council will continue, Ms. Jaffe said.

Copies of the report, "State Employment Initiatives for Youth--An Assessment of the Demonstration,'' are available for $5 each from Public/Private Ventures, 399 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.

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