Foundations and nonprofits are generating innovative solutions to improve life outcomes and decrease disparities for Black men and boys. The case studies presented here highlight strategies, successes, and lessons learned.
California Community Foundation: Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men
In May 2012, the California Community Foundation launched a five-year, multimillion-dollar initiative focused on serving Black male youth involved in the juvenile delinquency system. BLOOM (Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men) was designed to redirect Black male youth, ages 14 to 18 and involved with the Los Angeles County Probation system, toward improved educational and employment outcomes.
Strengths and Successes
- At the conclusion of the second year:
- Seven community-based organizations served 449 young men in BLOOM programs;
- More than 72 percent of BLOOM youth indicated they attended school regularly (5 days per week), an increase of more than 17 percent since the first year;
- Eighty-nine percent of BLOOM youth had not been suspended or expelled from school;
- Nearly 8 percent were participating in career development through employment, an internship, an employment training program, or actively attending job interviews; and
- Eighty-eight percent had not violated the terms of their probation supervision.
- Participants attributed greater engagement in school and academic success to their participation in BLOOM. Program services and supports also positively influenced participants’ personal development, allowing them to gain decision-making and problem-coping skills as well as tangible resources (transportation, food, etc.) to assist them in their change process.
- The initiative’s priority on evaluation has enabled not only a year-by-year measurement of outcomes but also the ability to make mid-course adjustments.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
- A mid-year evaluation of the initiative highlighted that the four initial strategy areas (community organizing and policy advocacy, reshaping public perception, career-based mentoring, and strengthening organizational capacity) did not directly align with the goal of improved educational and employment opportunities. Therefore, in its second year, BLOOM’s core strategy was focused on education and employment.
- Focus group data revealed that a number of BLOOM youth are involved with both Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as well as the Probation Department, indicating a need to identify these “cross-over youth” in order to serve them effectively and to consider building a relationship with DCFS.
- Due to their young ages, BLOOM youth are highly unlikely to be hired in employment positions. Therefore, BLOOM plans to refocus efforts on job readiness, preparing youth for interviewing, resume building, work etiquette, and effective behaviors.
- BLOOM youth continue to face gaping, unmet needs beyond education and employment, including housing, transportation, medical assistance with mental health issues, and resources for daily meals. The second-year evaluation recommended bringing this before the BLOOM Advisory Council for discussion as part of the range of services that BLOOM service partners offer.