Building Pathways To Postsecondary Success For Vulnerable Populations

Building Pathways To Postsecondary Success For Vulnerable Populations
Building Pathways To Postsecondary Success For Vulnerable Populations


For youth aging out of foster and/or involved in the juvenile justice systems, it is critical that we create accessible and supportive pathways to postsecondary success. Youth involved in the juvenile justice system face many barriers that impede their access to education upon reentry. In fact, 66 percent do not return to school after being released from secure custody. Upon aging out of care, often the biggest obstacle youth face is finding a way to support themselves. Nearly 47 percent of youth who have aged out of foster care are not currently employed. Accessing opportunities both in education and the workforce is necessary for these young people to ensure they are equipped with credentials, skills, and abilities to be successful. 

Through sharing the latest research and promising practices, including education and workforce development strategies for serving these vulnerable populations, AYPF facilitated a conversation about the role of policy to grow, scale, and sustain these strategies. 

Presenter Biographies

Research Panel

Amy Dworsky formattedDr. Amy Dworsky is a Research Fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago whose research has focused on vulnerable youth populations including youth aging out of foster care, homeless youth, foster youth who are pregnant and/or parenting and dually involved youth.  Dr. Dworsky is currently the PI for several projects including an evaluation of a program for dually involved youth and a home visiting program for pregnant and parenting youth in foster care.  She is also working on Voices of Youth Count, a national initiative aimed at increasing knowledge about runaway and homeless youth in communities across the U.S. and on evaluation activities related to the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. Dr. Dworsky has a Ph.D. in social welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her most recent publications focus on the predictors of homelessness among former foster youth and child welfare services involvement among children born to youth in foster care.

Jessica Kendall formattedJessica R. Kendall, JD, has over a decade of experience in law and policy research, writing and analysis, as well as providing capacity building and training assistance to U.S. federal, state, and local clients. She has conducted and directed research, writing and analysis on a broad spectrum of issues relating to vulnerable children and youth, including those in the child welfare, juvenile justice, status offense, education, and workforce systems. Prior to joining ICF, Ms. Kendall was a staff director at the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law. She is also an experienced litigator, having, for many years, represented children of all ages in child abuse and neglect proceedings in D.C. Family Court. She has authored or directed the publication of over 30 policy and practice books, articles and practice guides relating to court-involved children and youth and has spoken at numerous national and state conferences on issues affecting vulnerable children and families. Her publications include: The National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses; Victimization and Trauma Experienced by Children and Youth: Implications for Legal Advocates; and Runaway and Homeless Youth and the Law: Model State Statutes. She is also a member of ICF’s Institutional Review Board. Ms. Kendall has a JD and Certificate of Public Policy from the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University and a BA in psychology and political science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Nina webinar picture formattedNina Salomon is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Council of State Governments Justice Center’s Juvenile Justice Program. She develops policy briefs and technical assistance resources, and was a lead author of the School Discipline Consensus Report and Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth. Nina also provides direct support to states and local jurisdictions implementing school discipline and juvenile justice reforms. Previously, she was a policy advisor at EducationCounsel LLC, a national policy and legal consulting firm where she provided assistance to clients at state education agencies, school districts, and national organizations to advance policy change. As an investment associate at The Chicago Public Education Fund, Nina conducted due diligence on prospective investments and managed projects in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. She also conducted research and wrote policy briefs and funding guides to support charter schools and youth development programs for The Finance Project and supported grantees with the Migrant Head Start Technical Assistance Center. Nina earned a BA in political science from The George Washington University and an MSEd in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania.

Practice Panel

Monique De La Oz photo formattedMonique De La Oz joined Phipps Neighborhoods in October 2011. As the Senior Director of Learning and Career Development, Monique oversees programs that support youth and adults in building the skills and knowledge they need to be ready for work and to gain financial independence. These programs help participants find meaningful and stable employment, giving them the opportunity to earn a living wage, develop their careers, and improve their quality of life. Our programs combine job training, internships, life-skills development, job placements and educational support to the “hardest to place” populations, including the growing number of young people who are out-of-work and out-of-school, many of whom are also court-involved. Monique oversees a plethora of programs including Phipps Neighborhoods’ Career Network: Healthcare, NYC Justice Corps program, Summer Youth Employment Program, Neighborhood Development Areas: Opportunity Youth, Arches: Transformative Mentoring program, Literacy Connection and an array of educational services including New York State High School Equivalency classes, English for Speakers of Other Languages, and Technology: Software Made Simple throughout the Bronx, NY.

Geoff Foster headshot formattedGeoff Foster is the Director of Organizing and Policymaking at UTEC in Lowell, Massachusetts. With over twelve years’ experience in youth work and community organizing and campaign management, Geoff is responsible for government relations and communications for UTEC. Geoff also oversees UTEC’s community organizing programs including a statewide youth-led policy-making coalition called “Teens Leading The Way.” Geoff most recently worked with the Massachusetts State Senate to pass legislation for juvenile expungement and was named Youth Worker of the Year in 2013.


Jodi Rosenbaum Photo formattedJodi Rosenbaum is the Founder and Executive Director of More Than Words. Jodi has more than 20 years of experience working with youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, public schools and youth development field, including with Teach For America.  Jodi has a political science degree from Emory University with a focus on child welfare/juvenile justice policy and a master’s in education in risk and prevention from Harvard and has taken supplemental coursework in Business and Social Enterprise at Harvard and MIT.  She has served as a guest speaker at numerous universities and conferences.  She serves on boards of the Arlington Area and Massachusetts State Department of Children and Families as well as the MA Chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA).  She received the 2009 “Next Generation” award from the Social Enterprise Alliance, the 2010 Advocate of the Year from The Providers’ Council, and the 2010 “Rising Star” Award from Germaine Lawrence.  MTW received the People’s Choice Award at the 2007 SEA Conference and was selected as a Social Innovator in 2009 by the Social Innovation Forum and received the 2012 Innovation award by the Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE) out of more than 250 nominations.  In 2016, MTW was selected as a grantee in REDF’s Social Innovation Fund portfolio.

Melissa Sawyer Photo formattedMelissa Sawyer is a Founder and the Executive Director of the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). Melissa received her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and her M. Ed from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Melissa first came to New Orleans through Teach for America (TFA). She then attended graduate school, after which she returned to New Orleans and spent the next three years working with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), helping to reform the state’s juvenile justice system.  Knowing firsthand the dearth of services and opportunities available to court-involved youth, in 2004, Melissa and two colleagues started YEP, the first juvenile re-entry program in the state of Louisiana.  Over the past twelve years, Melissa has grown YEP to be the largest and most comprehensive organization addressing the needs of underserved, court-involved and out-of-school New Orleans youth.  Melissa sits on a range of prominent boards in the Greater New Orleans region that focus on issues including crime and safety, youth services, governmental oversight and economic development.  Additionally, Melissa has received significant recognition for her accomplishments including being selected as the Zurich Classic Community Impact Awardee (2015); Young Leadership Council Role Model (2014); City Business Woman of the Year Honoree (2012); James G Wright McGill Alumnus Awardee (2009); and one of Gambit’s “40 under 40” New Orleanians (2007).

Policy Panel

Kisha Bird Photo formattedKisha Bird is director of youth policy at CLASP and project director for the Campaign for Youth (CFY), a national coalition chaired by CLASP.  Ms. Bird works to expand access to education, employment, and support services for disconnected and other vulnerable youth.  She is an expert in federal policy for vulnerable youth and helps ensure national legislation (such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) is fully implemented in communities nationwide and has maximum impact for poor and low-income youth and youth of color. Before joining CLASP, Ms. Bird was director for the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network, working to make quality education and afterschool programs accessible to young people.  Prior to that, she was a program officer at the Philadelphia Foundation, where she helped develop and manage the Fund for Children, Youth Advisory Board, and discretionary grants process. She also has direct service experience, working in various community settings with children, youth and families. Ms. Bird holds a Master of Social Service and Master of Law and Social Policy from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.  She also earned a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Spelman College.  Lastly, she is a graduate of the Education Policy Fellowship Program, a joint program of the Institute for Educational Leadership and the Pennsylvania Education Policy Leadership Center.

thaddeus ferber 2 formattedThaddeus Ferber is a campaigner, although not for elected office. Rather, he works in bi-partisan fashion to promote evidence-based policies that help communities achieve collective impact for all youth (especially those disconnected from school and work) and that incorporate youth voices. In partnership with the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and Gap Inc., Thaddeus launched the Opportunity Youth Network, bringing together the nation’s leading corporations, foundations, nonprofits and young people to reconnect young people who are not in school and not employed. He also started the Youth Policy Action Center website to build a constituency that contacts elected officials about youth issues, and managed the Connect for Kids website to inform the public about child and youth issues. He merged these sites along with two others to form SparkAction, an interactive online network that mobilizes action for and by young people. His efforts to promote evidence-based policymaking include leading several learning groups composed of researchers and government officials.

Monique Miles Photo formattedMonique Miles is the Director of the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund and the Deputy Director of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions at the Aspen Institute. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute Monique was the Director, Postsecondary Achievement at the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC). In her role at NYEC, Monique oversaw the Postsecondary Success Initiative, a three-year national pilot that supported ten Community Based Organizations (CBOs) across the country to design and implement postsecondary programming, in partnership with local institutions of higher learning, for students who were disconnected from education. The CBO and college partnerships were designed to reengage disconnected students through bridge programming, including the delivery of developmental education and social supports during the first year of college. In this role Monique also developed and oversaw a strategic plan that included writing policy briefs, convening planning, data collection, and the delivery of technical assistance to programs across the country.

Jennifer Miller Photo formattedJennifer Miller is a social worker, child advocate and founding partner of ChildFocus, a national consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and organizational development, policy advocacy and communications. ChildFocus facilitates the Foster Care Work Group of the Youth Transition Funders Group, advises several national and regional foundations on their grant making strategies and supports national organizations on their federal and state policy agendas. Previously, Jennifer was a strategic consultant with Cornerstone Consulting Group where she led its child welfare policy and practice agenda and worked on a broad range of children’s issues at the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF). Jennifer began her human services career at the American Public Welfare Association (APWA), now the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), where she developed and analyzed federal legislation and regulations on child welfare issues and served as project manager for the National Association of Child Welfare Administrators (NAPCWA). Jennifer has a B.A. in Political Science from St. Lawrence University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives with her family in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Jenny Pokempner Photo formattedJenny Pokempner is the Director of Child Welfare Policy at Juvenile Law Center.  Ms. Pokempner is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and University of Pennsylvania Law School.  At Juvenile Law Center, Jenny focuses on issues relating to teenagers who are transitioning out of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.  She has authored multiple articles and trains attorneys and child welfare professionals on these issues.  Ms. Pokempner is also an adjunct professor at University of Pennsylvania and Temple Law Schools.

Research Panel Resources

Supporting Youth Transitioning out of Foster Care: Issue Brief 1: Education Programs

Supporting Youth Transitioning out of Foster Care: Issue Brief 3: Employment Programs

Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth

Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems

Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Young Offenders one Class at a Time (Video)

Lessons In Reentry From Successful Programs And Participants: The Final Report of the Reentry Employment Opportunities Benchmarking Study

Practice Panel Resources

More Than Words

More Than Words 2016 – The Transformative Power of Work (Video)

Phipps Neighborhoods

UTEC, Inc.

The UTEC Model: Streetwork (Video)

Youth Empowerment Project

Empower a Generation with the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) (Video)

Policy Panel Resources

Realizing Youth Justice: Advancing Education and Employment through Public Policy and Investment

Investing to Improve the Well-Being of Vulnerable Youth and Young Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice

How Will ESSA Support Students in Foster Care?

What ESSA Means for Youth in and Returning from the Juvenile Justice System

Additional Resources

Career Pathways Toolkit: Six Key Elements for Success 

Career Pathways Joint Letter Signed by 12 Federal Agencies

The Forgotten Half: Pathways to Success for America’s Youth and Young Families (1988)

The Forgotten Half Revisited: American Youth and Young Families, 1988-2008

Creating Access to Opportunities for Youth in Transition from Foster Care

Insight: Reconnecting Youth to Opportunity

Final Data Report for the The Crossover Youth Practice Model Aggregate Report

Improving the Effectiveness of Juvenile Justice Programs: A New Perspective on Evidence-Based Practice

Funding Opportunities

Discussion Group Agenda

Discussion Group Brief

Presentation Slideshow

Event Attendee List


The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.