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The Least of These: Amachi and the Children of Prisoners

July 31, 2012

There is no rule book for creating, implementing and sustaining a successful social intervention. Hundreds, if not thousands, of now-defunct social programs attest to this reality. These programs may have succeeded in identifying a social need, a cogent and sometimes creative way of meeting that need, and some capacity (both financial and operational) to launch the effort.These are necessary elements -- but not sufficient ones. The social policy field does not consistently recognize or reward good ideas. Success is often as much a product of unusual circumstances -- confluence of the right time, the right idea and the right people -- as it is a result of inherent program quality and effectiveness.The Amachi program is a prime illustration of the unpredictable nature of success in the social policy arena. Its success resulted from a nearly unique blend of factors -- Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), which had been studying the issue of relationships as a way of helping young people for almost two decades; the Pew Charitable Trusts' interest in the potential of faith-based organizations to meet social needs; the well-known academic John DiIulio, who was looking for practical ways to put Pew's interest into action; a source of stabilizing program knowledge (Big Brothers Big Sisters of America); and finally a leader, W. Wilson Goode, Sr., whose combination of personal contacts, managerial knowledge and experience, and dedication to the idea of Amachi was decisive in making the program a success locally, and later nationally.Politics also played a role: the election of a president (in 2000) interested in faith-based initiatives; DiIulio's role in steering the president's attention to Amachi during its early days in Philadelphia; and the way that attention led to a sustained national focus (with federal program funding) on the target group Amachi was designed to serve: children of prisoners. The interplay of these factors -- along with good luck and good timing -- is in many ways the core of the Amachi story, which is detailed in the pages that follow.

Promoting Partnerships for Student Success: Lessons from the SSPIRE Initiative

July 1, 2009

The Student Support Partnership Integrating Resources and Education (SSPIRE) initiative aimed to increase the success of young, low-income, and academically underprepared California community college students by helping colleges strengthen their support services and better integrate these services with academic instruction. This report describes what the nine participating community colleges did to meet the goals of SSPIRE and offers lessons for other institutions drawn from MDRC's research on the initiative.

AmeriCorps in the Field: Implementation of the National and Community Service Trust Act in Nine Study States

July 6, 2007

This report presents the results of P/PVs 30-month study of the implementation of AmeriCorps, the signature program of the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. In particular, it documents the federal-state relationship, the role that states played, and the individual challenges and successes of various sites as they developed their programs. The report concludes that AmeriCorps was successful in rapidly implementing high-quality programs while attracting a diverse group of participants. In addition, it frames some broader recommendations for the future of national service.

Launching AmeriCorps: First-Year Implementation of the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993

July 6, 2007

The National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 spurred the creation and expansion of national service activities throughout the US, relying on the states to determine how best to implement programs locally. P/PV undertook a long-term study to document this process, paying particular attention to the nature and progress of the federal-state relationship that the Act employed to get programs up and running quickly throughout the country. This report chronicles the first year of implementation, drawing on extensive interviews with key staff members of the Corporation for National Service, state commission heads and board members, and on observations of implementation activities in nine of the participating states. A close review of developments at both the policy and implementation levels reflects the challenges and opportunities presented by the joint federal-state approach, as well as the extent to which states were able to get programs up and running quickly to satisfy this ambitious legislative mandate.

Building from the Ground Up: Creating Effective Programs to Mentor Children of Prisoners (The Amachi Model)

July 30, 2005

Drawing from P/PVs five years of hands-on experience designing and implementing Amachi programs around the country, Building From The Ground Up describes best practices for planning, developing and managing a mentoring-children-of-prisoners program. This guidebook is essential for learning the professional procedures, standards and administrative tools required to have an effective program.

Enriching Summer Work: An Evaluation of the Summer Career Exploration Program

August 23, 2004

To determine the impact of the Summer Career Exploration Program (SCEP), a privately funded summer jobs program for low-income teens, P/PV examined the lives of over 1700 applicants. These youth were randomly assigned to participate or to not participate in SCEP in the summer of 1999, and their outcomes were compared at four and twelve months after program application. Researchers found that implementation was strong, but program impacts were less impressive. While SCEPs participants got summer jobs at a substantially higher rate (92%) than the control group (62%), the programs ability to translate this large and immediate summer employment impact into intermediate gains (in terms of future plans, college enrollment, work success, sense of self-efficacy or reduced criminal activity) proved to be negligible. Although impacts were short lived, the report concludes that SCEP and similar programs have an important place in the larger mosaic of supports, programs and opportunities for young people.

Enriching Summer Work: An Evaluation of the Summer Career Exploration Program (Executive Summary)

August 23, 2004

This document summarizes the key findings of the Summer Career Exploration Program evaluation.

Guides for the Journey: Supporting High-Risk Youth with Paid Mentors and Counselors

June 16, 2004

Strategies to concentrate resources on high-risk youth have long been a goal in the youth field, but the practical means of doing so frequently have eluded practitioners. High-risk youth often are highly transient, and they may need sustained, costly services to address their needs effectively. Guides for the Journey explores a concrete, flexible approach to the problem: the use of paid counselors who stay with young people for extended periods of time. The report profiles three programs now using this strategy and discusses how public funding to support wider use of paid mentors and counselors may be mobilized.

Taking Stock: A Review of U.S. Youth Employment Policy and Prospects

April 30, 2003

This paper reviews which young adults are most likely to have major problems connecting with the labor force and proposes a series of programs and policies to respond to this population's needs. Specifically, the author asks: How do we define the youth employment problem? What is the history of policy efforts responding to the problem, and how successful have these efforts been? What do history and experience suggest as the most appropriate and feasible policies to pursue?