The Future of Children, a 14-year-old journal sired by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, has gazed into the future – and it’s on the Internet and in the custody of Princeton University. The decision to shift publication of the research journal – which Packard claims is “the leading publication on children’s policy in the United States” – is just one of several changes as the Los Altos, Calif., foundation revamps its national operations.
Packard has gone through a dramatic transformation in recent years, thanks to a drop in assets from $13 billion in 1999 to $4.8 billion in 2003. Richard Schlosberg, a career newspaper manager, is gone from the presidency. Promoted to his post in January was Vice President and Director of Programs Carol Larson, an attorney whose early career included a stint at the Exceptional Children’s Foundation in Culver City, Calif.
Among the ambitious plans that Packard rolled out during the dot-com heyday was an expansion of its youth development grant making from its four-county South Bay home base into a national program. Alas, that plan, along with those for a Washington, D.C., policy office and more were swept away as Packard’s assets plunged. Most of its youth service grant making is again in the four-county region around San Jose.
Packard also decided to spin off The Future of Children (circulation: up to 50,000). Each issue addresses in depth a major topic in the field, with articles written by experts, almost all of them liberal. Recent topics have included “Children, Families and Foster Care” and “Children and Divorce.”
The journal’s very thoroughness, including the repetition that accompanies multi-authored compendiums, has been one of its drawbacks. Topics were selected at least a year-and-a-half before publication. In the swift current of economic and political change, the journal, says one of its contributors, “was not timely.”
The new setup will partially address that. A joint venture between Princeton and Washington, D.C.’s, Brookings Institution, it will be led by one of the nation’s most respected and readable children and youth researchers, Professor Sara McLanahan, director of the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. The Future of Children, steered by McLanahan and several other editors, will be available primarily on the Internet. Always distributed for free, it will continue to provide print copies to an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 entities, mostly libraries that were grandfathered in under the new dissemination strategy. All new readers must find the Future of Children online.
The journal’s visibility on the Internet will be complemented, says McLanahan, by 10,000 research briefs mailed to people whom the journal believes want to learn more about the topic being addressed. Its next issue, the first produced by the new editors, will focus on the children of immigrant families.
Packard’s staff has long suspected that The Future of Children went largely unread, especially by its coveted intended audience: children and youth policy-makers with minds open to learning about best practices. The link to Brookings, and to senior fellow Ron Haskins in particular, is an astute attempt to reach the people who actually run the country: Republicans.
Haskins was on the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee during the 1990s battle royal over welfare reform, and continues to exert tremendous influence in GOP social policy circles. At Brookings he’ll work with Isabel Sawhill, director of the Economic Studies Program and president of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
They will tie each edition into a social policy gathering plus an annual conference. Haskins says there will be “big changes” from the journal’s “very left of center” past. The ex-Marine, who wants to focus on “issues of current interest to policy-makers,” will make an interesting style contrast to the four other editors: Sawhill, McLanahan and two Princeton colleagues, Christina Paxson and Cecilia Rouse. None of them, it’s safe to say, ever spent a night in a foxhole with America’s non-college-bound youth.
All of this journaling won’t come cheap. The publication’s budget is a hefty $5 million over four years. Lois Salisbury, Packard’s director of Children, Families and Communities, who orchestrated the transition, secured $1.7 million from the foundation. Other foundations contributing include Annie E. Casey, Doris Duke and W.K. Kellogg. McLanahan reports $4.1 million on hand and notes, “We need another million.”
Now there’s a timely research topic.
Contact: (609) 258-3000, www.futureofchildren.org.
It has come to this: While funds for face-to-face youth work dry up and wages stagnate, the embryonic National Association of Youth Service Consultants (NAYSC) is thriving. It was founded in 2003 by Sarah Maxwell, a – what else – consultant to such groups as the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the National Youth Employment Coal-ition, where she serves as a member of the PEPNet Working Group, which focuses on mentoring early career youth workers. From her home in Tucson, Ariz., the entrepreneurial Maxwell has signed up “over 50” professionals at $100 per year as members, who use the group’s website (www.naysc.com) to find consulting work in youth services.
Maxwell, slated to receive her Ph.D. this month from Virginia’s George Mason University, writes that these consultants on the prowl “say it is the best $100 they have ever spent!” For $35, youth under 24 years old can sign up, too. But since it’s nice to actually meet a payroll before hanging out that consultant’s shingle, only one – Jasmine Parsons, a 22-year-old youth worker at the Mid-North Center of Girls Inc. in Indianapolis and an advisory council member for the Children’s Museum – has been bold enough to open for business.
The emergence of the group is disquieting and inevitable. With so many successful programs for disadvantaged youth struggling to maintain their level of services, why is there so much money to spare for consultants, when those funds could productively go to direct service? But the fee-for-service, no-benefits employee is a growing phenomenon throughout the economy. Perhaps it’s another example of business trends arriving last in the youth service sphere.
The real money in nonprofit consulting is not in program quality or youth involvement, but in fund raising. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (www.afpnet.org) charges $200 to say hello, plus $395 for a consultant to be listed on its website. With 25,391 dues-paying members, business is brisk.
One satisfied NAYSC customer is April Goff Brown, former director of youth services for Hartford, Conn.. Through NAYSC she responded to a Request for Proposals from the National Youth Court Center in Lexington, Ky., directed by Tracy Godwin Mullins.
Now Brown is doing strategic planning and providing training for the nation’s 1,000 youth court administrators, many of whom don’t know that youth work has its own skill set and is not just an add-on to police work. Previously, Brown says, most of her work was through “personal contacts” in Connecticut. Attempts to find work through corporate-oriented groups, such as the American Society for Training and Development, went for naught.
So if you’re tired of the drudgery of supervising those impossible people urgently in need of rehab (we refer, of course, to your staff, not the identified clients), then sign up. If you’re unsure of how to proceed with the rest of your life in youth work, despair not. NAYSC has a consultant standing by.
Contact: (888) 201-3228, www.naysc.com.