Temple Times Online Edition
    JULY 14, 2005
NewsEventsArchivesPhotosStaffLinksTemple Home

Steinberg to Congress: Why we should pass the Federal Youth Coordination Act

Better communication among government agencies would help youth get the services they need

      Distinguished University Professor of Psychology Laurence Steinberg on Tuesday urged Congressional leaders to pass legislation that would lead to better coordination of federal services for young people and teens.

      Testifying before the Subcommittee on Select Education, which is part of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, Steinberg urged lawmakers to support passage of the Federal Youth Coordination Act.

"America needs an overarching youth policy in order to promote positive development and prevent problematic functioning during this critical period of life," Steinberg said of today's adolescents.

      The bipartisan legislation would establish a Federal Youth Development Council "to improve communication among federal agencies serving youth, assess their needs, set goals for helping them, and expand effective programs," according to the Web site of the National Collaboration for Youth.

            Additionally, the program would provide state grants to improve the coordination of youth programs.

            Such coordination is sorely needed, Steinberg, director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, told lawmakers. He said his juvenile justice research shows that young people with multiple needs are not well-served currently because government agencies are not working together efficiently or effectively.

            A disproportionate number of offenders, Steinberg said, require special education, suffer from substance abuse or dependency or have mental illnesses, such as depression, bi-polar illness or post-traumatic anxiety disorder.


            "These young people, whom we classify as juvenile offenders, could just as easily be classified as special education students, victims of child abuse, alcoholics or youngsters with affective disorder," Steinberg said.

            "Yet, because of artificial categorization based on funding streams and programs, we classify these adolescents as juvenile offenders, and not in some other, equally valid way. And because the juvenile justice, education, mental health and child welfare systems do not always coordinate their efforts, adolescents in the justice system often do not receive the full range of services that they need.

            "To effectively help adolescents overcome challenges, we need the programs and services available to them to be coordinated holistically, not categorically."

        Also this summer, Steinberg will give an invited address before the annual convention of the National Urban League in Washington, D.C. His address will outline factors outside of school that affect the achievement of African-American youth.

Barbara Baals