Nation's First Philanthropic Initiative Targeting Black Male Youth in the Juvenile Justice System Begins in Los Angeles

In November 2011, the California Community Foundation implemented a new $5 million, five-year initiative, BLOOM, aimed at helping Black male youth, ages 14-18, who are or have been involved with the L.A. County probation system, to find new paths to education and employment and away from the juvenile justice/delinquency system. BLOOM, which stands for "Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men," is the only major philanthropic initiative in the nation that is focused specifically on Black male youth in the justice/delinquency system. BLOOM's ultimate goal is to contribute to a 10 percent reduction in Black male youth supervised by the county probation system - approximately 480 youth.
Why This Initiative
The Community Foundation developed the BLOOM initiative in based on several underlying factors:

  1. The persistent poor outcomes for Black male youth related to economic opportunities, housing, education and emotional support;
  2. The strains caused to economic and social systems as a result of these poor outcomes;
  3. A growing awareness both locally and nationally among philanthropy, human and social service professionals and policy experts about the need to address the ongoing crisis facing Black men and boys; and
  4. An understanding that there are sufficient counter examples to suggest that the life chances of this population can be positively altered through effective policies and direct service interventions.

Additionally, significant state budget cuts and realignment of state funds to counties will likely have a profound impact on this population, specifically related to juvenile justice funding. State budget research conducted by Putnam Community Investment Consulting, Inc. showed that these cuts would be especially difficult for Los Angeles County, where Black males make up a disproportionate percentage of youth in prison or on probation. Black youth account for only 10 percent of the county's youth population, but are approximately 33 percent of all youth under county probation supervision. Estimations are that 25 percent of Black males in Los Angeles County will have some involvement with the criminal justice system, and only 10 percent will graduate from college.
In addition to the cost in terms of quality of life for the youth in question, there is also a significant cost to county taxpayers. Each youth placed in the county's probation camp costs $100,000 per year. This excludes additional costs for services such as mental health and education. By reducing even 10 percent of those who end up in probation camp, BLOOM can save taxpayers $48 million over the next five years.
BLOOM is the result of nearly two years of study and planning among an advisory committee and conversations with community stakeholders. Research also included an independent study conducted by Putnam Community Investment Consulting and others. In April 2012, the California Community Foundation officially partnered with a set of organizations to form the BLOOM Alliance. These include: the Brotherhood Crusade, L.A. Urban League, Youth Mentoring Connection, Youth Justice Coalition, Community Coalition, the Liberty Hill Foundation, LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS and the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities. Funding, job opportunities and other support are being contributed by private sector partners such as the Weingart Foundation, Automobile Club of Southern California, Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation, Operation HOPE, AEG, The James Irvine Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation and Union Bank Foundation.
What BLOOM Will Do
BLOOM will mobilize grant funding, technical assistance and partnerships to provide career-based mentoring services to Black male youth and open paths to real, immediate opportunities for scholarships, training, internships and jobs. It will also focus on community organizing to address barriers impacting the trajectory of these youth and a strategic messaging campaign to re-shape public perception of this population. Lastly, support will be provided to strengthen the competencies of organizations that serve probation system-involved Black male youth.
In May 2012, the California Community Foundation hosted a major townhall event in which BLOOM was officially launched in the community. More than 350 people were in attendance and enthusiasm was evident. "BLOOM is new and bold, and it's overdue," said Carl Ballton, chair of the Community Foundation Advisory Committee and president and CEO of the Union Bank Foundation, at the initiative's launch event. "The initiative aims to begin improving education and job options - normal opportunities for most L.A. residents - for one of the most vulnerable, misunderstood and underachieving segments of residents: Black teenage boys who have had a run-in with the legal system."

The post above is reprinted with permission from Putnam Community Investment Consulting, a national consulting and evaluation firm that helps philanthropic foundations, nonprofits, government agencies and universities to research, develop, launch and evaluate new programs, services and initiatives.

Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, has worked with and advised foundations and non-profit organizations since 1990. Over the course of her career she has served as a grantmaker, consultant, facilitator, evaluator, project manager, and board member. In 1999, Kris Putnam-Walkerly established the philanthropy consulting firm Putnam Community Investment Consulting, Inc. Putnam Community Investment Consulting helps foundations and nonprofits assess need, develop effective programs, align organizational strategies, and evaluate impact.
*Photo at top by Flickr user Gates Foundation

Updated: August 07 2012