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Additional Issues Affecting Youth Service Delivery in New York City

Youth Workforce: From after-school, evening, weekend, or summer programs, based schools or community-sites to specialized programs for at-risk youth, New York City's nonprofits provide an important system of care for adolescents and youth during the hours they are not in school or with their families. The youth services network and the entire human services sector is also an important part of the City's economy, hiring almost entirely city residents. A recent survey (2000) of just a fraction of the City's human service providers indicates that the nonprofit sector employs one of every nine employees in New York City.

Solid and effective youth programs require youth workers with youth development skills and training including conflict-resolution, outreach, positive role modeling, knowledge of age-appropriate activities, recreation planning, and life skills training — to name a few. Recreation and activity specialization, awareness of and how to refer adolescents to other community-based services, and knowledge and application of safety requirements are also critical core components of the job.

However, while the demand for trained, experienced youth workers grows, compensation packages (including both salary and benefits) remain extremely low, resulting in high staff turnover, and more importantly, in negative consequences for youth and adolescents who depend on a stable workforce for high-quality services. High staff turnover is directly attributable to the lack of competitive wages and benefits and professional development opportunities for youth workers. Given the nature of adolescent and youth programs (typically providing programs before- or after-school) frontline positions are primarily part-time and few providers are able to offer competitive salaries and benefits, which makes staffing a constant challenge.

For more information, contact the Human Services Council (www.humanservicescouncil.org)

Procurement Issues: In recent years, a variety of complications and irregularities pertaining to the City's procurement systems have caused considerable difficulty for hundreds of human service organizations that contract with the City to provide a vast range of services to New Yorkers in need.

Foremost among these is the widespread delays in registering contracts, resulting in considerable administrative, programmatic and fiscal unrest at contracted organizations. Perhaps most troubling, while awaiting registration and payment many contractors have been compelled to discontinue services or identify alternative sources of funding with which to maintain services. Naturally, whenever possible contractors elect to maintain services, and to do so they too often access credit from banks upon which they are of course required to pay interest — expenses the City does not reimburse.

Aside from delays in registration and payment, human service contractors have struggled with a number of additional related difficulties including: the irrelevance of many aspects of Vendex questionnaires; poor communication with City officials; the fact that the City's procurement systems have yet to make full use of modern technology; the unevenness of a number of policies relating to performance-based contracting; lack of a publicly accessible system that tracks and provides information regarding contracts; and the fact that large numbers of contracts of modest financial value that are awarded at the discretion of City Council Members and Borough Presidents are counter-intuitively required to undergo the full contracting process.