2012-10-12 / Top Stories

Bloomberg Lauds‘Close To Home’Program

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Ronald E. Richter, Department of Probation Commissioner Vincent N. Schiraldi and Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt recently visited one of the five new sites serving youth in “Close to Home,” a signature component of the Young Men’s Initiative and a sweeping reform of the juvenile system that transfers responsibility for the majority of New York City juvenile offenders to the City, so that the young people can be rehabilitated, educated, supervised and, when necessary, confined near their families and in their communities.

Previously, youthful offenders were detained under a failed justice system that sent them upstate without family or community support, resulting in an 81 percent recidivism rate and a future of rotating in and out of jail. Under Close to Home, these youth receive individualized educational services, and unlike the upstate model, all their academic credits will for the first time count towards their high school graduation. The Mayor also released the Young Men’s Initiative first annual report, which details the progress of the initiative, including the adoption and implementation of Close to Home legislation; the selection of schools to participate in the Expanded Success Initiative; the launch of the nation’s first social impact bond; and a city-wide effort to lift the barriers to employment by eliminating questions about criminal record on ini- tial employment application forms and connect young men with identification. The Mayor made the announcement at the Passages Academy in Brooklyn, a Close to Home site, where he also was joined by Deputy Schools Chancellor Dorita Gibson and Stephen Wilder, Principal of Passages Academy.

We created the Young Men’s Initiative because we were committed to finding new ways for young black and Latino men to succeed in their lives – and we’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made just a year later,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “From implementing an aggressive agenda designed to effectively intervene at the most critical moments to bringing black and Latino young men together with adult mentors, we are making a difference in young people’s lives. We will continue to take aggressive steps to ensure that all New Yorkers are able to fully participate in the promise our city holds.”

The challenge for this generation is to bring our young black and Latino men back into our families, communities and workplaces,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “The Young Men’s Initiative is designed specifically to help level the playing field for the too many young men who have fallen behind their peers – and the results from our first year show that we have begun to do exactly that.”

The Young Men’s Initiative carries out our collective responsibility, as City agencies and New Yorkers, to ensure that the more than 300,000 boys of color attending New York City Public schools lead enriching and productive lives as adults,” said Schools Chancellor Walcott. “As part of YMI, our schools have made great strides leveling the playing field for our young men of color. That includes launching the Expanded Success Initiative and building on our success graduating more young black and Latino men ready to take on the challenges of college and compete in the workplace.”

Until now, too many of our city’s young black and Latino men were being sent upstate and getting trapped in a failed criminal justice system with a sky-high recidivism rate,” said Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt. “The beginning of Close to Home means that our juvenile offenders will be now be rehabilitated in their own community where they can achieve educational credits, maintain ties with their family and transition back to the community – all critical supports in helping young people get their lives back on track.”

Together with all the very impressive members of our YMI advisory board, we will partner to get this tough job done, and support the city in its efforts to tackle all the barriers to success confronting our young men,” said Elba Montalvo, Advisory Board Co-Chair and Executive Director of the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families.

When we launched the Young Men’s Initiative we were optimistic that our research had led us to a collection of best practices that would reduce disparities crippling young black and Latino men’s opportunities for success,” said Richard Buery, Advisory Board Co-Chair and President of the Children’s Aid Society. “One year later it is gratifying to see the first set of results – including significant decreases in suspensions at our pilot schools and the passage and implementation of Close to Home,– bear out our optimism. This Initiative, in its depth and breadth, not only affords the young men of our City unprecedented opportunity but shows them, in the most meaningful way, that they matter to us.”

Close to Home is committed to ensuring that young people who are in placement will receive NYC credits toward graduation and will leave placement further ahead in school than when they arrived,” said ACS Commissioner Richter. “There is a continuum of services including family engagement and education that we believe will allow young people to more successfully re-enter the community.”

As part of the ‘Close to Home initiative, we are working hard to expand the number and scope of alternative-to-placement programs here in New York City,” said Probation Commissioner Schiraldi. “For many young people, intensive mentoring and education programs that allow them to continue living with their family are far more effective than placement. We are also taking steps to ensure that the recommendations we make to the Court more accurately reflect a young person’s risk level and needs.”

“As Chair of the City Council Committee on Juvenile Justice, one of my main concerns has been reduc- ing recidivism among incarcerated youth,” said Councilwoman Sara M. González. “By placing the emphasis on rehabilitation and not detention, our city is taking a huge step in the right direction. I am proud to have partnered with the Administration on the Close to Home initiative and will continue to ensure it meets the needs of our at-risk youth.”

Lunched by the Mayor in August 2011, the Young Men’s Initiative is the nation’s most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of black and Latino young men and the culmination of 18 months of research on the causes of those disparities and their potential remedies. Through broad policy changes and agency reforms, a public-private partnership is investing $43 million annually in programs that connect young men to education, employment, and mentoring opportunities; improve their health; and reduce their involvement with the criminal justice system.

Over the past year, the Young Men’s Initiative has launched new programs, expanded existing services, and championed policy changes designed to help young black and Latino men achieve life outcomes on par with their peers. With the support of an Advisory Board representing a cross-section of the most experienced leaders from the nonprofit, public, philanthropic and private sectors, the initiative focuses on employment, health, justice and education and includes an implementation and evaluation structure that focuses on outcomes and accountability, including monthly management meetings with the Mayor.

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