Los Angeles County took a major leap forward this week and launched a new Department of Youth Development (DYD).
By News Desk
The County’s new Department of Youth Development intends to transform the way County systems treat youth, and will invest in their development, well-being and safety.
“Youth justice is not simply about making sure we provide equitable alternatives to arrest and system involvement,” said Vincent Holmes, the Department of Youth Development’s newly named Interim Director. “It also means ensuring that every young person in LA County has access to the youth development and care-first opportunities they deserve.”
Fewer than 450 youth are now in County juvenile halls and camps, but thousands of children are arrested or cited in LA County annually. Evidence shows that their lives are disrupted by even first-time contact with the justice system, and that negative outcomes increase exponentially with deeper system involvement.
Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, sees the Department of Youth Development’s mission as a necessary step towards improving community safety and equity in LA County.
Black youth and other youth of color are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of justice system contact at every stage.
Roughly 80% of arrests or citations of minors are for alleged “status offenses,” like violating curfew, or non-serious, non-violent misdemeanors, or for felonies that are legally eligible for referral to community-based diversion and development services. The Department of Youth Development will centralize the County’s response to this miscarriage of justice, guided by research on equity and adolescent development.
Vincent Holmes, the Department of Youth Development’s newly named Interim Director, brings over 32 years of public sector experience with the County and the Los Angeles Superior Court. He has extensive experience in building innovative programs serving justice-involved populations, through the:
- ATI Incubation Academy,
- Measure J/Care First Community Investment (CFCI),
- The Gang Violence Reduction Project.
- My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, among others.
He has built relationships with justice system partners and is well respected by local leaders, community, and youth.
As it launches, the Department of Youth Development also has the advantage of leveraging work by the County’s Youth Justice Reimagined initiative. Holmes is excited to continue to work alongside youth advocates with lived experience who helped inspire the Board’s bold vision of youth justice. among others.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the work is innovative, but well-grounded in research.
Offering early and equitable access to resources that assist young people as they grow and develop can change the trajectory of their lives. Expanding youth diversion and development programs to continue to equitably reduce youth justice system involvement, building additional capacity for youth centers and youth development, and supporting credible messengers in schools and other youth-serving systems are just some of the key elements of the Department of Youth Development’s initial vision.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger emphasized the importance of other County departments’ support of this work.
This historic moment is possible thanks to the incredible vision and tireless efforts of a wide range of partners, including youth leaders like Jacob Jackson.
“It is important to center youth who are impacted through every portion of the process, making young people’s health and wellness the department’s core values,” Jackson said. “Don’t be scared of change. The Department of Youth Development should be the home and support that some folks currently lack, whether they’re homeless, in foster care, incarcerated or system impacted.”
Anyone interested in following the Department of Youth Development’s life-changing work can sign up for updates at this link.
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