Not Quite Expired

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Another life-after-death tale is taking wing among the former affiliates of Children’s Express (CE). The 26-year-old youth journalism enterprise’s D.C. headquarters crashed last summer under the weight of high overhead, mission blur, dubious business practices and an anemic earned-income stream totaling just $624 out of its once million-dollar-a-year budget. Left behind are the copyrighted name, the failed national board, the CE archives, the debt of up to $2 million and an under-wraps audit conducted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (assets: $5.2 billion), which got toasted in the press when CE collapsed.

Now four surviving former CE local bureaus have linked together to continue the work of founder Bob Clampitt, who died suddenly in 1996. Urged on by Lynn Sygiel, who steers what is now known as Y-Press in Indianapolis, three other former CE bureaus remain airborne. They are: Children’s PressLine in New York, managed by Katina Paron and sponsored by the Greenwich Village Youth Council; 8-18 Media in Marquette, Mich., directed by Linda Remsburg; and Children’s Express in London, run by Christopher Wyld, which has no corporate ties to the now defunct American organization. Two CE inspired groups in Tokyo are also in operation.

Sygiel, whose program is sponsored by the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, is optimistic that the former CE bureaus, released from the dead hand of the headquarters, will collaborate smoothly. In New York, Paron, aided by Clampitt’s daughter, Lisa Clampitt and other CE alumni, has formed the Robert H. Clampitt Foundation to carry on CE’s work. In a letter to CE’s still existing national board, Clampitt wrote that the foundation will “prevent a complete loss of my father’s legacy.” The New York effort has gotten grant support from the Bay Foundation and Philip Morris. Tobacco money is shunned by most youth-serving agencies, but if you’re already officially dead, how can it hurt?

The W.K. Kellogg audit of the foundation’s woebegotten 1998 $3.9 million grant to CE was completed more than six months ago. Karen Lake, communications director at the Battle Creek, Mich., foundation, declined to disclose the results, stating, “Our policy is not to release the findings to anyone not directly involved with the audit or audit process.”

From New York, CE Board Chairwoman Page Ashley says of the board, “We’re not prepared to comment” on the audit. CE’s bankruptcy attorney, David Lynn, also won’t release the audit without the permission of his client, which was not forthcoming after several months of inquiry. Keep this devotion to nondisclosure in mind the next time you hear some foundation gasbag preach the importance of program accountability.

Kellogg’s Lake does offer up some lessons-learned bromides, such as the need for Kellogg to have an “active role” with grantees, adding, “We like to do site visits once a year.” This assessment of Kellogg’s “active role” in monitoring the grant is vehemently disputed in interviews with a half-dozen former staff and CE advisers. Financial problems aside, the entire premise of the grant, scoffs one national expert on youth-related communications, was wrongheaded from the start.

Teens were expected by CE and Kellogg to produce long documentaries for T.V. and radio, not the few-minute segments that have well-served other youth journalism efforts, such as Berkeley-based Youth Radio or Chicago’s Street Level Youth Media. But Lake voices no regrets for Kellogg’s continuing to “look for ways of giving voice to children. We’re in the risk-taking business.” That assessment of risk does not include the risk of further philanthropic embarrassment by causing the release of the Kellogg audit.

By way of contrast the $1.5 million-per-year Youth Initiatives Program of the Open Society Institute (OSI) funds 31 media projects, with grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 (including a $60,000 grant to Youth Today). OSI Youth Initiatives Director Erlin Ibreck is reluctant to estimate the number of teens learning journalism in such small-scale undertakings as the Vietnamese Youth Development Center in San Francisco, WareHouse Twenty-One in Santa Fe and the Center for Emerging Media in Baltimore. But the total of youth intensity involved certainly numbers many hundreds, a far greater reach than CE ever achieved.

Now OSI has launched Youth Media Reporter, an e-mail newsletter. Working as a consultant on the effort is Cliff Hahn, a former New York CE bureau chief who watched helplessly as the national CE organization collapsed. Hahn is also working on youth media development with the Tacoma Park, Md.-based Forum for Youth Investment.

Contacts: Children’s PressLine (212) 760-2772; Y-Press (317) 334-4125; 8-18 Media (906) 226-7874; Kellogg (616) 968-1611,; Youth Media Reporter (212) 548-0346,

No youth program took a bigger whack in President Bush’s FY ’03 budget than those aimed at out-of-school and unemployed youth. The proposed spending for the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Youth Opportunities Grants (YOG) program, says the White House, should drop from $225 million to $ 44.5 million, ending the program’s expansion beyond the 36 sites already funded.

YOG helps 43,400 young people – a fraction of the nation’s 2.4 million youth without either jobs or high school diplomas.

Another youth employment program drawing scrutiny from the Bush administration is YouthBuild, a job and social skills building effort administered by HUD. The effort is aimed at poor and out of school 16- to-24-year-olds. At a December Senate hearing, HUD Secretary Martinez cited YouthBuild as an example of a program that has been found wanting by Martinez’s “outcome-based management principles” that now hold sway over HUD’s proposed $30.2 billion budget for FY ’03. Testified Martinez: “I question the results that are being achieved [by YouthBuild], compared to the amount of money that is being spent. We’re spending about $65 million annually to help about 3,300 kids.”

At the time of his Senate testimony, Martinez had never visited a YouthBuild site. Actually, YouthBuild’s 165 programs (some not funded by HUD) enroll 5,280 young people. That comes out to $19,700 per year per enrollee – a figure, says Dorothy Stoneman, president of the Somerville, Mass.-based YouthBuild USA, that is “way less than Job Corps or college.” Of that amount, HUD contributes about $11,400 per participant to the 117 sites it supports. Another 51 YouthBuild sites receive no HUD funding. By way of comparison, the $1.25 billion DOL-administered Job Corps program in 1998 had 60,000 participants annually, for a cost of $20,800 per slot. The president, using the more current figure of 72,000 youth served by Job Corps, announced in a radio address a modest Job Corps budget increase for FY ’03 of $73 million.

No one contests that the YouthBuild approach is not the most cost-effective way to deliver low-cost housing to market. But participants, most from key groups that President Bush wants to help (such as ex-offenders, children of prisoners, women leaving welfare, and young fathers not supporting their children financially or emotionally) are hardly the type of employees sought after by those obsessed with reducing quality youth guidance and training programs to “outcome-based management principles.”

Using that standard certainly would have ruled out launching another federally supported youth program of the early1960s, Operation Pedro Pan. Over 14 years the program brought about 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children to the United States. Once here, the children received years of social services, health care and education, all at taxpayer expense. One of those benefiting, beginning in 1962, was teenager Martinez. The now-HUD secretary spent four years in foster homes before he was reunited with his family.

Martinez may have missed a recently released evaluation of YouthBuild USA’s $5.5 million DOL Welfare-to-Work grant that showed impressive results. Operating in 10 sites – such as YouthBuild St. Louis AmeriCorps and YouthBuild Santa Rosa – its graduates (90 percent of them parents) landed jobs after a year in YouthBuild paying $7.91 an hour, while other DOL funded Welfare-to-Work program trainees earned $6.81 an hour.

The proselytizing Stoneman is not one to leave a public official in the dark when it comes to the virtues of YouthBuild. In January Stoneman met with Secretary Martinez and his chief of staff, Rob Woodson. Martinez, reports Stoneman, declared his comments to the Senate as “not a warning shot off [YouthBuild’s] bow.” Stoneman was “very encouraged by the meeting,” especially when Martinez volunteered that without the help he received from others after arriving from Cuba he would not have been successful in his career.

When HUD’s budget was released in early February, Stoneman was relieved that YouthBuild was recommended for level funding at $65 million, up from the $60 million HUD request of last year.

A few weeks after Stoneman’s HUD meeting, Martinez attended a Jacksonville, Fla., celebration for a steady YouthBuild national partner, Habitat for Humanity, marking the completion of 200 homes last year for the city’s poor. After the ceremony Martinez greeted a crew from the City of Jacksonville Community Services YouthBuild. The program just received a three-year renewal grant of $500,000 that, says program manager Pat Gaughan, will cover about half of the program’s total cost. Most of the 15 crew slots are filled by young inmates from the Montgomery Correctional Center, another social benefit not captured by narrow-casting HUD’s “outcome-based management principals” onto a dynamic program like YouthBuild.

Over at the DOL, supporters of youth job training have not been so fortunate. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is looking like the Bush administration equivalent of Sleeping Sam Pierce, the Reagan-era HUD secretary who snoozed through the department’s fleecing by HUD political appointees and GOP campaign contributors. Chao has yet to show much interest in DOL’s youth programs, including YOG, except those linked to the Job Corps or DOL’s faith-based activities.

Contact: YouthBuild HUD (202) 708-2290, YouthBuild USA (617) 623-9900.