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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
ing, and private-sector funding have also increased the resources targeted toward community programs for youth. In addition, a significant number of local intermediary organizations were formed to assist in reducing the barriers faced by these programs. National, state, and local policy, practice, and research organizations are involved in supporting programs in their efforts to promote adolescent development.
Despite all of this good news, barriers still exist to improving and increasing opportunities for all young people to benefit from community programs. Neither the new funding nor the presence of new intermediaries and other institutional supports are occurring on a scale that meets existing diverse needs of the young people, their families, and their communities. Youth-serving organizations, especially independent, local, multipurpose ones, often have to cobble together funding from as many as 40 or more sources.
The challenge goes beyond a stable supply of adequate funding. Stable institutional mechanisms in local areas are needed to manage these activities. A stable institutional framework includes three levels: the front-line organizations and personnel who deliver services and interact directly with young people, including the volunteers who are vital to the effort; the local support mechanisms for the front-line effort—those who manage the funding and the education and training and the other needed supports and those who do the technical assistance and the research and evaluation; and finally, the counterparts of those support mechanisms at state and national levels. To have a genuine youth development field, all are necessary.
Many argue that the increased funding support—particularly the 21st Century Learning Centers Program—is skewed toward public schools and does not adequately support the involvement of community-based organizations. In addition, the CCLP emphasis is tilted toward academic activities and does not pay as much attention to other developmental needs. Finally, there is concern that this funding is primarily directed at younger elementary and middle or junior high school children. Some believe this program should be redesigned with a more explicit youth development strategy. Others argue for increased flexibility to allow programs to be administered through community-based organizations, as well as schools. Some also argue for supporting programs and organizations already in place rather than redesigning the program from scratch.
Policy and instrumental support for these programs has improved considerably during the last couple of decades. However, there is still no