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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
Support for this project was provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Medical Trusts of the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Research Council Fund.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Losing generations : adolescents in high-risk settings :panel on high -risk youth / Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-309-04828-1; ISBN 0-309-05234-3, pbk.
1. Socially handicapped youth—United States. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.
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Copyright 1993 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Cover: Photograph by Eric Futran, copyright 1993.
PANEL ON HIGH-RISK YOUTH
JOEL F. HANDLER (Chair),
School of Law, University of California, Los Angeles, California
GORDON L. BERLIN,
Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation., New York, New York
THOMAS D. COOK,
Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwestern University
ALONZO A. CRIM,
Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia
SANFORD M. DORNBUSCH,
Center for the Study of Families, Children, and Youth, Stanford University
JOY G. DRYFOOS,
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
ROBERTO M. FERNANDEZ,
Department of Sociology, Northwestern University
RICHARD B. FREEMAN,
Center for Economic Performance, London School of Economics
School of Law, University of Toronto
CHARLES E. IRWIN, JR.,
School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
University of Colorado, Boulder
Camille Cosby Center, Judge Baker Children's Center, Boston, Massachusetts
Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, Jackson, Mississippi
School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University
Department of Human Services Studies, Cornell University
R. Shepherd Zeldin, Project Director (through September 1992)
Susanne Stoiber, Director,
Division on Social and Economic Studies
Barbara Briston, Senior Project Assistant
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The title of this report is Losing Generations. In an important sense, it is another in a long list of studies, books, and reports that have said the same thing—many of our nation's children and youth are in trouble. The fact that this report is another in this long line should increase everyone's concern. We believe that the problems of America's young people are getting significantly worse, not better. This is a human tragedy, and it is a national tragedy that will have a serious impact on all of us.
This report is different, though, in that by focusing attention on the settings or environments in which young people and their families are living, it fixes responsibility where we think it belongs—on ourselves. The vast majority of those who write and read these reports were born in healthy, nurturing families who loved us and were able to guide us on our way. We grew up in safe, supporting neighborhoods, went to decent schools, were healed when we got sick, and, in time, secured rewarding employment. Some of us stumbled along the way, but we had second and third chances. Today, not only are such nurturing, supporting environments denied to large numbers of children and youth, but also, in many instances, the environments in which they live have actually increased the dangers to them. Many young people survive and lead productive, contributing lives, but large numbers of others do not; the odds against them are simply too great. This is not fair. High-risk settings do not just happen: they are the result
of policies and choices that cumulatively determine whether families will have adequate incomes, whether neighborhoods will be safe or dangerous, whether schools will be capable of teaching, whether health care will be available—in short, whether young people will be helped or hindered while growing up. That many of the results described in this report may be unintended should not deter us from examining the policies that led to them and considering how they might be changed. It is our hope that the analysis contained in this report will assist the process of reappraisal.
Putting together the story of this report was a difficult, sometimes frustrating, but, in the end, exciting experience. The panel has incurred more than the usual number of debts, and on its behalf I would like to express our appreciation to those who helped us. Shep Zeldin directed the study from its beginning until September 1992. He had the difficult task of organizing the project, attending to the myriad details of budgets, meetings, and facilities, and, at the same time, listening to the multiple voices of an interdisciplinary collection of academics and practitioners. In addition to his intellectual contributions, Shep organized the work, helped put together an excellent group of consultants, arranged for a stimulating site visit and workshop at The Door, a New York City youth services center, and, on top of all of this, produced a first draft. Shep worked hard and well, and we thank him.
The difficult task of completing the project, putting the final pieces together, drafting and redrafting the report, and steering it through the review process was taken up by Susanne Stoiber. Susanne worked tirelessly, efficiently, and above all, brilliantly. She is a master at capturing ideas coherently and with passion, and, at the same time, forging a Conesus. All of us are in her debt.
Many others contributed. Eugenia Grohman was our excellent editor and also provided valuable advice throughout the project. Elaine McGarraugh was the manager of the manuscript, with the thankless task of keeping track of hundreds of changes and verifying information and references. Barbara Briston provided valuable administrative support. Michele White, administrator of The Door, arranged a warm, informative meeting for the panel, and we appreciate her hospitality. Karen Pittman, vice president of the Academy for Education Development, Washington, D.C., and Howard Spivak, Harvard University, moderated our workshop with intelligence and skill. All of these people made our work more efficient and informed and helped us produce a better product. They have our heartfelt appreciation and thanks.
The study was sponsored by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We thank our sponsors for their patient support.
Finally, I would like to thank the panel members. This was a long, sometimes bumpy road, but the members stayed together to the end. We shared excellent discussions, worked through difficult ideas, and, I think, made good decisions. The members did this because they believed in the importance of the issues. It was a pleasure to work with such a fine group of people.
Joel F. Handler
Chair, Panel on High-Risk Youth