U.S. Coordinates Youth Programs – Again?

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Two years ago, President Bush signed a law passed by Congress to create a council that is supposed to connect federal agencies involved in youth programming, but the council remains penniless and therefore dormant. However, an executive order issued by the president in February will make federal agencies that fund youth services come together, at least online.

The order requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to form an interagency working group to create “a new federal website on youth.” The order does not specify what will be offered on the site, but says the group will focus on “identifying and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of existing federal websites” and “developing additional … tools and resources accessible” through the new site.

What’s curious, advocates say, is that the new website will be a facet of first lady Laura Bush’s Helping America’s Youth Initiative, which already has a resource-oriented website on youth (http://guide.helpingamericasyouth.gov).

“It calls for a website that’s already started,” says Irv Katz, CEO of the National Human Services Assembly.

To create the website, the executive order sets up a working group of leaders from HHS, the departments of Justice, Education, Labor, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Defense, and Housing and Urban Development, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

When it comes to substance, the order is a far cry from the Federal Youth Coordination Act (FYCA), which called for a federal youth development council to address the fact that 12 federal agencies fund intertwining services to youth without much communication among them. The council’s member list is almost identical to that of the new working group.

The act was signed by Bush in October 2006 and authorizes up to $1 million to develop the council’s activities. But the fiscal 2007 and 2008 budgets included no money for it.

Contact: The executive order is at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/02/20080207-15.html; information about the FYCA is at www.youthcoordinationact.org.