Supporting Disconnected Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Experiences from the Field
U.S. Department of Labor
Chief Evaluation Office
COVID-19 has caused hiring freezes and business and institutional closures, which affected disconnected youth’s ability to continue working with service providers to meet employment and education goals and basic needs. In response, and in order to continue supporting youth, providers have adapted their services. To assess these adaptations, Mathematica and its subcontractor, Social Policy Research Associates, conducted a supplemental study as part of the National Evaluation of the Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth. This supplemental study specifically examined how providers continued supporting disconnected youth during the pandemic, with research questions focused on (1) how providers adapted their supports, with help from government agencies; (2) respondents’ reported challenges and concerns associated with serving youth during the pandemic; and (3) respondents’ perceived lessons learned and promising strategies for adapting services. Data sources included semi-structured interviews with five staff from youth-serving providers and three staff from state and local government agencies. The study found that:
- Providers reported adapting recruitment, intake, and case management to continue meeting youth’s needs.
- Despite challenges associated with service disruptions and “the digital divide,” providers did not perceive that the pandemic inhibited youth engagement.
- Interview participants perceived relationship building, access to technology, flexibility to meet staff and youth’s diverse needs, data monitoring, and creativity as critical inputs for virtual service delivery.