Harnessing the Potential of Young Adults (Boston, MA & East Providence, RI)

Harnessing the Potential of Young Adults (Boston, MA & East Providence, RI)
Boston, MA & East Providence, RI

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Harnessing the Potential of Young Adults: How Programs Are Using Youth Voice, Education, and Workforce Development to Transform Systems

Nationally, there are 4.6 million young adults between the ages of 16-24 that are not in school or working. These outcomes are more troubling for young adults “aging out” of foster care and/or involved in the juvenile justice systems due to additional barriers. For example, incarcerated youth can face systemic discrimination, as many employers and workforce development programs can perceive them as less reliable and workforce ready due to their past convictions. For young adults aging out of foster care, their unemployment rates can be as high as 69% compared to only about 10% of young adults ages 16 to 24 who are not in foster care due to their lack of stable housing and other critical supports. Despite these numbers, three nationally recognized programs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have found a way to successfully combine youth voice, education, and employment to create a new narrative for the young people they serve. The programs offer social enterprises, job training, case management, mentoring, and share a deep commitment to harnessing the potential of young adults.

The Study Tour will consist of multiple policy discussions, site visits, testimonies from young adults, and presentations from labor/workforce, child welfare, and juvenile justice leaders about the steps they are taking to coordinate systems and streamline services to achieve greater outcomes for youth. Additionally, we will discuss relevant federal legislation and programs that are supporting this work.

Our goals include:

  • Highlighting three effective programs that are using education and workforce development as a key strategy for achieving success with young adults.
  • Elevating youth voice and hearing directly from young adults about how their involvement in workforce and education programs have changed their trajectory.
  • Identifying and including state government departments to highlight the importance of government systems partnering with programs to increase support for youth.
  • Discussing how federal/state policies can be improved to better serve young adults involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.


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.