Chaired by Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12, the Board of Aldermen’s youth services committee met Wednesday night to formalize its goals for citywide youth programs, following the launch of citywide youth initiatives last spring.
The committee gathered alongside representatives from the nonprofit United Way of Greater New Haven, local public schools, the Citywide Youth Coalition and the mayor’s office to discuss ways in which they can improve the services offered to Elm City youth. Eidelson said that although the process has moved more slowly than she had hoped, these initiatives are her top political priority.
“We are amidst a crisis. We are not doing enough for youth and we should have made these efforts years ago,” Eidelson said.
The Board of Aldermen called for the development of a comprehensive youth agenda for the city last spring and has been actively pushing for an increase in job availability, after-school programs and more nonprofit services designed to assist children and teens. Before any major decisions are made, the committee must take an inventory of all services and programs currently available in the greater New Haven area so the group can focus on developing needed initiatives, Eidelson said.
“I believe we should focus on making specialized services extremely accessible to the youth in our community,” Ward 29 Alderman Brian Wingate said during Wednesday’s workshop. The committee stressed the need for programs that would specifically address mental health counseling, fitness and academic tutoring.
The committee finalized their plan to continue taking and analyzing an inventory of New Haven youth services and also set an “aggressive” — in the words of several organization representatives — completion deadline of February 2013. By then, they hope to have set some permanent strategies and have a full list of services that will be offered on a regular basis.
Several aldermen expressed their concern with that deadline, arguing that quicker action was needed.
Ward 30 Alderman Carlton Staggers and Ward 23 Alderwoman Tyisha Walker said they hope to see results in the next few months.
“These efforts take time and we are planning on taking a thorough look at the programs already offered to the youth in our city,” Eidelson said, responding to those concerns.
Boost!, a program sponsored by United Way, is one new example of the current efforts in the city to promote youth services. The program connects New Haven schools to nonprofit organizations to foster enhanced community involvement among young people.
“We are aiming to only promote programs that are showing real growth and progression,” said Laoise King, vice president of education initiatives for United Way of Greater New Haven. She added that five New Haven schools have already made participation in Boost! possible for their students.
Eidelson said no additional meetings have been scheduled yet for the her committee, but she expects to meet about this topic more frequently in the coming year.
There are currently 236 nonprofit organizations serving youth in the Greater New Haven area, according to a United Way report distributed at the Wednesday meeting.