First year evaluation report cites positive outcomes and recommendations for future programming
Across the nation, the disproportionate representation of Black male youth on probation and in prison is staggering. In Los Angeles County for example, Black youth make up 10% of the youth population, yet they comprise 30% of youth under probation supervision. In an effort to support this population and prevent deeper involvement in the justice system, the California Community Foundation (CCF), a public, charitable organization serving Los Angeles County, launched Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men (BLOOM) in May 2012, a five-year initiative with the goal of redirecting Black male youth involved with the Los Angeles County probation system, toward improved educational and employment opportunities and outcomes.
Here’s how it works: Youth participants must be Black males between the ages of 14-18, a South L.A. resident, and currently or have been previously on probation. Five community partner organizations provide youth with culturally appropriate services of academic support and career exploration in an environment that promotes accountability and personal responsibility. The desired outcomes are high school completion and/or pursuit of post-secondary education, and development of job readiness skills. The BLOOM Initiative aims to help 1,200 youth complete high school and 1,000 youth earn meaningful employment by 2017.
So how did the first year of the program fare? In an evaluation report issued in June 2012, of the 174 youth enrolled (exceeding the projected number of 130 youth), there was a 45% reduction in the number of school suspensions and 93% of youth had not violated their probation terms or did not re-enter the probation system. Considering recidivism rates for probation-involved youth in Los Angeles range from 50 to 70 percent, BLOOM considers these outcomes phenomenal achievements. In addition, the evaluation found that nearly 60% of BLOOM youth were enrolled in, or had completed the 10th, 11th or 12th grade.
Of important to note, BLOOM youth identified mentorship, experiential learning opportunities and exposure, and supportive environments as being most significant to not reoffending.
|Actor and BLOOM spokesperson Larenz Tate with BLOOM youth Anthony Smith/Photo: Malcolm Ali|
Over the five-year initiative, BLOOM and its evaluators will explore the following:
- Are there increased philanthropic, government and business investments specifically geared toward this population in this specific issue area? What lessons can be learned and applied for other funders interested in making similar investments?
- What larger external factors, events or trends have impacted this population in Los Angeles County? What are the implications for the BLOOM initiative and other investors in the field?
- Has public perception of system-involved Black male youth started to shift? Are there increased educational and employment options available for this population?
More evaluation findings from the first year can be found in the executive summary, the full evaluation report and a BLOOM infographic/impact report.
BLOOM is currently in need of community partners willing to donate, volunteer, and provide educational and employment opportunities for the young men. To explore opportunities, please contact BLOOM Initiative Director Robert Lewis at RLewis@calfund.org or call 213-413-4130. Visit the website at http://iambloom.com/.