Courtesy of Youth Stat

A New Haven teen was “failing classes, disengaged with classes and just not trying,” recounted Youth Stat Program Manager Shaleah Williams. She and other Youth Stat members could not initially understand the root of the problem: “What are his test scores? Can he do the work? What’s going on at home? Is he traumatized?”

A nurse at the Youth Stat meeting piped in to suggest that the student may need eyeglasses. Then, Youth Stat paired him with a street outreach worker, who took the student to LensCrafters to be fitted for glasses. Two months later, the student was more engaged in class and saw a rise in his grades.

“Sometimes, it’s the little things that can help turn a kid around,” said Williams.

Since 2014, Youth Stat has worked on cases like these, pairing youth with necessary services — including tutoring, mental health treatment, afterschool programs and employment matching. Youth Stat is a New Haven data-driven intervention program that aims to reduce justice involvement, as well as improve wellness outcomes of students. Shaleah Williams, Youth Stat and Veoci program manager, called the program a “holistic, wraparound” intervention program — which has served around 1,400 New Haven youth since its inception. There are currently around 800 active students in the Youth Stat program.

“Youth Stat is necessary because it is a collaborative process, which allows the City to both identify disengaged youth and offer interventions and wraparound services to those youth,” said New Haven Director of Youth Services Jason Bartlett.

Participants must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the program. According to the program’s website, the criteria include meeting a high risk for school disengagement or criminal justice involvement, poor academic performance, multiple suspensions or expulsions, chronic absences and exposure to violence. Williams said that a student must meet two of these criteria to participate.

“If we find that the kid isn’t going to school because they don’t have clothes, we might buy them some khakis from Walmart and detergent and get them a mentor to teach them to clean their clothes and be more self-confident,” said Williams.

Youth Stat began after Mayor Toni Harp attended a memorial service for a New Haven teenager who was killed in December 2013. Between that day and March 2014, Elm City saw another four youth homicides. According to Bartlett, Harp hosted the city’s high school principals in 2014 in her office and asked them what could change.

One of the decisions was the initiation of a door-to-door canvass of youth who may be victims or perpetrators of violence. Following canvassing, the Board of Education conducted “data dive” into all of its students. Bartlett said that the City developed metrics of chronic absenteeism, expulsions, juvenile justice system exposure and other factors. These measures assisted the City in identifying over 500 at-risk students. Following the success of this canvass of homes and families, Bartlett led a team that compiled information from citywide meetings with the Mayor, officials of the New Haven Police Department, New Haven Public Schools and community groups to create what is now known as Youth Stat in April 2014.

“Youth Stat isn’t just the principal, a specific nonprofit, or the truancy officer, it’s everyone. When we say Youth Stat did something, it means that folks came together and collaborated on behalf of the youth. It’s a collective, not just one person,” said Williams.

Youth Stat’s software assigns each child a “room” — a personalized page that looks like a Facebook profile, but includes all the information about the student provided by Youth Stat committee members. The profile includes information boxes: student dynamics, including student characteristics, interests/skills/strengths, major physical/mental trauma/crisis; mental health, including special education, mental health condition and medication; social life, including gang affiliations, substance abuse, violence, social circles and social network names.

According to Williams, the software that runs Youth Stat — created by software company Veoci — is encrypted, which allows “communication across the board,” while staying compliant with federal privacy laws. This process is made possible by having participants and officials comply with data privacy acts such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. In addition, before students are admitted to the program, parents must sign a consent form, which allows the release of education records under FERPA.

The Youth Stat executive team controls and restricts the access of the rooms to those interacting with the specific individual in the Youth Stat program, according to Williams. She said that information provided will stay within the committee — which consists of appropriate staff from the New Haven Public Schools, the New Haven School Change initiative and some Youth Stat–partnered city representative agencies, including the Yale Child Study Center and Connecticut Court Support Services Division.

Committee members can also make referrals. She said that if, for example, a member thinks that a student needs a mental health assessment, the member can refer the student to a clinician under the Youth Stat program.

“We know all the young people who are disengaged and develop individual success plans and provide resources to help them have successful and healthy lives,” Bartlett said. “We are now focused on prevention and educational outcomes as a result of our success in terms of having a nonviolent city.”

Youth Stat leverages already existing state funding from the state, as well as from a nonviolence grant, according to Bartlett. Additionally, they also use Board of Education dollars and private dollars from foundations, such as the Dalio Foundation. According to Bartlett, a total of $1 million has been spent for the various Youth Stat programs and partnerships.

At a Jan. 18 press conference, the New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 announced to the New Haven community that the number of youth shooting victims has decreased in the past few years. According to Campbell, there were 14 youth shooting victims aged 18 and below in 2014. In 2018, there were five.

“Youth Stat is not just working in the background providing these types of wraparound services, but really keeping kids on a path and keeping them out of harm’s way, and thereby reducing the number of youth who will be involved with gangs and violence in the street,” Campbell said. “So it’s working. The numbers show it’s working. Look at how many people are graduating. These are the same youth that we’ve been able to keep off the street.”

Youth Stat was founded in 2014.

Sammy Westfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu